Swindon Town 4-2 Southend: The Good, The Bad and the Awful
A brace from both Nicky Ajose and Jon Obika spared the blushes of Luke Williams whose first game in charge after Martin Ling’s unfortunate departure started truly woefully, writes STFC007
Despite the departures of the recent loanees Ben Gladwin, Louis Thompson, Adam El-Abd, Kevin Stewart and Wes Thomas as well as the move of Henrik Ojamaa to Austrian side FC Wacker Innsbruck, Swindon still put out a strong team on paper. But the first home game of 2016 did not start as planned.
Let’s start with a question. What do short corners, short goal-kicks and Anton Rodgers being named in the starting line-up all have in common? Indeed, under performance of any of these will have the wrath of the Swindon Town crowd descend upon the County Ground.
After 20 minutes, all 3 ingredients had been served up in abundance as a potent cocktail, and the Swindon crowd made their disapproval known loud and clear with the boos emanating from all parts of the stadium after Town found themselves 0-2 down.
I never boo the team; not during a game and not after a game. I manage to keep my frustration under control and instead clap in support of the team and encouragement to the players to rectify things; the game lasts 90 minutes after all…
I do though understood though why so many did express their dissatisfaction in the way they did as the performance had been dire in those 20 minutes.
Southend were gifted a belated Christmas present after yet another disastrous way of playing the ball out from the back. Southend had done their homework and applied pressure high up the pitch the moment the short goal kick was taken. The usual 1-2 between Vigouroux and Branco worked OK, but after that only Yaser Kasim was within reach who, after an inaccurate pass from Branco, was dispossessed too easily and suddenly it was four against two and an accurate shot was enough to punish the error. 0-1.
I don’t mind that Town play the ball out from the back via Branco from a goal kick, but it seems to have become the only way of putting the ball back into play while trying to retain possession even if there are no players immediately free or making an effort to receive the ball subsequently.
In the same vain, I don’t mind the short corners; same that I don’t mind long corners either. But like the short goal kick, the short corner should not be the only way of bringing the ball into play. First post, back post, penalty spot, edge of box, short corner mixed up with any training ground move is fine.
It’s the level of variation and surprise that will keep the opposition on their toes and the moment it becomes predictable, it loses its impact and element of surprise and therefore becomes easier to counter and defend against.
The second goal was the result of poor defending. A free kick was whipped into the box and none of the Swindon players even made an effort to head the ball. Barry neither marked his man, nor looked at the ball; a recipe for disaster. From an early age kids are told to always look at the ball, so for Barry to turn his back to the ball and instead look at his opponent gave him no chance to time his jump to coincide with the ball arriving. 0-2.
It was at this stage that my mind wandered and tried to find a reason for the uneven lighting on the pitch and why Southend’s number 22 Deegan was wearing both a beard and cut-off hotpants shorts. I did not give the latter much thought, but whilst the middle of the pitch is well lit, the luminosity between the edge of the box and the goal line in both halves is distinctly less. I am no lightning technician, but someone should perhaps go up the tower and reposition a couple of the spots perhaps?
On the pitch, Southend had been more aggressive, worked hard to close players down and generally showed more energy than the Swindon team and deserved to be in front.
After that, the Town players did not give up, but any potential danger from either flank never materialised as most balls ended up being played back into the centre making it easier for the visitors to defend against.
This changed when finally balls were coming in from either wing and the generally poor Southend defence was put under pressure. Based on their performance, it was no surprise that they had conceded seven goals without reply in their last two games.
The break for Swindon came a few minutes before half time when a cross from the left ended up with Jon Obika who was given time to take the ball under control and shoot on target only for Southend ‘keeper Bentley to make a decent stop. None of the Southend defenders reacted quick enough so it was Nicky Ajose who got to the loose ball first and score from close range: 1-2.
A few minutes into first half stoppage time save a throw-in on the right hand side end up with Fabien Robert whose ball into the box was met by Obika who stroked the into the far corner. 2-2
After a disappointing start with the crowd on the back of the players, suddenly we went into the break level at 2-2 with the players being applauded off the field.
As always, it’s not the performance, but the goals and ultimately points that determine the reaction of the supporters.
Going into the break level was a blow to Southend who never really recovered as the Swindon team were so much better in the second half creating many chances as a result of purposeful countering, quicker passing and making good use of both wings.
It was Jon Obika who put Swindon ahead after receiving the ball in his own half. Instead of passing it to Ajose who was well placed on the right, he continued his run and somewhat fortuitously kept the ball and placed it accurately in the far corner: 3-2.
In the last minute, Ajose also scored his second after a counter attack saw him 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper and made no mistake: 4-2.
What a turn-around and based on the chances created Swindon could have scored even more. I am though, none the wiser what the ‘Swindon Way of Playing’ is, as we were presented with The Good, The Bad and the Awful.
Luke Williams’ first post-match interview was relatively easy this time having just done the double over Southend this season, and able to defend the way the team played and conceding the silly goals.
Conceding goals like that in future without picking up any points will make the predictable way of trying to retain possession at all cost, less easy to defend in post-match interviews.
Next game is the rescheduled away fixture against Port Vale on Tuesday followed by a home game against Crewe on Saturday. If it’s the second half performance of the ‘Swindon Way of Playing’ that will be on display for both games, I am confident we will come away with points from both games.