Swindon Town 2-1 Rochdale: Now we’re grinding out wins
Davy Richards reports on how Swindon Town are finally starting to find some form, and how this 2-1 win over Rochdale showed that even when Town aren’t at their best, they do have the steel to grind out a result.
Swindon have come a long way since Martin Ling’s first game in charge. This victory, against the same side that embarrassed Town in round one of the FA Cup, shows just that, albeit not the prettiest of victories, but after four wins in five, things are finally looking up.
Town started the game with a 4-1-2-1-2, or a 4-4-2 diamond, however you’d like to put it, with Ben Gladwin starting in the No.10 role, with Fabien Robert and Louis Thompson as the No.7 and No.8, and Yaser Kasim as the No.4, that’s how Ling chose to describe the roles. They were not concrete though, as the midfield were constantly rotating roles, and those four, are arguably the best midfield in the league on their day. The quality is insane, unfortunately they rarely show it, which can especially be said for Kasim, who is yet to find his form for the season. Although in this win over Rochdale, we started to see signs of the old Kasim, who could ‘play for Real Madrid’.
One tweak in Towns tactic was the use of Gladwin’s passing range. Throughout the game he was switching the play out to Bradley Barry, who often found himself of plenty of space, and with the defender racking in the assists at the moment, it was a pleasure to see.
The first 10 minutes of the game were fairly quiet, then on the 12th minute Dale’s John O’Sullivan received a red card for going in studs up into Kasim in a 50/50 challenge, completely missing the ball and crunching into Kasim. At the time I wasn’t sure if it deserved a red, but on reflection after watching it back, it was a clear red and the referee made the correct decision.
After this Dale had a ten minute spell of domination, where they should arguably have been two up. First a cross from the right was planted onto Peter Vincenti’s head from 6-yards out, but he couldn’t keep the header down. A short time after this Michael Rose (remember him?), found himself with the space to drill in a very nice ball from deep, which beat Branco and found its way to the feet of Vincenti again. However he couldn’t compose himself and the ball bounced off of him and wide. Town can count themselves very lucky to not be losing at this point.
It wasn’t until the half an hour mark that Town really started to get into gear. Gladwin picked up the ball on the edge of the box, and ignores the cries for a shot, instead keeps the ball and runs wide, and floated a great ball into the box, which was cleared for a corner, which of course came to nothing, corners really aren’t our speciality are they?
Come the 32nd minute, and Town have got their first goal. Gladwin holds up the ball well, then switches the play across to Barry. With so much time and space to control the ball, Barry finds the cross, which was passed across the box, dummied by Nicky Ajose and Robert places the ball into the roof of the net. It was great play from Town and a nice finish to give the hosts the lead.
I hadn’t even finished taking my notes before Town had a second! Gladwin was played the ball just inside Town’s half, the big No.10 galloped towards the opposition box. With no challenge coming his way, he was left with way too much space, and his shot from 30-yards took a massive deflection, which wrong footed the ‘keeper.
The second half started very slowly, and was not a joy to watch whatsoever, in fact the only note from the first 15 minutes was ‘VERY FLAT’. It seemed as though town were just inviting the pressure, and from this Dale scored on the 60th minute mark. A Louis Thompson tackle on Calvin Andrew (remember him too?) after tracking his run well from out to inside the box gave Dale a corner. The set-piece found the sliding Lancashire at the back post, and the ball bounced off of him and somehow managed to find its way in, just about crossing the line. At this point I was worried, it had been a shocking fifteen minutes, Town had offered nothing and had invited pressure and I think everyone around the ground could feel the goal coming.
Seven minutes after the Dale goal, Town finally offered something, with Gladwin again receiving the ball well inside Towns half. The QPR loanee carried it all the way to just outside Dale’s box, running through everyone superbly, but his low drilled shot went just wide of the far post, yet again a showing of Gladwin’s talent. Two minutes down the line and Gladwin turns creator again, carrying the ball down the left he cut inside a thread a lovely reverse ball through to Ajose, who just couldn’t find his footing and the defender on his right managed to get back to block the shot before it was any trouble for the ‘keeper.
Town continued to put some pressure on for a further 10 minutes. First a free kick from about 25=yards out from Kasim which went just wide. Then an incredible ball was slotted through Dale’s defence by Kasim into Jon Obika, but his first touch was poor and gave the Dale ‘keeper a chance to close him down and get close enough to parry away Obika’s chipped effort.
The final ten minutes however was almost completely an onslaught of pressure from Rochdale. First a powerful 30-yard free kick from Michael Rose (he always could take a free kick in fairness to him) forced Lawrence Vigouroux to get down well to his right and parry it out for a corner. Then Kasim attempted a pass which was executed shockingly in the 87th minute which Ian Henderson intercepted, and played it into Andrew who blazed over what was an absolute sitter and the best chance Dale had for an equalizer, but he never was very good was he?
Town held out, and after what felt like an hour of extra time, maybe that was just my nerves, the referee blew for full time. Town had won for the fourth time in five games, and quite like the Walsall match a few weeks back, it was a nervy but in the end successful 2-1 win over our opponents.
The performance may not have been the greatest, but we won so who really cares? More than anything I am relieved that form has been starting to pick up, and hopefully confidence will be flowing and Town can finally get back to their best. One final note is a congratulations to Martin Ling on his League One manager of the month nomination last month, let’s hope this month he can win the award.