Tranmere Rovers 1-2 Swindon Town: Crikey! Another Win…

Swindon Town are now in touching distance of the play offs following a victory over Tranmere Rovers. Scott Keith provides out report…

It was going to take a lot for this game to match last year’s visit to Prenton Park, with managerial exits, wildly celebrating players pointing out they could do things without an Italian in charge and the night of Gary Roberts Swindon career.

And while it didn’t – because it’s an absurdly high bar to set – there was a win and enough incident to entertain the truly hard core from both sides, as that’s all who showed up. The attendance of 3,717 can hardly have brought much joy to whoever is about to take over at Rovers from Chairman Peter Johnson.

Mark Cooper made just the one change from the team that beat Preston, as the sufferer of Ledley’s knee, Troy Archibald-Henville, was replaced by Raphael Rossi-Branco.

Swindon started with a bit of purpose against a very creaky looking Rovers defence and took the lead through a truly venomous shot from Alex Smith, his first goal for the club. It was teed up via Ben Gladwin after some fairly lightweight stuff from the home team. Smith’s effort, from the edge of the box, hit the crossbar with a satisfying Maskell-esque thud to put Town in front.

Having eased into the lead things got a bit more complicated. A slightly less panicky Rovers had one shot from Max Power that was screwed wide, but shortly after he polished off Ryan Lowe’s cut back with a very impressive curling, side-footed finish into the corner to make it 1-1. The lead had lasted three minutes.

After that the game degenerated to some extent. Both sides produced a wide range of imprecise passing, and there was a struggle for Storey and Smith to keep hold of the ball, albeit when it was sent with more optimism than accuracy in their direction. The style of play has noticeably changed in the past two matches, with a greater willingness to use the forwards as on outlet earlier in the build up. The three defenders are happy to move higher up the pitch, and things can build from there.

While Smith’s goal was good, arguably the highlight of the first half was Wes Foderingham’s save from Jake Cassidy. Rovers built up a move in the best traditions of English football, getting it wide to full back Danny Holmes and putting a cross into the box post haste. Cassidy met it, strongly. no more than 8 yards out, and looked to aim it above Foderingham, who reacted in a manner that would put a feline to shame, and tipped it over the bar. The Rovers forward knew he’d seen something exceptional, and exchanged handshakes with Wes after. Sportsmanship is not dead among the money.

So 1-1 at half-time and reasons to be a little uneasy. The defence looked to be missing Archibald-Henville, and things were certainly getting hairier after the interval. Rovers hit the bar twice, one through a high quality Ryan Lowe lob and the second after Power was picked out inside the penalty area.

But for the grumpier contingent of Tranmere fans who still can’t forgive floodlight failures in the earlier days of electricity worse was to come. Miles Storey was out wide without too many options, and chose to send the ball towards the back post. He managed to do slightly better than that, and in the best cricketing traditions of putting the ball in the right area, he stuck it in over Fon Williams for his second goal of the season.

Lee Cox had come on just before that, replacing Ben Gladwin, and his contribution was hugely impressive. Scurrying through 
midfield, keeping possession and bringing energy, he helped drive the team on and re-take control of that central area. I only spotted him giving the ball away on one occasion.  By this time Luongo and Kasim were also able to break frequently as Rovers chucked men forward hopefully, and a third was possible on the counter – relieving pressure and running down the clock was often done, and Jack Stephens, Branco and Jay McEveley were usually up to heading and blocking when required.

Rovers’ caretaker manager John McMahon missed on obvious trick to equalise though. He failed to follow the Prenton Park traditions of elder brother Steve, and chose not to bring on giant substitute goalkeeper Jason Mooney to blunder around up front in search of an equaliser.

With that not done, Town were safe to register back to back wins.

While it still looks likely to be too much of a test to take enough points to steal 6th with home games against Sheffield United, Brentford and Rotherham to come, it’s fun to get the chance to still consider that possibility.



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