Swindon Town 2-2 Colchester Utd: More tales of a leaky defence
Swindon Town are dropping down the table following a three-game winless run that continued on Saturday with a draw versus Colchester United. Niall Ratcliffe reports on Town’s leaky defence…
Mark Cooper fielded a team which included Jake Reeves in midfield while Louis Thompson started in defence, after he was placed at the back in Tuesday’s 2-3 home defeat to Rochdale. Ben Gladwin and Anton Rodgers were both dropped to the bench as Town were looking to get back to winning ways after being winless in their last three games.
Town made a bright start with Nathan Byrne and Amari’i Bell both having chances in the first few minutes. Byrne fired at goal but his shot was saved by Colchester’s goalkeeper, then came Bell’s chance which eventually ended with the wing-back wasting his opportunity and in doing so sending the ball wide. Colchester then had a chance to take the lead at but the shot was blocked on the goal line by a Jordan Turnbull.
Swindon’s first of their two goals was netted in the 27th minute when some good work on the left of the pitch from Bell ended with him cutting the ball back into the box. First time round it was blocked, after rebounding to him his second attempt found Michael Smith whose powerful right footed shot passed under the ‘keeper and into the goal.
At this point Swindon were in control of the game, this was when I noticed the best of Jack Stephens who has been a shadow of his former self from last year’s impressive defensive displays. He won many headers and controlled the back three for the rest of the first half. Town’s defensive problems have been a huge problem in the past few games having conceded nine goals in four and up to today three of those have been conceded at home. Although Town have been scoring goals in almost every match this season it seems that keeping a clean sheet might be a rarity this season unless Cooper switches to a different formation or Harry Toffolo turns out to be the answer to the weaknesses at the back. These problems in the defence could be our undoing, especially against teams such as Bristol City, Preston and Peterborough.
Just before the end of the first half a few neat passes resulted in Bell crossing the ball into the Colchester box, the opposing team goalkeeper claimed the ball well. Christopher Sarginson (referee) blew his whistle after one minute of added time and Swindon went into the break with a one goal lead.
A few minutes into the second half a long pass slipped by Swindon’s defence resulting in Colchester’s Rhys Healey latching onto the ball and he calmly smashed home past Wes Foderingham, whose acrobatics were not enough to keep out the equaliser.
Almost instantly Town were back in front when Nathan Byrne won the ball back after losing it and then Massimo Luongo ghosted past a defender laying it off to Michael Smith who got his 11th of the season with another one-touch finish past the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner, which restored the Reds’ lead.
Town’s frail defending cost them dearly in the end as a controversial Colchester goal was scored on 52 minutes. As Freddy Sears had a shot that deflected off Stephens and into the path of Massey and it looked as if the forward was offside. Despite Swindon’s protests the linesman on the Don Rogers Stand side didn’t raise his flag and the attacker kept his head and poked the ball past Foderingham. The visitors had equalised for the second time during the afternoon.
Much like Tuesday nights game following the visitor’s equaliser, Swindon suddenly found another gear and turned up the style looking for another goal. Town had various opportunities to get a third goal and restore the lead but they were not converted and the chances went begging. Byrne forced a great save from Walker in the Colchester goal and then Luongo blazed a few shots at him, but he was equal to them and kept his team in the game on more than one occasion. Colchester also had their fair share of ventures to win the game, especially when Yaser Kasim lost the ball on the halfway line which lead to Louis Thompson having to make a last ditch tackle to avoid conceding three goals at home again.
The best chance for the home team to win fell to Smith in the middle of box but his shot was blocked by a number of Colchester bodies throwing themselves at the ball to avoid conceding a goal and possibly leaving the County Ground without anything to show for it. For the second game in a row Swindon have somehow managed to snatch a draw and a defeat from the jaws of victory.
Swindon’s first of their two games in hand is next up and it’s away at Chesterfield where former Town player Gary Roberts could star for them in a midweek clash. If Swindon can’t win at Chesterfield then they are in danger of losing a grip on the playoffs and the top two who are slowly distancing themselves away from the rest of the chasing pack.
There was a distinct targeting of Thompson by Colchester. Massey is probably their best player and they were always looking to get him in behind him. Obviously Byrne wasn’t tracking back to cover and their number 8 would always drop in just before the ball went long to Massey to draw Mass up into the space, away from Thompson.
In a way that was the greater part of the problem – Thompson struggled. When he got to the header they mostly went up not out – and Cooper seemed to want those headers left to Stephens. But also the lack of pressure on the ball which, Thompson also provides.
At the moment, we look like a ‘broken team’ – as in that international phenom where a lack of time means that much shuffling has been done and the front and back half of the team don’t work together. Which is understandable given the changes due to injury and suspension…