Notts County 0-3 Swindon Town: A better Nottingham experience…

Swindon Town cruised to 5th consecutive League One victory courtesy of a 3-0 away victory at Meadow Lane. An Andy Williams double and Massimo Luongo strike gave Town the points, a far better return than my previous football experience in Nottingham yielded, writes Joe Young.

Mention football, Nottingham and Swindon in the same sentence and my brain shudders. It simply can’t erase the truly horrendous memories concerning my last football trip to Nottingham, no matter how hard it tries. It’s not just my brain, but my whole psyche that has been scarred for life.

An impromptu lads’ weekend away had, as you maybe beginning to guess, terrible consequences for me. I don’t particularly just mean the 7-1 thrashing Forest handed to a sorry relegation-bound Swindon (see Hall of Shame #25 for the gory details – at least I wasn’t in the home end). On top of this capitulation I was forced, and I mean forced, to watch England lose the Calcutta Cup to Scotland in Hooters. Hooters. I ask you…

So no, me and Nottingham don’t get along well. It was therefore with nervous trepidation that I approached Meadow Lane.

Having paid my entrance fee and found my seat, I was again, forced to lament the second-class citizen stature accorded to away football fans. Sitting in an otherwise empty side stand, some Swindon fans were forced to sit beyond the goal line. This maddens me. Why, with an empty stand, do we have to sit right at the end of the stand, while thousands of empty seats remain unoccupied? Well, the answer found me later in the first half. The moron Town fan sat in an orange Santa hat surreptitiously (he thought) smoking, whose default insult was homophobic abuse of the most asinine nature, taught me that while football fans continue to behave like second-class citizens they will continue to be treated like them.

The game started and Swindon began to dominate the possession in our usual fashion. A superb block from Nathan Thompson prevented an early Notts County goal, before Wesley Foderingham set Luongo free with an excellent quick throw out. Luongo steamed forward before releasing Williams, with a sublime through-ball, who duly beat Roy Carroll. It was excellent, quick counter-attacking football, for which I don’t think Foderingham got the credit his rapid thinking and vision deserved.

County employed an interesting mix of pressing and sitting back forcing Foderingham to kick long far more frequently than I’ve seen this year. My brother, watching his first game of the season, was impressed with the style, but not some of the risks. 30-yard driven passes from Foderingham to Luongo put the Australian under undue pressure. He looked at me and said, “They only look like scoring from our mistakes”. I almost said, “Amen”.

We do look vulnerable to giving the ball away in dangerous areas, and we do look vulnerable to long balls down the channels, but this is more than outweighed by the convincing way we attack. The Nottingham nightmare of 2006 really does play such an integral role in why I love this Mark Cooper side.

Swindon continued to dominate and created a number of gilt-edged chances that went begging. There started to be a few murmurings from the away support, but pleasingly these were about letting County off the hook rather than the style. Whisper it quietly, but perhaps as a collective we’re beginning to see and believe.

Then came what I feel was a real crunch point in the game. Louis Thompson (I think) went up with a Notts County player, who hit the floor in a heap holding his head. It didn’t look that bad, but it didn’t look great either. County clearly felt he’d led with his elbow and deserved a red. I don’t know about that, but he easily could have walked for it. 1-0 up with 10 men for 50 minutes would have been a really big ask, one we luckily didn’t have to face. In the aftermath, Roy Carroll ran 70-yards or so to barack the referee and earned himself a cheap booking for dissent – and the role of pantomime villain with the away support for the rest of the game.

The second-half started and Swindon continued to dominate. Ben Gladwin tore his fullback apart and put an inviting ball across Carroll’s goal that Williams smashed in the net to double Town’s lead. It was a great goal, but I think Carroll will be disappointed he didn’t do better and stop the initial cross.

There quickly followed two crucial decisions, first a Notts County penalty claim was turned down and then Liam Noble was sent off. At the time I had no idea what it was for. Notts County appeared to be awarded the free kick so we thought it had to be dissent. Around me people were no wiser. With the benefit of the Football League Show I’ve now seen it was for an elbow. If I’m honest it seems no worse than the Louis Thompson one earlier on. It was a crucial decision that shaped the rest of the game. Carroll again showed his penchant for pointless journeys extended beyond returning early from international fixtures (to face no shots on target) by running up to have his say.

When the dust settled Town upped the tempo and Gladwin once again beat his fullback (a replacement I believe) before feeding Luongo to smash in a decisive third.

Swindon continued to move the ball around and this time my brother said, “You yell at them to do something simple, they turn their man and do something better”. It’s fantastic stuff.

Gladwin was really performing well. After the third goal he continued to be involved, but had several wayward shots and made a number of poor decisions in the final third. That said, it would be churlish to be too critical to the man who created two of the three goals.

Town continued to press and Carroll made some more excellent saves. He continued to play up to his villain role by running 50 yards to berate the linesman for Foderingham’s continued timewasting. On this front I think Carroll had a point. Foderingham was holding the ball far too long and was lucky not to be punished. I don’t think it was timewasting per se, more looking for an opportunity, but I still think he was lucky to get away with it.

Towards the end Town lost their way a bit for the first time and County, who hadn’t given up, created two chances and really should have scored. They didn’t and Swindon came away with a great performance, three goals and three points. My Nottingham experience may have been better this time, but it’s still 7-4 on aggregate.

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