THIS was the Elephant Man of performances from Swindon Town, without any of the lovable personality.
It was ugly in the extreme, to the extent that those in attendance could have been forgiven for pointing and having a giggle, but ultimately this was no laughing matter. Swindon were octogenarian in their impotency, rudderless beyond belief and lacking all and any of the shape they have so carefully developed over recent months.
With all due respect to Tommy Miller and Darren Ward – both experienced professionals with bundles of knowledge of the game – the “managerless” matchday dynamic is quickly being proven not to work.
That is not a lamentation of the departure of Paolo Di Canio, after all this situation was thrown upon Town, but a call to arms for the new owners of the club. Act fast or at least die trying.
The game was won by Steven Schumacher’s 21st-minute strike, as Bury came with a gameplan, stuck to it and prospered. Swindon were almost unbearable in the first half, improved after the break but didn’t test Trevor Carson in the Shakers’ goal until 15 minutes from the end.
It was instantly forgettable but at the same time dragged up questions no one really wanted to be or thought they would be answering with 12 games of the season remaining.
It took 17 minutes for either side to muster a shot on target and when it came Bury were only centimetres away from taking the lead.
Town dawdled in defence, allowing the visitors to spread play from left to right and when David Worrall found space in the area to cut inside and let fly with his right foot, a scrambling Wes Foderingham was relieved to see the ball fizz past a post.
The hosts’ lethargy was left unpunished on that occasion, but within four minutes their lack of defensive shape was fully exposed as the Shakers edged in front.
Swindon abandoned all rigidity in formation when defending against the counter attack, in a worryingly repeat of the build-up to Will Hayhurst’s goal for Preston on Saturday, and allowed Joe Skarz the space to bomb forward down the left.
Town gave their guests the chance to throw five men forward against three at the back, the Robins were unable to regroup in time and Skarz’s cross was bundled home at the near post by Schumacher.
Mark Carrington lashed over for Bury moments after the restart, and the visitors must have been thanking their lucky charms for arriving in Wiltshire on a night where Town decided to rest their shape, composure, fluency and attacking potential.
It took a shade under half-an-hour for the Robins to have their first shot at goal and the groans of the crowd upon seeing James Collins’ 25-yard volley dribble wide must have been audible most of the way up Victoria Hill.
It never threatened to improve before the break, from a Swindon point of view at least, and the closest Town came were two headers from each central defender – Ward and Aden Flint – which drifted harmlessly over the bar.
To focus too much on Swindon’s poor performance, however, would be to do a disservice to Bury, who turned up at the County Ground well drilled by Kevin Blackwell – one of the men linked with the top job at the Robins – and with a three-man holding midfield which rendered Miller and Alan Navarro totally redundant.
After the break Swindon’s work rate improved but their quality remained lacking. Roberts fired wide and Flint’s meek header were all the hosts had to show for 15 minutes of graft and the caretaker managers tried to change things by swapping Alan Navarro for Nathan Thompson and moving Alan McCormack into the middle of midfield.
Miller’s lobbed ball forward in the 65th minute saw Collins bear down on goal, but the striker could only volley wide with his left foot, and soon Town returned to the monotonous rhythm of missed pass and aimless long ball down the channels.
At the other end Bury rarely threatened in the second half, with Schumacher’s wild volley from range the best the Shakers could muster until Wes Foderingham turned over the midfielder’s rasping late free-kick, while it took until 12 minutes from the end for Carson in the visitors’ goal to be forced into action.
As it was Luke Rooney’s 30-yard free-kick was the first of several saves the away stopper made in the dying moments, as he kept out Flint and Adam Rooney to ensure his clean sheet.
The save from Flint was particularly memorable, as Carson’s reflexes prevented the centre-back from nodding home from close range after Williams’ cross was flicked on by Ward. The stop from Rooney’s 16-yard bicycle kick was more routine but essential nonetheless as the lowly visitors’ 95 traveling fans went home happy.
For Swindon’s support is was a depressing evening. Let’s leave it at that.