Chesterfield 0-4 Swindon Town: Hitting the rewind…
Swindon Town beat Chesterfield 4-0, so Joe Young watched Saturday’s “Football League Tonight” and he even hit the rewind, and again, and again…
There were reports last night of mass panic spreading across Wiltshire as thousands of Swindon fans scurried home to check they still had the “Football League Tonight” on series link following a stunning 4-0 win away at Chesterfield. A brace from Nicky Ajose and a strikes from Louis Thompson and Jonathan Obika were more than enough to see Swindon through to back to back league victories for the first time this season.
It wasn’t this season’s dismal displays, or even Adam Virgo’s inexplicable ability to make Steve Claridge look intelligent and insightful, that had risked the Town faithful missing the insipid coverage of Swindon’s best performance of the season. It was more the completely unexpected nature of the result coupled with half-set up Black Friday purchased televisions that brought the streets to a halt.
The performance was so strong that I knew I wouldn’t be hitting the yellow delete button without watching the programme again this week. Though it turned out to be a much closer call than I had been expecting when visions of George Moncur’s sartorial crimes from a few weeks ago reappeared in my mind.
But I digress.
Like Richard Selbourne against Peterborough, this isn’t the match report that I thought I’d be writing. By now gone was pre-season optimism of performance, success and glory. Now the imagined reality was of tortuous descent towards League Two. I failed to believe that anything other than catastrophic defeat was on the cards, but then I had forgotten they’d appointed Dean Saunders as manager – though they’ve finally realised the error of their ways.
As soon as the game started I was surprised by how well Swindon played. This was only my second game since Wembley and I was quickly in denial that my love affair with the short passing game was over. Town dominated the ball for the opening few minutes and attacked well. A beautiful guided pass from Ben Gladwin sent Brad Barry free down the right and his cross was swept home by Nicky Ajose to give us the lead after three minutes. I was ecstatic. Cold, wet, but ecstatic. I had still hadn’t worked out the formation but we were 1-0 up and I really didn’t care. I thought it was a good omen.
The game restarted and Swindon continued to play well. The ball was knocked around and Chesterfield weren’t seeing any of it. I was beginning to truly believe once more. But this was different to last year, and different to Wigan a few weeks ago.
This was passing football with a pragmatic backbone. We didn’t always look to go short, we didn’t always look to play out from the back. We always threatened to go short, and always threatened to play out from the back, but we also threatened to hit it long in to the channel, or try to hit Jonathan Obika.
The second quickly followed as Louis Thompson broke free on the right hand side of the penalty area and smashed the ball through Tommy Lee. At the time I thought Lee was culpable, but replays on the Football League Tonight proved inconclusive. He could certainly have done better, but how much of an error it was I’m still not sure. The commentator said he could have done better, but then he also said Thompson crossed the ball for our first.
At this point things get worse for a large number of Chesterfield fans in the East stand. The driving wind and rain send them hurrying up the stand to try and get to a drier vantage point. In typical football fan solidarity, the Town faithful showed them some real sympathy, “2-0 down and you’re getting wet, 2-0 down and you’re getting wet!” they taunted. This quickly evolved in to a crueller version, “We’re winning away, how below average and ineffectual are you?” Although some of these words did not appear and a four letter one did.
It made me chuckle and I was nearly glad I was there. (I was very cold and wet – I maybe a plastic northerner these days but I’m still a bit nesh.) Two goals ahead was all a bit much to take for one poor town fan, who was seen leaving shortly afterwards, not to return.
Chesterfield came in to the game following the blistering start from Swindon. It was now that Martin Ling’s changes became evident. There was resilience from the whole team as they defended together as a unit. The Derbyshire Times said Swindon were happy to sit back after our second goal. I don’t think this was necessarily fair. We sat back and defended when we had to, cleared our lines when we had to, but still looked to get forward when we could.
Chesterfield pushed forward as the half came to end and were unlucky not to pull one back as first Dan Jones volleyed wide before Jay O’Shea hit the bar, but Swindon held on. I was watching on TV by this point under the stand as I ensured I could get a half-time cup of tea (not something I ever thought I’d write!).
The second half started and despite the performance and two goal lead I wasn’t confident of getting a result. The impressive Ben Gladwin was given the ball near Chesterfield’s area and probed in typical Swindon fashion. We moved the ball and probed for an opening that couldn’t be found. Rather than try something risky we kept possession of the ball and recycled it well. The ball went backwards and before we knew it attack had been turned in to defence.
Here possession is key, we kept the ball and we kept control. Lawrence Vigouroux played the ball out, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill passed on to Ben Gladwin, who surged forward to find the impressive Obika. He continued to run towards the goal, took advantage of a Chesterfield slip and smashed the ball low in to the corner of the net. It was perfect from our positon, as soon as it left his foot we knew it was going in.
Now many of the 254 Swindon fans left at the game will probably being scratching their head or shouting at me about now. Arsene Wenger apologist that I am, I may have glossed over the true nature of the third goal. Whilst we did play the ball backwards to Vigouroux, the pass to him was short and left him under pressure. He did well to clear, but straight to a Chesterfield player. We were indebted to Ormonde-Ottewill for a brilliant recovering challenge to eliminate the danger and feed Gladwin. But I’ve done this deliberately. For all our improved performance and resilience there were still numerous occasions when we got caught, when we could have given away cheap goals. On another day this could have been a different result. That’s not being gloomy, there’s still some work to be done.
At 3-0 I need to clear up some confusion in the Advertiser match report. It states that Ajose put Obika clear, but that Obika choose to play the ball back to Ajose. This wasn’t true. The Adver reporter will not have had our view, Obika clearly tried to put the ball home from about 5-yards but somehow managed to scuff his shot almost sideways. Ajose reacted well, got to the ball first and fired wide from an impossibly tight angle. It was a blip in an otherwise great performance from Obika today. I saw a side to him I hadn’t seen before, he was good in the air, good at holding up the ball and was I really impressed with him.
Ajose capped off the display with a fine fourth after brilliant work from Fabien Robert. Gladwin narrowly failed to cap off a tremendous day with a fifth, but Lee tipped his effort on the post. It was harsh on Gladwin, but 5-0 would have been harsh on Chesterfield too. In the end Swindon’s clean sheet was due to two fantastic saves from Vigouroux and some fantastic committed defending putting bodies on the line.
Finally, in sadder news, Simon Fuller, a longstanding member of the London Reds Supporters group passed away this week. Anyone who knew Simon can donate to the hospice where he spent his last days here.
Now this is done, I might just watch the goals again. I mean why not?
Great report! I too watched the highlights several times on Channel Five – hitting the rewind button on multiple occasions much to the chagrin of my children.
The offical highlights above do not do justice to the delicious interception and backheel from Brad Barry to set up Robert for Ajose’s goal (shown in more detail on CH5 coverage) But they do include a fantastic, ballerina-esque leap from the Chesterfield left back to stop a non-cross from Jezza (1:52) – I must have watched that about ten times, it’s mesmerizing. I just shouted to the wife, “help me, I can’t stop watching it…”
Something is wrong with me.