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SWINDON TOWN: Town can't blow the house down
SWINDON Town did their best impression of the three little pigs at Crewe last night, but for all their endeavour there was no fairytale ending at Gresty Road.
The Robins huffed and puffed until they were red in the face after falling behind just before the break to Byron Moore’s neat chipped finish but, despite penning Alex like cattle into their own area for almost the entirety of the second 45 minutes, the visitors just could not blow the house down.
It had all started so well, as Raffa De Vita nodded in Tommy Miller’s free-kick to put Town ahead in the 25th minute, but Crewe hit back through Moore’s tap-in at the back post and raced into the lead when the same player was afforded too much time and space on the right to gallop into the area and slot home.
After the break it was one-way traffic. And it was congested.
Swindon set up camp in Crewe territory and created glorious chances for a whole host of players, but the finish was not there and the hosts survived to celebrate three crucial points.
With Crewe struggling to score goals at home and Swindon depleted by injuries and suspension, it didn’t look likely to be a game that had its audience hanging on to the edge of their seats.
And the opening 10 minutes appeared to set the underwhelming tone from which the rest of the match could follow.
Both teams were allowed to maintain possession in the middle of the park but, when time came for a killer ball to be played, quality was seriously lacking.
Luke Murphy produced the first effort on goal in the 11th minute, but his wild volley was never going to trouble Wes Foderingham from 25 yards, while at the other end Adam Rooney headed De Vita’s corner wide.
Jay McEveley teed James Collins up with a fizzing cross in the 17th minute, but the striker could not direct his header on target, while Wes Foderingham caused brief panic in his backline when he cleared against a Crewe striker only to fall on the rebound.
Yet midway through the opening period, despite barely having a sniff in front of goal, Town took the lead and from it the game had lift-off.
Miller swung in a scintillating cross from the left, De Vita got in front of his marker and glanced a deft header beyond the outstretched Alan Martin.
The quiet Crewe crowd got quieter. But within five minutes the volume dial was turned up to maximum at Gresty Road.
Alan McCormack gave away possession in midfield, allowing Michael West all the time in the world to cross from the right.
West’s delivery teased Foderingham and his back four and dribbled through to Moore at the back post and the winger made no mistake in bundling the ball home.
With the vocal backing of their supporters, Crewe started to take control.
Twice in the space of 60 seconds Foderingham had to come to his teammates’ rescue with a pair of brilliant flying saves.
The second was a carbon copy of the first, as the Town stopper flew to his left to palm wide initially from Chuks Aneke and then Kelvin Mellor.
However, he could do nothing to stop his side falling behind four minutes before the break.
Moore was giving Joe Devera a torrid time down the left flank, yet the Swindon backline remained tight, allowing the wide man the freedom of Cheshire to latch onto Aneke’s through-ball and saunter into the box.
Though the angle was tight Moore managed to lift his shot over the onrushing Foderingham and into the back of the net.
From a position of power, Town had been quickly deposed.
In the dying moments of the first half Collins had a chance to level but his effort on the turn from six yards was blocked by the sliding frame of Mark Ellis.
It was a crucial block and sent the hosts into the interval in front.
Swindon almost hit back early in the second half in the most fortunate of manners, but Devera’s looping cross from the right bounced off the crossbar and De Vita could only nod the rebound straight at Phillips.
Di Canio threw on Miles Storey and Matt Ritchie in an effort to change the game, and slowly Town began to find a rhythm.
Ritchie’s deflected effort fell to Roberts eight yards out in the 58th minute and the winger’s technically perfect volley seemed destined for the left-hand corner, only for Martin to stick out an arm and touch the ball wide.
Moments later Troy Archibald-Henville rose to nod Ferry’s delicate centre into the six-yard box but Ellis cleared in front of Collins swinging leg, but Swindon had failed to convert their pressure into anything more significant and soon they were on the back foot once more.
From a series of corners, Aneke, Ellis and Davis all had good chances to put the home side out of sight, but their accuracy was lacking on each occasion.
With the match swinging like a pendulum from one end of the field to the other, it was soon Town’s chance to rip their opponents apart.
First, Ritchie rose at the back post to head over the crossbar, then Roberts tested Martin from 18 yards before Collins and Ferry combined to tee up Roberts once more only for the winger to fire at the Crewe keeper.
Ritchie made a big impression after being introduced in place of De Vita after 55 minutes, and he sent a fizzing drive inches wide of Martin’s left-hand post with 15 minutes remaining.
The former Portsmouth man turned provider two minutes later, as his corner picked out Archibald-Henville who could only head over the bar. Devera at least tested Martin with a header in the 78th minute, while Jay McEveley volleyed at Martin and then completely missed his kick when perfectly placed at the back post.
Martin was named home man of the match to rapturous applause at the death. And that just about summed the game up.