Swindon Town 2-0 Barnsley: Turnover of the Tykes

After defeat to the hands of cup specialists Sheffield United, Swindon Town were trying to make sure they returned to winning ways to keep their names in the race for automatic promotion. Town entertained Barnsley on a cold afternoon at the County Ground, with the visitors being managed by former Town boss Danny Wilson. Writes Matthew Peach…

The Teams

The Robins lined up with only one recognised striker in top scorer Andy Williams and four central midfielders. Town were also without captain Nathan Thompson who was still suffering from a dead leg picked up at Bramall Lane the previous week. Swindon could boast the returns of Asian Cup stars Massimo Luongo and Yaser Kasim who were both thrown straight into the team. The Barnsley team was without their top three scorers including the highly rated Conor Hourihane and Sam Winnall, however did include the experienced Peter Ramage and former Chelsea players Milan Lalkovic and Ross Turnbull.

The Match

Barnsley kicked the game off and it had a rather slow start with Nathan Byrne having the only chance in the opening ten minutes. However, after gaining a corner Swindon made the breakthrough. A short corner was worked to John Swift allowed him to go on a mazy run before squaring the ball across goal for Brazilian-born Raphael-Rossi Branco to drill home, unmarked in the Barnsley penalty area. Just the start, 13 minutes in, Town were looking for. Swindon made the best chances in the first half, although Barnsley occasionally looked a threat when Lalkovic was able to cut in against Jordan Turnbull, though this was very rare.

Towards the end of the first half Swindon won a penalty after John Swift was caught by Barnsley midfielder Paul Digby, after receiving the ball from wing-back Nathan Byrne. After scoring his penalty against Coventry in front of the Sky cameras, Andy Williams stepped up again to try to put Town two ahead before the half time break. Unfortunately for the Swindon faithful Williams lazily ran up and passed it into the left corner, allowing Tykes’ stopper Turnbull to easily parry wide for a corner. This was yet another miss for Swindon from 12 yards, a problem that needs to be resolved.

Danny Wilson made two changes for Barnsley at half time, with Hourihane and Dale Jennings replacing Martin Cranie and Digby. Clearly he wasn’t pleased with the lacklustre display put in by his side. The second half got under way and again Swindon had the better of opportunities in the second half with Williams and Byrne both going close.

One thing that was noticeable was how the urgency and tempo dropped as the game went on, almost as if the Town players believed that the game was won and there was no need to break sweat. But this was definitely not the case as in a little five minute period the visitors had their chances to get back into the game. Coming from Town over playing yet again from the back, Barnsley founds themselves with a four on one, looking all but certain to score. But out of nowhere Branco raced back to throw himself in the way of a shot. This was a massive warning sign for Town to guard against complacency.

Fortunately substitute Ben Gladwin, back mightily early from his injury, calmed the Town fans by drilling his shot home, the shot crawling across the line after a weak hand from the Barnsley ‘keeper. Relief. This sealed the points! Swindon managed to see the game out from there and return back to winning ways at the first time of asking. This now means that we haven’t had any back-to-back defeats so far this season, and no matter how you word it that is an impressive statistic to have as a team.

A shout out has to be said to John Swift for his first-half performance and equally Massimo Luongo for his second who were both simply breath taking at times. You really could see the genuine technical ability these two have, who I’m sure will be imperative to any automatic promotion ambitions we have.


Aftermath

So what does this mean? Well despite not playing in top gear (in fact in parts of the second half it felt like Swindon were in neutral) the team still managed to score two goals, keep a clean sheet and ultimately get those three points that make any Saturday night twice as good. This for me though is a trait in a team that shouldn’t be undervalued. Last season we saw with a similar team how we struggled to grind out those important results and get those points on the board, a problem this season we seem to have solved.

The win was equally important as fellow promotion rivals MK Dons and Bristol City played each other. A glorious opportunity to make up ground on those two, which we did as they played out a stalemate. The League One table is awfully tight and every point picked up will be important from now until the end of the season.

Where next? On Tuesday Swindon head up to Lancashire to face Oldham Athletic who might even have been in the news more than Swindon recently for goings-on off the field. This comes before a trip to Scunthorpe United on the following Saturday. These two away trips will prove a tough test for ‘Cooper’s Babes’ and will once again add a little bit more confidence in me if we manage to win both that this year might – just might –  be our year (touch wood).

Swindon next play at home on the 21st February. Although after being deprived massively over the last few months of home games we do have another straight after on Tuesday 24th. These games come against Dean Saunders’ Crawley and FA Cup giant killers Bradford City. At this stage of the season every game is that bit tougher. Crawley will be desperate for points to keep their Sky Bet League One status and Bradford equally as desperate to win with their play off place changing every week with 15 teams separated by just ten points.

Good luck to those travelling to Oldham and Scunthorpe. Bring us back three points. See you at the County Ground for Crawley.

COYR

Matthew Peach – @MattJPeach

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