Swindon Town 0-0 Colchester United: Wet and windy…

Niall Ratcliffe braved the weather hoping to be entertained by a Swindon Town victory. Instead, Town couldn’t break down a stubborn Colchester United and have now failed to score in successive games as hosts…

Almost up to kick-off at 7.45 this game looked to be in doubt due to the atrocious weather. With a couple of very late pitch inspections – the final one taking place at 6.55pm – the turnstiles finally opened as the referee eventually passed the pitch fit to play.

Conditions weren’t ideal for supporters, staff or players. With rain coming down in bucket loads against the bright backdrop of glaring floodlights, but somehow everything came together in time for the match to start with no signs of standing water, puddles or major mud patches on the pitch.

Mark Cooper kept faith with the same starting 11 that fought back from two down at Port Vale last week, with Michael Smith and Nile Ranger leading the line in a 4-4-2.

Town started the brighter of the two teams with a few neat moves inside the first ten minutes. Town whipped in cross after cross creating a series of chances but unfortunately there was no end product.

The hosts had the better of the early opportunities with Alex Pritchard seeing his long-range effort being superbly palmed away to the safety of a corner by ‘keeper Sam Walker after 22 minutes, but the corner was wasted with a combination of a poor delivery and then a needless free kick on the edge of the penalty area conceded by Louis Thompson.

Throughout the first half Pritchard was the star man, pulling off tricks here and there and in doing so he was causing the Colchester back line real trouble. Massimo Luongo controlled things for long periods in the middle of the park with some strong challenges and decisive interceptions.

Town broke away on a counter attack just before half-time with Nile Ranger charging at the Colchester defence, but in doing so he pulled up clutching his thigh and instantly hit the deck with a suspected hamstring injury. Jacob Murphy – the loanee from Norwich City – was the resulting substitute making his County Ground debut.

The first half eventually fizzled out and the referee blew for half time. By this time the gale force winds and driving rain had stopped and everyone looked forward to some calmer weather during the second half.

As the second period got under way, Town had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Dany N’Guessan, Pritchard and Michael Smith went on a marauding attack. N’Guessan held on the ball slightly longer than he should of and gave a predictable ball to Pritchard who was unable to do anything but pass to Nathan Byrne, who fired a snatched-shot over the bar from 25 yards out.

The pace of the game during the second half was much slower as Colchester dug in defensively, and Swindon were limited to punting long balls from midfield for Michael Smith to chase after, having lost the useful assistance of his new strike partner, Nile Ranger.

With 20 minutes remaining, Colchester’s Sanchez Watt got himself sent off after an innocuous bust up with Nathan Thompson, resulted in him appearing to headbutt the Town right back. Through Thompson protecting himself, according to manager Mark Cooper, he secured a caution for “adopting an aggressive attitude” meaning that he’ll miss the JPT Area Final on Monday.

By this time Norwich loanee Jacob Murphy was starting to make an impact on the game after a quiet start, and was finding his range with some accurate passes. Town then won a free kick on the edge of the box and Pritchard lined up to take it. After his goal at Port Vale last week it looked like he could replicate it, but instead his shot sailed high over the bar as the rain began to lash down once again.

With around 15 minutes to play, Town had three chances to put the game to bed. First, a goal line scramble with N’Guessan and Darren Ward saw both jump for ball, but neither of them could get their heads on it and the chance was gone. On the subject of Darren Ward, it has to be noted that the reintroduction of Troy Archibald-Henville seems to have rejuvenated the Town skipper of late. He frequently found himself in a number of attacking positions and was even seen picking out delicate crosses into the box. His defending capabilities look to be back on form and his distribution from the back was solid once again.

The second chance fell to Byrne on the edge of the box. He was looking to make it two goals in two games but he lashed his half volley wide of the goal. The last chance of the game was an opportunity for Nathan Thompson to increase his hero status amongst the Town faithful. As a low cross came into the box, Thompson’s neat flick ended up rolling harmlessly wide and the Valentine’s Day fixture headed for a draw.

As the full time whistle was blown, a series of unexpected boos rang out from fans in the Don Rogers stand. It was puzzling because of our recent performances. Although the last time at home we played at home we lost 0-1 our away form has improved slightly with a draw and win. With a chance to get to Wembley on Monday and being only four points of play offs it was disappointing to hear the boos.

The coming week could be pivotal in terms of how Swindon do this season, with the possibility of the second leg of the JPT Area Final bringing us another trip to Wembley. Then on the Saturday, a tough trip to Leyton Orient whose express train has halted losing three games on bounce. Seems like a week that’ll prove pivotal in determining the outcome of the season…

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