Swindon 1-0 Preston North End: Williams sets off Town’s fireworks

On a cold Tuesday night, Swindon Town were looking to get back to winning ways against Preston North End. Writes Matthew Peach.

The visitors came into the clash of second versus fifth in Sky Bet League One on the back of a 3-0 humbling by Rochdale. Swindon’s gaffer Mark Cooper made two changes from the narrow defeat against MK Dons on Saturday with Ben Gladwin and Harry Toffolo coming in for the injured Nathan Byrne and Amari’i Bell respectively. Preston fielded ten-goal striker Joe Garner and would prove to be a tough challenge for Town.

Preston kicked off the first half with Town defending the Town End. The first exchanges were nervy before Preston carved out the first real chance. Winger Chris Humphrey ran down the right channel and crossed into the middle for Garner who, fortunately for Swindon, headed straight at Wes Foderingham. The rebound fell to PNE’s Paul Gallagher who curled narrowly over the bar. A warning sign for the Robins. Gallagher had a couple chances throughout the first half but never really tested Foderingham.

Very few clear cut chances came in the first half, although Louis Thompson, Jon Obika and Massimo Luongo all tested Preston’s ‘keeper Jamie Jones. The first half was a nervy encounter but Town did well to control possession and limit the Lilywhites to very few chances of any great danger.

Swindon kicked off the second half with no changes and started in the ascendancy straight away with top scorer Michael Smith having two good attempts, his first a curling shot saved by the Preston ‘keeper and the second an accurately placed shot tipped wide. Preston were a threat on the breakaway and Garner had another headed attempt that again was straight at Foderingham. Simon Grayson’s double substitution of Neil Kilkenny and Chris Humphrey with Josh Brownhill and Kyle Reid respectively caused the back three of Swindon minor problems but never really created clear chances. Overall a solid display from the defensive unit.

You sensed the match was at simmering point all the way through, never really kicking off into action. However in the 84th minute Swindon grabbed the only goal of the game. A Ben Gladwin deflected cross made its way to Andy Williams who planted a header into the back of the net. The super-sub again grabbed another goal – surely it can’t be too long before he gets a starting berth?

Now Swindon’s young team would have the tough test of surviving a good ten minutes of Preston launching the ball into their box, which was made tougher when Grayson threw on experienced striker Kevin Davies to try to go home to Lancashire with a point. Much to my surprise the back three dealt with every cross, shot and pass. They truly looked like a unit that all know their roles. Town did have a chance through Andy Williams to seal the game after his run ended with him hitting just over.

After keeping defensively tight for the final stages of the game, the referee blew the final whistle and Swindon had got back to winning ways at the first time of asking, albeit against a Preston side that looked nothing like a team second in the league, but none the less they were there and we beat them. Back up to third and back to winning ways. Happy days.

A special mention should go to Harry Toffolo who made his full debut at left wing back, and in my opinion played exceptionally, he got back and attacked well. Promising signs for the next few weeks. As well as the Norwich loanee, as mentioned before, Jack Stephens, Nathan Thompson and Jordan Turnbull were everything you could want in a back three, resolute, held their positions and of course kept a clean sheet.

So where next for Swindon? Saturday brings the FA Cup clash with Cheltenham at Whaddon Road before arguably our biggest game of the season. A game against a certain team from Bristol. Of course we are likely to be without Massimo Luongo and Yaser Kasim due to international duty, so this will prove to be an even tougher match than first expected. However, it’s a derby so who knows? With City having sold out their allocation of tickets I’m sure that the County Ground will be electric. We could certainly do with a big crowd with Power telling fans that players may have to be sold if crowds stay south of 7,500.

After Bristol City at the County Ground we have Peterborough away and Fleetwood at home. I genuinely believe that this squad is capable of achieving a top six finish. I’m sure there will be tricky spells from now to the end of the season, but if Luongo doesn’t get sold in January and Nathan Thompson doesn’t get another hat full of red cards (touch wood) then there is no reason with the way that ‘Cooper’s Babes’ are playing that this can’t happen. Let’s stay positive and get behind Coops and the boys…

COYR

Matthew Peach – @MattJPeach

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