Swindon Town 0-1 Doncaster Rovers: Town paying the penalty

Following Bristol City’s 1-0 defeat at Crewe, everything seemed to be in place for Swindon Town to be top of League One for Christmas as only a draw was needed. But as fans we know that would’ve been doing things the easy way, which we don’t do… Writes Calvin Hothi.

Heading into this game Swindon were searching for a sixth straight win but looking at Doncaster’s away record it was never going to be an easy day for the Robins. Mark Cooper named an unchanged side from the rout over Notts County last week but a notable change was the inclusion of Raphael Branco on the bench. The Brazilian being involved in a much publicised contract dispute recently that has been resolved.

The first ten minutes gathered nothing for either crowd to get excited about, Swindon having the lion’s share of possession and plugging away slowly. Whereas Doncaster were happy just to sit. 12 minutes in, Ben Gladwin’s cross found Andy Williams at the back post who’s first time volley was blocked well en route to goal. Jonathan Obika had the ball in the net only for it to be ruled to have gone out for a goal kick before hand; and Yaser Kasim fired a free kick over as Swindon built up some rhythm.

Then came what I am putting down as marginally the worst refereeing decision I have seen at the County Ground for sometime. Jordan Turnbull’s challenge looked like a great one on Dean Furman, but the referee decided to award a spot kick despite the ball being directed by Turnbull’s foot towards the corner flag. While it didn’t help that Furman had an ounce of Ashley Young about him as he went down. Theo Robinson stepped up to fire past Wes Foderingham and put Donny into a rather undeserved lead.

That’s virtually the moment where the game went sour, Doncaster began their time wasting and Swindon didn’t step up a gear like they should. Foderingham was on hand to prevent Doncaster going further ahead by tipping over Wellen’s header and that is how the first half finished.

The first half was not a good one for Swindon, while having a large amount of possession they couldn’t reach the high levels that they were capable of and struggled to break down Doncaster’s 11 men behind the ball. Doncaster themselves had come with a plan, too play as little football as possible and win the physical battles (much like Paul Dickov as a player) but to be fair to them they executed it very well.

Both sides came out unchanged for the second half but unfortunately it was more of the same, Harry Forrester replaced Kyle Bennett after 49 minutes. The Robins then had a great chance to get themselves level, the ball fell to Obika in the box who spun and managed to get a deflected shot away that beat Johnstone, but unfortunately not the post.

Nathan Byrne and Massimo Luongo then had efforts fail to beat the Doncaster keeper before Obika’s header flew wide – which was becoming a common sight for the Swindon players.

Michael Smith replaced Obika just after the hour mark and then Gladwin wasted a glorious opportunity to test Johnstone after steaming into the box only to fire wide.

Cooper’s side should’ve found themselves level when Andy Williams ran through on goal after Smith’s flick on. Based on his current form you would’ve put your money on him to finish but he could only watch as his effort sailed wide of the left post. That’s when you started to get the feeling it wasn’t going to happen for us.

Furman went into the book for a challenge on Kasim and Butler’s header went just wide for Doncaster before the deciding point came. A cross in from Jack Stephen’s cross in looked to be sailing wide but Wabara was judged to have dragged down Williams and the referee pointed to the spot. Michael Smith stepped up and his tame penalty to Johnstone’s left was easily saved.

It was a bad day at the office for Town with only sweeper Nathan Thompson really deserving of any praise where the rest of the team really were not up to the races. Yaser Kasim and Ben Gladwin were particularly poor.

Doncaster defended well to the end and while a team with a bit more urgency about them – a la MK Dons would have broken them down, they still defended admirably. They won’t be challenging in the top half but play like they have an a comfortable mid table position isn’t out of the question for Dickov’s side.

There was however some things to take from this game.

  1. We really do struggle to get ourselves up for games against sides like this which is worrying as the way Doncaster set up is what we will encounter from the majority of the sides to come to the County Ground until the end of the season
  2. I didn’t get to see Gladwin’s performance against Notts County but if it was as I heard, today was a far cry from it. In my opinion he lacks the pace to play left wing back. while a good crosser and has an eye for a pass, he seems to slow down as soon as he gets the ball and lacks that urgency to burst down and beat the man which I think we have in Harry Toffolo who I think we missed massively. There are also far too many step overs from him, yes they look good and can work but the majority of the time he ends up looking like a sunday league player, rather than Cristiano Ronaldo.
  3. On a good day our midfield trio are unstoppable, however when one or two are not performing we have players like Jake Reeves or Anton Rodgers who can come on from the sidelines, to see neither of these introduced was a little disappointing. If Cooper lacks faith in these players then I would like to see one or two midfield players come in at January with Kasim and Luongo leaving for international duty.

We go again at Walsall, until then have a Merry Christmas and take care over the festive period.

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