Shrewsbury 0-1 Swindon Town: Four wins in a row

What a turnaround for Swindon Town under Martin Ling. Scott Keith reports from Saturday’s victory over Shrewsbury Town…

Four wins in a row. Four wins in a row.  What a thing to type after the grim subsidence of the Cooper regime.

The squad have rediscovered some of their footballing ability, and certainly a work ethic, which got them through some tricky moments here.

Greenhous Meadow lacks the charm of its predecessor, but that is the modern way. When things were not going well at the old Gay Meadow, it was always pleasing to look at the statue behind the home end, ever facing away from the pitch, in the hope that a particularly poor shot from the home team might cannon off the back of its head. And where else can you crack coracle related jokes? At least the home fans make some noise here, unlike the sorriest of the League One new builds, Colchester.

With Yaser Kasim’s foot a problem again, Anton Rodgers came into the side, which was otherwise the same team that just did enough to see off Rochdale. Former Town striker James Collins captained the Shrews no less, and worked hard without seeing a clear chance on goal.

After a pretty hectic 10 minutes or so, Martin Ling’s side started to show  off their ability to pass the ball, and Rodgers had the first chance after Louis Thompson’s run was stopped in return for a free-kick. His 25 yarder dipped just too late.

Then Ben Gladwin started doing Gladwin stuff.  There was the now customary run from inside the opposition’s half before getting a shot away across the keeper which was tipped away. He had three different shots, the most bold from half way which had Mark Halstead, looking uncomfortable for a time before batting it away for a corner.

Gladwin and Rodgers teamed up for the goal . Gladwin’s pass found the man normally on the base of the diamond on the right wing, and he seemed to slice across the ball with his foot for a cross that had pace , bend and dip. Nicky Ajose was more alert to what was coming than the home defence, and tucked the ball home from close range. His first real chance of the afternoon – finished off no problem.

The good football faded a bit after that. Shrews full-back Junior Brown highlighted some of the weaknesses that remain in Brad Barry as a defender more than once, and his very dangerous cross to the back post was headed into the side netting by Scott Vernon just before half time.

With the filthy weather now more in Shrewsbury’s favour the start of the second-half was the rockiest period. Shrewsbury had lots of pressure, if not too many clear opportunities. Collins knocked down one set piece which was finished to much excitement by Scott Vernon, but also an offside flag.

Branco and El-Abd were a dominant physical duo at the back, and with the midfield getting through a lot of work to protect the back four, the worst of the danger passed. Drissa Traore replaced an apparently flu-hit Louis Thompson, and James Brophy was brought on to replace Fabien Robert, who’d not got many decisions, and was getting a bit sulky just after a yellow card.

Some late chances came to get a calming second.  An ungainly moment from the exotically named Nathaniel Knight-Percival almost saw Ajose or Jon Obika free on goal, before the defender’s outstretched leg put the ball out, and James Brophy perhaps showed indecision when a ball deflected to him in the box. As home keeper Halstead closed  him down, the ball ricocheted back to Gladwin, who’s effort looked to be going in before it was headed behind.

Before that Sulley Kaikai had peeled away from Barry to meet a back post cross, sending his header spiralling wide.

But the last passages of play were pleasingly broken up, and it was – get this – back to back away clean sheets – to go with more points and joyous mid-table anonymity.

In a division with frankly not much  to offer, a combination of hard work and spells of quality goes a long, long way.

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