Report: Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Swindon Town
Alex Hays reports on an unexpected victory for Swindon Town…
Being a Town fan in exile is a mixed blessing. Attending more away games than home, we tend to avoid the vitriol aired at the County Ground. But given Town’s away record over the past 12 months, we’ve been starved of entertainment.
My last match report, around a year ago, reflected on us falling to a pitiful 5-1 defeat at Fleetwood, leaving us in the bottom four. And a trip to Bolton held the possibility of a repeat performance. Nevertheless, living just up the road I thought I’d invite a few non-Town fans along for the, err, fun.
Some didn’t reply. A Liverpool fan said thanks, but he’d give it a miss. Perhaps watching two teams capable of scoring against Plymouth Argyle would have rubbed salt into open wounds.
Only the Wycombe fan came along, and over a pre-match pie and a pint, the inevitable question came: “Have you signed anybody yet?” And so began the discussion about Ben Gladwin – the Swindon player who isn’t – and three unknown quantities from Chelsea. Would they make a difference?
The first half was largely forgettable. Bolton dictated play to little effect. Connor Thomas was regularly left stranded, out of position at right back. But in the middle Raphael Rossi-Branco was in imperious form, heading, blocking, intercepting and clearing each ball that came his way.
On the left, Fankaty Dabo was making his first appearance in league football, but you wouldn’t have known. His positioning was strong, his tackling excellent, and his reading of the game superb.
Bolton’s best chance came as Yaser Kasim lost the ball, but after the Trotters broke, Lawrence Vigouroux palmed away the resulting strike.
Sadly, Town couldn’t counter with any real threat. Attacks lacked pace, and the diamond formation (Kasim behind Colkett and Gladwin, with Goddard pushing on) left little scope for width and outlet balls.
The highlights consisted of Gary Madine falling over and holding various parts of his body, and the stewards attempting to pick fights with the away end, seemingly picking out individuals to evict at random. At half time the kiosks ran out of hot food and tea, offering barely-warm hot chocolates instead. And they say football is being run like a business…
The second half began with a goal for the home side. A Bolton corner found David Wheater, who swung an awkward leg at the ball. The connection was sweet, the shot unstoppable. When your centre back does that, you assume things are going your way.
Bolton cranked up the pressure, winning the ball in midfield, spreading it wide, but never finding space in the box. Town hadn’t given up. They kept fighting, started to regain a foothold, and got their reward.
As Bolton fans reminded us how bad our side was, they were silenced by a sweet strike. Luke Norris held the ball up out wide, before finding Gladwin on the edge of the box. A neat touch, a powerful strike, a small deflection, and the game was back on.
Charlie Colkett displayed neat touches and passing, and the introduction of Jermaine Hylton had added creativity and endeavour in attack. Space appeared in the final third, and Town should have scored when Goddard picked out Kasim, whose stretched boot guided the ball over.
In a rare mistake, Colkett misplaced a pass to Branco, allowing James Henry a strike which hit the post as the game became increasingly end to end. Meanwhile the stewards continued to pick out away fans to aggravate, before Town took a lead that nobody had expected.
Colkett’s powerful volley was blocked, before Henry tried his luck from distance for the hosts, shooting just wide. Then once again Norris’ hold-up play drew an opportunity. His first pass found Goddard whose effort was blocked, but Colkett then picked out Kasim whose run to the back post was well-timed, and his volley sweetly struck. We were winning away, with just a few minutes to hold on.
Bolton threatened with a header which went just over, before the victory was secured. A glimmer of hope? The start of an upturn in fortunes? Only time will tell.
The new signings brought an added dimension to play. Dabo was strong throughout, rarely looking like he’d be beaten for nous or pace. Gladwin held the ball up and probed spaces left by the defence. Colkett showed clever touches and a good range of passing, along with the creativity we’ve been lacking. And whilst Feruz didn’t get into the game much, he showed a good turn of pace, and a desire to make things happen. He may come good.
So all due credit to Power, or Sherwood, or Williams, or whoever it is that makes things happen nowadays. The new signings look to be valuable additions, the change to a diamond kept Bolton out of key areas, and Town have picked up three points on the road. One more draw, and that’s two wins in a row. Apparently.
Keep the faith.