Swindon Town 3-1 Shrewsbury Town: Smith’s debut double
In the battle of the STFCs Swindon Town were lucky to find two late goals against Shrewsbury Town to win 3-1. Calvin Hothi reports on a performance that highlights Swindon’s frailties as essentially a mid-table League One side…
Following defeats to Stevenage and Gillingham the previous week, Mark Cooper’s side needed to pick up three points when Shrewsbury Town visited the County Ground. The week had seen Charlton Athletic target-man Michael Smith and Wolves defender Jamie Reckford bought to the County Ground. Cooper decided to give Smith his debut just a few days after signing. Nile Ranger had to make do with a place on the bench, joined by George Barker and new boy Reckord.
Neither team really threatened in the opening exchanges. Smith came closest for either side heading over an Alex Pritchard corner when he should have perhaps done better. Wes Foderingham was on hand to deny Joe Jacobson for Shrewsbury before Ryan Mason was brought down on the edge of the area. A good shooting opportunity for Alex Pritchard but the Tottenham loanee wasted it by firing over. It wasn’t long until Ryan Mason was forced off with a muscle spasm in his back being replaced by Ryan Harley – as the Spurs loanee’s poor form with injuries continues. The weather deteriorated with gale-force winds and lashing rain to the point Foderingham’s goal kicks from the Stratton Bank were going back towards him – reminiscent of Fraser Digby versus Stevenage. Fortunately Wes was on form to palm out Jon Taylor’s fizzed shot, before, at the other end Michael Smith was on hand to clear an effort off of the line.
Town took the lead following a short corner. Yaser Kasim’s ball into the box bounced dangerously and Smith hooked the ball past Chris Weale to open his account in Swindon colours. The effort came dead on the half-hour mark. A period of defending then followed for Town. Efforts from Tom Eaves and Jacobson were kept out before Rossi Branco brought down Taylor just outside the area. Parry fired an unstoppable shot past Foderingham – perhaps aided by the following wind – to draw the Shropshire outfit level just on the stroke of half time. The weather conditions hadn’t helped Town but an equaliser always looked on the cards. Pritchard nearly made an instant response when Weale spilled his shot but the two sides went in level at the break.
Town had played their regular football through the half. Amid the storm-like weather they kept it on the deck and played some neat stuff. Smith should have perhaps bagged a couple more than he did but had a solid first half. Foderingham had kept the Robins in the game with a string of good saves but could do nothing to prevent an explosive equaliser.
The teams came out for the second half unchanged and ironically just as Town had the wind on its side, it died down. Two minutes into the second period, Jay McEveley was forced off with a locked knee and Reckford came onto make his Robins’ debut. Then followed shouts of frustration which could be heard around the stands and Town retained possession around their back line without being able to force a way into the Shrewsbury half. Close to the hour mark, Taylor’s goal bound effort hit teammate Mcallister on the head and flew wide.
Nile Ranger replaced Nathan Byrne in the 62nd minute and was instantly thrown in defensively. Some ping pong in the Swindon box finished with Asa Hall hitting the cross bar with a free header which was yet another let off for Town. Shortly after, with Shrewsbury in the ascendancy, Foderingham was forced into another terrific save to push Parry’s effort away from goal.
Town continued to play the ball about patiently trying to find gaps. Smith headed Kasim’s cross wide before Luongo fired a shot wide. Asa Hall’s long range effort was comfortably dealt with by Foderingham and Luongo fired wide again. A moment of madness (and not the first) from Darren Ward ended in losing the ball in his own box. A fantastic save from Foderingham kept out Eaves as Town’s back line lost all shape.
The unlikely breakthrough for Swindon came on the 89th minute. Shrewsbury ‘keeper Weale failed to clear a Pritchard corner properly and Ranger rose higher than the rest to nod home. This was such an important goal as before it most would have been glad to take a point from the game. Town took the chance to increase their lead when Ranger dispossessed a Shrewsbury player in the box and played through Smith. The latter fired past Weale for his second and Swindon’s third and that was that as Swindon picked up an important three points.
A poor second half for Town who didn’t deserve the three points at all. Saying that however, I will take three points and an abysmal performance over nothing and a good performance at this stage of the season. Ranger was the deciding factor for us, his constant work rate in the second half to rise and head home and then pressure the Shrews back line into a mistake for the third was invaluable. It looked like he was celebrating to Power for his goal. “Still want to get rid of me?” maybe?
Michael Smith looks a great talent. For such a tall person he is great with the ball at his feet. Getting off the mark so early will bring him great confidence and hopefully a partnership with Ranger up front will provide the goals needed to grab sixth place. However, my MOTM vote has to go to Wesley Foderingham, his saves kept us in the game and without him it could easily have ended 4-1 to Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury fans will feel robbed but that football. Onto Walsall…