Swindon Town 0-1 Barnsley: No time for a comeback this week

Anyone who has been at the County Ground recently will know Swindon Town are at their most dangerous when they go two goals behind. This deficit produces a devastating reply and a thrilling victory for the home fans to enjoy. Unfortunately, as Richard Selbourne writes, as hard as our players tried at times, they were unable to give away that all-important second goal.

I should’ve known it was going to be a miserable day from the moment the blue sky and sunshine tempted me to leave the house without a coat. It proved to be one of the most bitterly cold days of the year with Storm Gertrude blowing a hoolie towards the Stratton Bank.

The big pre-match news: Nathan Thompson was back in the centre of a three-man defence and Michael Doughty, on loan from QPR, replaced Anton Rodgers in the heart of midfield for his home debut. With manager Luke Williams dropping the 4-4-2 formation in favour of the higher risk 3-5-2, I was full of optimism, as always, when we kicked off towards the Town End and against the howling wind.

Even though Swindon didn’t have a single shot on target in the first half while Barnsley created three or four good chances, I enjoyed the opening 45 minutes and thought we controlled the game and looked positive and dangerous at times.

Lawrence Vigouroux’s goal kicks are particularly worthy of a mention. Almost every time, he would plant the ball with unerring accuracy into touch on the half-way line to his right. Either this is a new rugby-style tactic, or I suspect Lawrence must have forgone his usual warm-up routine to join Wild Al, King of Cairos, for some pre-match shots of a very different kind in the County Ground Hotel.

I should also point out that you’ll never meet a more caring fellow than Mr Robinson, the referee. At the mere hint of a head injury, including a single hair of a player’s scalp being out of place, Mr Robinson would immediately stop the game with Town in a threatening position and restart it with the ball back in our penalty area. Grrrrrr! When Brad Barry was unable to take his place on the field after the half-time break due to a sudden migraine attack, it was no small wonder that Mr Robinson didn’t abandon the match altogether. It actually seemed he had done when he didn’t return to the pitch for a full two minutes after both sets of players.

While we waited for Mr Robinson to give Brad Barry mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, I asked my lad who he thought had the advantage in the second half now the gale was heading in the same direction as the Town. It’s always difficult to tell because, even though a strong wind makes it harder to defend, it also makes it harder to attack – with the ball prone to run past the goal-line with anything but the deftest of through balls. The lad reckoned Barnsley, but that’s only because he’s inherited his mother’s pessimistic nature. I insisted Swindon would be in firm control now and would be looking to shoot at any opportunity.

Wrong again.

The second half was poor. Town were unable to break down Barnsley’s compact lines and the away team looked no better themselves. Neither side had the necessary guile to break the deadlock until the 88th minute when a deflected cross fell to the feet of Barnsley striker, Sam Winall, six yards out, and he drilled the ball home for the winner.

One constructive suggestion for the bigwigs of the game at the FA: I would forego the churlish obligatory yellow card for a player taking his shirt off during a goal celebration and instead give the referee the option, when any player celebrates provocatively in front of the opposing fans, to punch his flipping lights out. (Obviously this new rule would not apply to Nathan Thompson or Bristol City fans.) Yes, it was me who let the tyres down on the Barnsley team coach at the final whistle – and that’s the reason why.

Disappointing, yes, but there were positives too: Vigouroux, despite his comical goal kicks, made crucial saves throughout. Jordan Turnbull and Raphael Rossi-Branco looked strong and sharp and were unlucky not to keep a clean sheet. After his long absence with injury, I had forgotten just how good Nathan Thompson is and, even though he looked tentative at the start, his confidence and control grew by the minute. New midfielder Doughty also showed some good touches. And while it wasn’t the best game for either BOO or Brad Barry, it’s heartening to see how well both these young players have grown into their roles at full-back.

Leaving the County Ground with 7,530 others, sporting the first symptoms of hypothermia, the lad and I felt that the Town had deserved a point for their efforts.

But, when we reached the car and turned on the radio, local pundit Steve White delivered a more objective opinion: with five clear cut chances compared to our two, and their well-marshalled defence dominating throughout, Barnsley deserved their victory. As someone who will never forget Whitey’s two goals in the play-off final replay against Gillingham in 1987 and then him winning the decisive penalty at Wembley against Leicester in 1993, how could I possibly disagree…

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