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SHREWSBURY 2 SWINDON TOWN 0: Charity begins at home
CARETAKER boss Mark Cooper described his side’s performance in their 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury as being fitting of a charity match, and the Robins certainly can not afford to be so generous if they are to make any impression on League One this season.
As has been the case so far in 2013/14 the new-look Town side looked to get the ball down and play at every opportunity, but they often backed themselves into corners as errors from Yaser Kasim and Nathan Byrne gifted the home side victory despite never really getting out of second gear themselves.
While Town’s spells of passing football could certainly grace higher divisions at times, Kasim’s sloppy ball across his own box, which gifted debutant Adam Reach the opener when he stole possession off Grant Hall’s toes, typified all that is currently wrong with the embryonic side.
Once again the defence and goalkeeper Wes Foderingham were consistently hurried into panicked clearances which put Town on the back foot after seeing far too much of the ball, and hanging onto it too long, and the midfield lacked the drive necessary to provide forwards Andy Williams and Miles Storey with anything to feed off.
While Town were busy knocking the ball fruitlessly around their own back four the hosts were ensuring new signing Reach saw plenty of possession and enabled physical striker Akwasi Asante to impose himself on the Swindon defence at every opportunity, and when substitute Tom Bradshaw outmuscled Byrne with ease to slot home his first goal in 22 months, Town’s hopes of returning with even a point from Shropshire were gone.
A much improved second-half display and the introduction of bright new signing Nile Ranger couldn’t change matters, and while there were few positives to take from a toothless performance, the defeat is only a small dent in a season still full of promise and could prove another useful learning curve for the young Town squad.
The home side made their intentions clear from the start as Paul Parry saw his shot blocked behind before Connor Goldson headed the resulting corner wide, but Town were also quick to threaten on the break as Storey got into a good position down the right before his cross was too long for strike partner Williams.
Storey was soon presented with another chance to cross following a superb pass from Kasim but again wasn’t able to find a teammate, and just a minute later Town were punished in the worst possible way.
Another spell of possession at the back was abruptly ended when Kasim’s pass was taken off Hall’s toes by debutant Reach, and the Middlesbrough loanee was quick to pounce and slot the ball past an exposed and helpless Foderingham.
The Town defence were visibly shaken by the goal, and it could have got significantly worse just two minutes later as dangerman Reach threw his head at a long ball forward and looped in an effort which landed just inches wide of Foderingham’s left-hand post.
Reach saw another effort blocked before Foderingham was forced to punch clear a cross as Town were forced to weather an early storm, and seemingly every time the Robins pushed forward their efforts came to an abrupt end as the midfield failed to spot the final ball.
Harley’s rare zipped delivery into the box was easily jumped on by home keeper Chris Weale, before Town suffered a scare when Asante appeared to catch stopper Foderingham in the face with his boot. Deputy Tyrrell Belford was put through an intense warm-up as it looked as though the Town number one would have to be replaced, but to relief of the travelling Town fans the former Crystal Palace man was able to carry on.
Byrne’s tame, dragged, effort wide summed up Town’s first-half impotence, and down the other end first Joe Jacobson thundered over before Jon Taylor picked the ball up inside the Swindon half and powered through the middle before shooting wide.
The visitors threatened again as Byrne’s driven ball was scrambled clear by Darren Jones before Storey sent an effort over the bar, but the physical Asante again kept the Town back four on their toes as his powerful header landed wide as the hosts went in at the break ahead.
Cooper’s side came out after the interval with the urgency which was lacking during the first 45 minutes, and although their two early corners were easily cleared the travelling Robins fans were given hope their team could turn it around.
Harley stung the palms of Weale as the optimism in the away end grew with Town’s first shot on target, before Byrne ballooned an effort wide and Storey was unlucky to see his near post header fly wide of the target.
Foderingham had to make his first real save of the afternoon as he got down well to deny Reach at his near post, but was fortunate a few minutes later as a Taylor cross flashed across the box forcing Nathan Thompson to make a hurried clearance.
A hoard of Swindon players were required to charge down Asante’s well struck shot after Harley’s sloppy pass gave possession away once again, and when the big striker got a header off from a cross into the box Foderingham was required to produce his best after the effort deflected off Hall’s foot.
If Town were lucky to survive that barrage they couldn’t believe their fortune just a minute later as Hall was once again robbed of possession, but when clean through on goal Asante could only pop his effort wide of the target when it was surely easier to score.
Ranger’s introduction brought fresh hope for the Robins, but it couldn’t stop Asante creating one more chance before he was himself replaced as he tucked inside and fired a vicious effort inches wide of the angle of post and bar.
Alex Smith’s first act after coming on was to curl a 30-yard free-kick straight at Weale, before he latched on to a superb chest down from Ranger only to find himself flagged offside.
Ranger’s first chance in Robins red came and went as he headed wide from a corner, but the game was soon beyond Swindon as Bradshaw outmuscled Byrne to rob him of possession before twisting and turning to slot past Foderingham.
Town huffed and puffed but never looked like forcing an unlikely route back into the contest during the final minutes, leaving Cooper deeply dissatisfied with what his charitable side served up.
“We were thoroughly beaten today, and sometimes you have to learn to grind things out and roll your sleeves up and win your personal battles,” he said.
“If you aren’t playing well you need to stop your opponent from playing well, but we lost too many personal battles and were thoroughly beaten.
“We have a lot of young players and we needed to show a bit of urgency, but we played it like a charity match and I think I could have still played in that today.
“We have put in three very good performances, and we need to look at the DVD of this and work out what happened.
“If you are going to commit and play an open expansive game you might get caught, but we can’t afford to do that and need to defend better.”