Swindon vs Shrewsbury & Gillingham Festive Fixtures Preview

Steven Fyfe reviews Swindon Town’s festive form as a preview for games versus Shrewsbury and Gillingham.

Christmas is a time for giving. Swindon Town have been very fortunate that a lot of their opponents over the past 15 seasons have passed on the gestures of good will on the pitch. Festive cheer is generally experienced annually by Robins fans, as Town’s record of games before and after Christmas Day shows a decent return since the new millennium.

This season Swindon’s pre-Christmas fixture is away to Shrewsbury on December 19th, while we host Gillingham on Boxing Day. Stats, along with our current form, show we have reason to be optimistic ahead of both clashes.

Stats ahead of Shrewsbury away 19th December –

Since the 2000/01 season Swindon have picked up 22 from 45 points available on the last game before Christmas. Nineteen of these points won have been as hosts – from ten fixtures. More worryingly, Town have only picked up three from 15 available away from home. This was in 2003/04 when Town travelled to Brentford for a 2-0 win. This run includes losing the last two away from home before Christmas. In 2006/07 Town went down 1-2 at Macclesfield. In 2004/05 it was the same score when Swindon lost to Bournemouth.

Entertainment should be on the cards as only one of the 15 pre-Christmas fixtures have ended in a draw. This was a 0-0 at home to Blackpool in 2005/06. Town have scored twenty five goals in this period of fixtures, five of which came in 2012/13 in a 5-0 thumping of Tranmere. In the same time frame, Town conceded nineteen.

Our loss at home to Doncaster last season was the first time Town failed to win a pre-Christmas fixture since Yeovil took three points from the County Ground in the 2008/09 season. Only once in the last 15 seasons have Town played our pre-Christmas fixture this early on December 19th – when in 2009/10 Brighton travelled to Swindon and the hosts won 2-1.

This is the first time since losing to Macclesfield in 2006/07 that our pre-Christmas fixture is away from home.

Our head to head vs Shrewsbury makes decent reading. Of the 58 matches played Swindon have won 28, drawn 14 and lost 16. Town have scored 87 goals and conceded 75. Swindon have won four of the last five meetings, and of the last three meetings at The Greenhous Meadow, Town have lost two. The last draw between the two sides was back in 1987.

Stats ahead of Gillingham at home 26th December –

Over the past 15 seasons Town have secured 27 points in the first game after Christmas from 45 available. A total of 14 points from seven games as hosts, while 13 points from eight away games.

Swindon are currently on a run of five home games won in a row post-Christmas and six unbeaten. Only Brentford back in 2000/01 have taken three points from The County Ground on Boxing Day – this was in a thrilling 2-3 game. Our last home fixture was in 2012/13 season, however this was on January 1st due to postponements when Town hammered Portsmouth 5-0 with four goals from James Collins.

In terms of an outcome these games are harder to call as Town have won eight, drawn three and lost four of the fifteen played this millennium. Entertainment should still be on offer though, 26 goals have been scored by Town in the period investigated and only 16 conceded. On three occasions Town have drawn a blank, in 2001/02, 2003/04 and 2011/12.

In the previous four seasons Town have lost to Torquay United in the 2011/12 season (a 0-1 defeat), beat Portsmouth, lost to Brentford and last season beat Walsall. With Swindon seemingly winning then losing, hopefully Gillingham will not snatch victory at the County Ground.

Only twice in the last 15 seasons have Town not played on Boxing Day – in 2010/11 and 2012/13. Swindon have won seven of the 12, drawn two and lost four.

Our rivalry with Gillingham is a strange one and stems from the 1979 season and Ray McHale. There will be plenty of passion in the stands and hopefully on the pitch. Our head to head is not as good as versus Shrewsbury with the sides playing 139 times, Town winning 54 and Gillingham winning 50. Town have scored 216 times and conceded 194.

Five goal margins are not to be unexpected, Town having won this fixture five times by this margin, the last of which was in 2007 when two goals each from Simon Cox and Billy Paynter, plus a goal from JP McGovern secured the win. Gillingham have also won by this margin on two occasions. Town have not won in the last five fixtures versus Gillingham, drawing twice. They have however won three of the last five at home, drawing once and losing the last meeting.

As a combination of fixtures, on only two occasions have Swindon failed to get a minimum three points. In 2000/01, games were lost away at Bury and then home to Brentford. The following seasons Town only picked up one point. That was in the Boxing Day draw with Bournemouth after losing to Notts County.

Swindon have picked up maximum points on two occasions also. In 2007/08 Town beat Hartlepool at home 2-1 before travelling to Yeovil on Boxing Day and Barry Corr scoring the winner from the bench. A goal that is fondly remembered but at the time it seemed to take an age to cross the line.

Town’s average return from the two key festive fixtures over the past 15 seasons is 3.27 points from 6.

The old saying goes “win your home games, draw away” and I see no reason why Swindon cannot do at least that this season.

Happy Christmas all and COYR’s

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