Swindon Town 0-1 Oldham Athletic: Town thrown off track

Adam Tanner was at the County Ground for the visit of Oldham Athletic to witness a pretty forgettable afternoon for Swindon Town. 

Mark Cooper made three changes from the team that had gained a deserved point at Walsall on Tuesday. Nile Ranger and Yaser Kasim were left out alongside the suspended Alex Pritchard. George Barker, Nathan Byrne and Ryan Harley replaced them; and the system reverted to a 4-3-2-1, with Barker and Byrne supporting lone striker Michael Smith.

The first half was drab. Oldham largely dominated play, and repeatedly tried to attack down the left through Gary Harkins, but never seriously tested Wes Foderingham. Swindon’s sole effort on target, on 15 minutes, was a hopeful but firmly struck 25-yard Ryan Harley shot, which Oldham keeper Mark Oxley parried away. Town were awarded a couple of free-kicks in the vicinity of the Oldham box; both were delivered by Harley to Darren Ward, who by now really should have scored more than two goals during his Swindon career, but neither came to anything. 0-0 was a fair reflection of a dull half.

Unfortunately, the second half was significantly worse. Swindon were very lethargic, and didn’t manage an attempt on goal at any stage. The lively and creative Pritchard was sorely missed. Unsurprisingly, as the half wore on Oldham smelt blood and began to press for the win. As usual, our excellent goalkeeper earned his corn with a couple of fine saves, first parrying a firm shot from the unmarked Danny Philliskirk, and then turning over a header from Jon Stead who, worryingly, was also unmarked. Town’s luck eventually ran out when left back Jonathan Grounds drilled in a low shot from 15 yards after the defence had failed to clear its lines.

The goal came in the 73rd minute. Swindon are a top half team with a good home record, and Oldham are a bottom half team with a poor away record. Logically Town should have spent much of the remaining 20 minutes hammering their opponents’ penalty area. But we barely managed a sniff of a chance. In the 93rd minute, Raphael Rossi Branco won a corner down the left, which came to nothing. That’s really as good as it got.

By then, our quasi-debutant Troy-Archibald Henville – who had replaced Ward at half time for his first Swindon appearance since November 2012 – had managed to get sent off for two bookings; each of the fouls were well inside the Oldham half. Unfortunately, we’ve still never won a league match in which he has played, so why did we expect a win would be on-the-cards..?

I think it’s fair to say that a home defeat had been coming for a while, and it came in style yesterday. The next two home league games are against Colchester United and Crawley Town, and we could do with racking up some points before the home fixtures become really tough during the final two months of the season. In the meantime, we have a great opportunity to push for a third Wembley visit in four years against a really erratic Peterborough side. Onwards and upwards.

Tomorrow morning Adam looks back at the game and provides his analysis of why it’s going wrong for Swindon Town.

Follow Adam Tanner on twitter @adamtanner87

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