Swindon Town 1-2 Exeter City: League Cup early exit

Swindon Town were dumped out of the League Cup at the first hurdle this evening by a well-organised Exeter City side, writes Rob Francis.

Fabien Robert started the match in place of the injured Jermaine Hylton, with no other changes from the win over Bradford City at the weekend. Swindon also started in the same formation that they finished the game against Bradford, a 3-5-2 which saw Nathan Byrne playing deeper than expected given his heroics last time out.

Exeter City came with a clear game plan; to allow Town possession and to defend as a compact unit, hoping to catch Swindon on the break. As a result, the match opened with Town seeing plenty of the ball but no real chances, Jonathan Obika curling a shot wide after 13 minutes being the first real opening. At the other end, Lawrence Vigouroux saved well from ex-Swindon player Ryan Harley.

As the half progressed, Swindon continued to dominate possession without creating too much, the best chance falling to Obika who went close in a goalmouth scramble. At the other end, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill cleared off the line from David Wheeler; the right-winger made life difficult for Swindon throughout the evening.

On 37 minutes, Exeter took the lead. Tom Nichols beat Raphael Rossi-Branco to the ball and played Alex Nicholls in, who placed the ball past Vigouroux with a quality finish. Four minutes later and Exeter were two-goals ahead. This time, Nicholls skipped past two Swindon players before having a shot on goal. Vigouroux could only palm Nicholls’ attempt as far as Wheeler, who tapped into an unguarded net.

Town looked to hit back, but a curling effort from Yasser Kasim was smartly saved by Bobby Olejnik in the Exeter goal.

At half time, Mark Cooper made some tactical switches. Swindon began the second half with a back four, with Nathan Thompson, Ormonde-Ottewill and Byrne clearly being pushed further forward.

The rest of the game was now almost entirely played in Exeter’s half, however City kept their narrow, compact shape, and Swindon continued to be repelled. Obika shot into the side netting after 52 minutes, and Kasim nearly picked out Byrne with a fantastic pass on the hour, but Exeter were mainly restricting Town to long shots and corners.

With 65 minutes gone, Obika gave Swindon hope as he turned on the edge of the penalty area and unleashed an unstoppable left foot shot into the top corner. Momentarily Exeter seemed rattled, with Byrne seeing a shot deflected narrowly wide soon after. Paul Tisdale, the Grecians boss, made a couple of defensive substitutions in order to shore up the defence and hold on to the 2-1 lead.

Other than a couple of deflected shots, Swindon failed to create any further clear-cut chances, and despite Vigouroux coming up for a corner in injury time, Town could not find an equaliser.

Overall, a bit of a comedown from the weekend. Exeter had done their homework and identified an effective way to play against us. They banked on us trying to pass the ball through the middle rather than attack down the wings, so they defended deep and narrow, flooding the space in front of the penalty area with a wall of players we couldn’t break through, and we lacked the guile to pass around. We will need to find a way to break down sides set up to play in this way, if we are to be challenging for promotion this season.

Up next, a trip to Bury. COYR.

Follow Rob Francis – @rob_francis

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