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SWINDON TOWN: The Bees sting MacDonald & Co
FOR 70 minutes at Griffin Park last night, Swindon Town were in total control. For 70 minutes the Robins were calm in possession, spirited to a man and generally superior to their west London hosts.
But football games don’t last 90 minutes, and in the end Kevin MacDonald’s men were caught short. Brentford conjured up a seismic momentum shift, Town couldn’t find a way to counter it and, having taken the lead through Simon Ferry and having utterly dominated their promotion rivals, Swindon went home with nothing.
This was not a bad performance from MacDonald’s men, far from it. In fact, given the calibre of the opposition they were pretty impressive for most of the game. However, having passed up a golden opportunity through Gary Roberts to double their lead before the break, their failures in front of goal cost them big time.
It’s hard to know where to point the finger. Mental weakness, home advantage, pure physical exhaustion – but out of a losing situation Brentford found a crucial win. For Swindon the work starts again. Yeovil await next week. Lose that and the panic will start to set in.
Town started brightly, with a busy five-man midfield swamping their hosts and not allowing them to settle into any kind of rhythm, and Jay McEveley tested Brentford keeper Simon Moore for the first time with a driven effort from the edge of the box after five minutes.
From Roberts’ corner in the 11th minute, Moore’s reflexes were acutely examined by Aden Flint’s header, but again the home stopper was equal to the effort.
Despite dominating much of play for the first 20 minutes, Town could count themselves lucky not to be behind with a quarter of the game gone.
Donaldson neatly lifted Tony Craig’s chipped through ball over Darren Ward’s head with his first touch and bore down on Wes Foderingham in the Swindon goal.
With 20 goals to his name this season, including the winner in the corresponding fixture at the County Ground in November, there would have been few in the stadium expecting the striker to slide a woeful attempt two metres wide of the left-hand post.
Quickly Swindon set about making the Bees pay for that glaring missed chance, and 12 minutes later they reaped the rewards of a period of careful, methodical football.
Roberts robbed Tom Adayemi of possession midway inside the Brentford half and took his time in picking out Ferry with a tidy pass. Ferry showed tremendous composure to work his way inside onto his right foot and produced a clinical finish beyond Moore.
Within 60 seconds of the restart Town should have doubled their lead. An awful headed backpass by Liam Moore allowed Williams to canter into the penalty area.
The striker lifted the ball across to the unmarked Roberts but he could only lash a left-footed volley against the outside of Moore’s right-hand post.
Brentford struggled to fashion any sort of backlash. Jonathan Douglas bundled a corner wide from three yards and Stuart Dallas sent a pathetic daisy-cutter wide, as Town continued to manipulate possession, and in the final seconds of the half went within a whisker of pulling further in front.
Again Roberts was the architect, delivering a delicious through-ball for Williams to run onto and round Moore, only to watch the sliding frame of Craig clear his shot from a narrow angle off the line.
With the stinging words of manager Uwe Rosler ringing in their ears, Brentford began the second half with renewed vigour. Yet while they went about their business with a heightened sense of purpose, the most excitement the home fans were offered in the opening 15 minutes of the second period were a couple of episodes of pinball in the Town box, neither of which led to a chance of any note.
Swindon soaked up the pressure with aplomb and tested Moore in the 55th minute through Ward’s neat flicked header and thought they had scored again in the 62nd when McCormack nodded beyond Moore. But the Irishman’s celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
Rosler tried to change the game by throwing on Sam Saunders and Bradley Wright-Phillips and within 10 minutes they were level.
Donaldson broke clear of McEveley, rounded Foderingham and went to ground. Referee Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot and Saunders lashed home from 12 yards.
The momentum shift was extraordinary, The Brentford fans, who had spent 70 minutes jeering at their own players, were now singing their names with gusto. The Bees responded.
Saunders rattled the crossbar with a swinging free-kick in the 72nd minute but hosts didn’t have to wait long for a second goal.
Four minutes after winning the penalty that led to his side’s equaliser, Donaldson found himself with time and space to take aim from eight yards out. It was enough time and space to lash a venomous shot beyond Foderingham.
Abject for three-quarters of the game, Brentford were all over Swindon like the most uncomfortable of rashes.
Only a brilliant save from Foderingham, point blank and one on one, prevented Wright-Phillips from making a poor 10 minutes much, much worse for Swindon, who struggled to find their feet in the final 10 minutes.
At the other end it was quite the opposite. Brentford swapped complacency for concentration and almost had a third when Flint nodded a poor headed backpass straight into Donaldson’s path, only for the striker to see his effort stopped by Foderingham.
With long ball the only remaining option for Town in their desperation, the Robins were never likely to find an equaliser.
James Collins headed at Moore late on but the points remained at Griffin Park.