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05/02 Swindon 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Swindon Town 0 Grimsby Town 1
05 Feb 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
No changes were made at half time by either side. Town kicked off and looked eager and promising for at least 30 seconds, again down the right. Swindon hoofed the ball clear and hustled the Town defence into a jittery half clearance which resulted in some pressure. When I say Town defence I mean Livvo and Lever, of course. For the first 15 minutes of the second half Town were largely empty of threat, and began to leave a few gaps in defence. The nearest Swindon got was after a break down the Town right resulted in a cross to the near post which was steered wide, from 10 yards out. Swindon again tried two or three longs shots, none of which caused Coyne to do anything . The nearest was 2 yards high.
Town only threatened on the break and nearly scored when Livvo hit a 50 yard left footed cross field pass from left to right, which went between the centre backs and left back, releasing Donovan down the touchline. Donovan took the ball in his stride, got to the byeline and whipped over a deep dipping cross which went over the 'keeper. Allen sprinted in and just missed an attempted hook volley from beyond the far post. And then there was the penalty. Town advanced neatly down the right and the ball was passed to Allen by Ashcroft. Allen turned inside the centre left of the area, about 15 yards out and went past a defender, leaving him just the 'keeper to beat. The defender lunged and brought Allen down. Err - no penalty. Again a decision that defied logic. Humans don't "dive" like that. Allen stayed down for a minute in what looked like a deliberate act of contempt towards the referee - he was definitely making a point by remaining on the ground "injured".
The early part of the second half was awful, with many misplaced passes and aimless hoofs, until about 20-25 minutes in, when Quinn brought himself on. This really galvanised Swindon for 5-10 minutes and rocked Town. Quinn added some passion and muscle to their attack. The first thing he did was push D Smith over and get "stuck in". The rest of his team suddenly started to play with more urgency and commitment and they caused several moments of danger. The most dangerous of these was a break, again down our right, which resulted in a cross from the byeline into the centre of the goal, about 8 yards out. Two Swindon players were unmarked, with Quinn a couple of yards behind D Smith, who, fortunately, timed his jump perfectly to flick it over Quinn and out for a throw in. They started to throw more high balls in, especially to the far post where Quinn was always lurking. Lever and McDermott twice cleared under pressure from Quinn.
Buckley countered by taking off Black (who was back to his timid old self, always facing the Town goal and playing backwards) and sending on Clare. Town switched to 4-3-3 and this won the game for Town. Swindon's rather aimless hit and hope football resulted in many clearances flying towards the half way line. The Town forward line were generally first to the ball and caused panic whenever they turned and ran at the Swindon defence. Clare played like he did last week - with intelligence, determination and as part of a team. Again he was looking to pass rather than dribble like a puppy.
Soon after Clare came on there was a further piece of crass refereeing. Town broke down the left with Clare holding the ball up, beating a man and then being fouled. As he was fouled Clare threaded a perfect ball through the defence to Allen, on the edge of the penalty area and totally unmarked. The referee decided to award Town the free kick. Allen received a "ticking off" for his obvious annoyance (he whacked the ball against the advertising hoardings and shouted at the ref).
After about 75 minutes Ashcroft was released down the centre of the pitch by an Allen hooked pass. Ashcroft was alone, with three Swindon defenders about a couple of yards behind him. He advanced into the area and tapped a shot against the 'keeper's legs. He never looked like scoring it, but should have. A few minutes later Town broke away again down the left, with the ball eventually being released to Ashcroft (by Allen, I think, though both he and Clare were involved in the move). Ashcroft was just in front of the Town supporters, advancing to the right hand corner of the Swindon area. ASHCROFT turned inside his marker, cutting on to his right foot, and cunningly played the ball off the defender's toe. The ball lopped over the 'keeper into the top left corner of his goal. Ashcroft ran towards the Town supporters and gestured. The gesture was obscured by his team-mates mobbing him, and I noticed young Mr Clare pretending to shine Ashcroft's boots. Oh dear, he seems to have picked up some bad habits from Northampton - extravagant goal celebrations. He should remember that Town players shake hands and nod.
Within a couple of minutes Town should have scored again. After yet another breakaway involving Clare, Ashcroft and Allen the ball was played across the penalty area from the Town left to Coldicott, alone and advancing towards the 'keeper. He took an age and allowed a defender to slide in to block near the penalty spot. A couple of minutes later, following yet another breakaway, someone (sorry, can't remember who, the game was getting too exciting now) had a powerful shot from 20 yards which the 'keeper punched out. And a further minute or two later the Swindon 'keeper made a remarkable reaction save with his feet after a D Smith snap shot came through a wedge of players, leaving him unsighted. It may have got a slight deflection too.
With 5 or so minutes left Allen was replaced by Butterfield and Town went back to 4-4-2, with Butterfield at left back and D Smith at left midfield. This did cause the game to become tighter, less stretched, and stopped Swindon having the freedom to swing in crosses (which 4-3-3 had allowed their full backs to do). Coyne actually came out and caught a cross, and later punched away another ("Coyne leaves line shock sensation"). The 4th official indicated 2 minutes of extra time, so 3 were played. Swindon's only concerted attack in the added time saw the centre half head a yard over from 6 yards, after a cross from the right. They had a couple of corners and free kicks, but no shots. The last action of the game was a free kick after their player elbowed Butterfield.
The players waltzed off and saluted The Town supporters (perhaps 200) who were very happy. Unlike the supporters of A Town, who were just silent. The official crowd figure was over 5,700 which looked a little "optimistic" by at least 1,000. The Swindon supporters only came to life when Quinn came on, and only then for 5 minutes. They really do seem to have had the stuffing knocked out of them.
D Smith did not have a good game, and neither did Livvo, who was far too casual. At half time it seemed that Swindon had realised our weakness on the left and everything went down that side. Too much space was given to their full backs, allowing them to cross with impunity. Fortunately the Swindon right sided players were rubbish. Black stayed on the pitch too long as he caused most of our defensive problems in the first half. Clare's introduction had the same effect as last week and the forward three looked very dangerous together.
This game was so reminiscent of the Port Vale game last season, when the opposition were so poor it was embarrassing. It looked like Town were trying not to humiliate Swindon, as various players dithered when all alone in the penalty area. Town should have won by at least 4 or 5, without playing convincingly, and certainly not at 100%. Enough was done, just.
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