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MacDonald's Robins a force to be reckoned with post-PDC
PAOLO who? In 90 minutes at the Ricoh Arena, Swindon Town illustrated that without the enigmatic Italian they remain a force to be reckoned with.
Despite falling behind to a second minute goal from Franck Moussa, Swindon hit back with an avalanche of free-flowing moves on a difficult playing surface and, although they left it late, sneaked three points from under the noses of their promotion rivals.
It was hardly a smash and grab, despite the lateness of the goals from Andy Williams and Darren Ward. This was a result of careful planning, superior fitness and undeniable extra quality.
It was perhaps not as convincing a scoreline as the performance might have suggested but nonetheless, the real Swindon just stood back up.
MacDonald could not possibly have dreamt for a worst start under his tenure, as Swindon fell behind within 70 seconds.
Moments after defending a corner Coventry broke, Gary McSheffrey took the ball from under Nathan Thompson’s feet as the right-back dallied and found himself stuck in the mud on a shocking Ricoh surface and the winger freed Moussa.
Town were stretched and, with Leon Clarke dragging Darren Ward out wide, Moussa was able to get off a shot which beat Foderingham into his left-hand corner.
Town responded well to falling behind but any kind of meaningful passing football was nigh-on impossible on a playing surface that looked like the practice area at the local pitch and putt.
It took 16 minutes for Swindon to finally hit that target. Andy Williams bore down on goal but opted to centre for Simon Ferry, who drew a decent save out of Sky Blues keeper Joe Murphy.
Coventry could barely get going after their early opener, although McSheffrey spurned a golden chance to double their lead when, unmarked at the back post, he let Carl Baker’s cross bounce off him and out for a goal-kick.
Despite trailing Swindon looked confident. On a better pitch with a truer run on of the ball the visitors could well have ripped their opponents to shreds. As it was, they were only to tear them at the corners.
Williams’ tremendous first touch in the 29th minute took him away from Aaron Martin but with the goal at his mercy the striker dragged his effort wide.
Coventry were being turned on by their own fans as passes went astray and decision against them and, seven minutes before half-time, they should have been dragged back level.
Williams showed tremendous strength to outmuscle Martin and twist onto his right foot inside the area. His first shot hit a post but, when the rebound fell at his feet three yards from goal it seemed as though the striker was going to have the simple task of tapping into the back of the net.
However, Murphy somehow managed to back-track and get his body in the way of Williams’ follow-up.
Occasionally the Sky Blues threatened. Carl Dickinson sent a rasping 25-yard drive wide of Foderingham’s right-hand post and Clarke’s header from Baker’s corner was off-target, but it was the away side who were by far the better team in the opening half.
Swindon settled the quicker into the second half and tested Murphy again 10 minutes after the break.
McCormack broke out of midfield, exchanged a neat one-two with Williams on the edge of the box and brought a good save out of the Coventry stopper high at his near post.
The game entered something of a lull, a war of attrition as the two sides sized each other up, before Foderingham’s reflexes kept Swindon in the game with 25 minutes remaining.
Baker whipped in a cross from the right, Clarke beat Ward in the air and his header was hurtling towards the back of the net only for Foderingham to leap cat-like to his left to turn it wide.
Within seconds the Town stopper should have been rewarded for his brilliance as Swindon barraged the Coventry goal. Luke Rooney’s free-kick and Roberts’ follow-up were both blocked by Sky Blues bodies before the ball fell at Tommy Miller’s feet eight yards out.
The result was the same, however, as the midfielder saw his goalbound effort strike Coventry defender and dribble out for a corner.
As the game entered its final 10 minutes Swindon were totally on top. As Coventry’s attention to detail dipped, the visitors’ superior fitness was evident. But the all-important goal was not forthcoming.
Flint headed over at the back post from Luke Rooney’s corner, Rooney himself launched a wild volley 20 rows back into the stand and it seemed forever as though Town were going to fall short.
However, this team is made of sterner stuff. With five minutes left of normal time the Robins forced a chance down the left. Adam Rooney twice tested Murphy at his near post, the second attempt striking a post and bobbling across the goalline where Williams was on hand to scoop home.
It was perhaps the most important goal of the season for Swindon, and five minutes later they won the match in dramatic circumstances.
Luke Rooney chipped in a corner from the left and Darren Ward rose majestically to nod beyond Murphy. Cue delirium. This was one of those moments you had to be there to appreciate.