Fleetwood Town 2-2 Swindon Town: Codswalloping comeback sends Town top
With Bristol City, Preston and MK Dons in FA Cup action, Swindon Town had the opportunity to move to the top of League One. A 2-2 draw at Fleetwood Town did push the Robins to the summit, however as Lucy Gray reports, Michael Smith’s tame penalty ensured Town missed the opportunity for a comfortable victory.
A 450-MILE round trip can seem like a jog to the bottom of the garden and back when, at the end of it all, your team are sitting top.
For the 648 Swindon Town fans who headed up to Fleetwood for the first time ever, a couple even ticking off the final checkbox on their Football League 92 list in the process, this was yet another happy, successful day out.
It didn’t seem like it would be that way for a short while in the second half, of course, as Fleetwood Town – submissive in the first period – raided Town’s jewellery shop with the most unlikely smash and grab jobs.
But Swindon are made of steely stuff this season and they responded, initially with fluke and then finesse. Andy Williams had little right to claim Town’s first, his flick from Harry Toffolo’s cross looping over Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell via a massive deflection, before Louis Thompson nipped in at the back post to nudge in Ben Gladwin’s swinging peach of a cross in the 88th minute. Cue delirium. And a slightly unconventional, knees to chest celebration.
It was a result Swindon deserved. Well, actually they deserved quite a lot more.
Fleetwood, though willing to at least venture into opposition territory with some occasional gusto this time around – back at the County Ground in November they were more defensive than a political PR firm, showed little to worry a Town back three which was without captain Nathan Thompson through injury once again.
At the other end, meanwhile, Swindon teased and taunted, with debutant John Swift quickly making an impact. His tricky run across the penalty area with quarter-of-an-hour gone brought a loose tackle from a Fleetwood defender and, from the penalty spot, Michael Smith could send Town on their way to what would have been a comfortable victory.
He missed. A tame effort saved by Maxwell to his right. Another oddly conviction-less attempt from 12 yards from a man whose composure up front had been one of the highlights of 2014.
The miss didn’t stop Swindon from playing their football and Harry Toffolo struck the inside of a post after being set free by Williams. But after the break its significance became more and more apparent.
With 50 minutes of the clock, Swindon were trailing. Fleetwood, bullied to the point of crying to the headmaster in the first half, stood up for themselves.
Raphael Branco was done by a simple pass over the top, took an age to get round the right side of Jamie Proctor and missed the run of Josh Morris, who smashed past Wes Foderingham. It left the travelling fans in a stupor.
What the? Why? How?
Dreams of clambering over Bristol City, even just for one week, looked to be totally dashed less than 10 minutes later Fleetwood did their impression of the spotty pre-teen who went off to the gym, bulked up and came back in search of his lunch money.
Morris got in behind Branco. Again. Foderingham stood no chance.
Script well and truly ripped up, Swindon had to start writing their own from scratch.
They got back into the game when Williams turned Toffolo’s fierce cross towards goal with 20 minutes left, the ball took a mega deflection off Mark Roberts’ arse and, after a Shakespearian dramatic pause, looped into the corner.
It was ridiculously lucky but Town took it as a sign.
They kept on experimenting with ways to get past Fleetwood for the following 15 minutes before, with 88 gone, Gladwin – good on the ball all day but lacking the incisive pace on the break – flung in a gorgeous cross from the left wing, Louis Thompson gambled to the back post and stuck the ball past Maxwell.
We’re top of the league. We’re top of the leeeeeeague. We are Swindon, we’re top of the league.