ROTHERHAM 0 SWINDON TOWN 4: Travelling hoodoo banished in style (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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ROTHERHAM 0 SWINDON TOWN 4: Travelling hoodoo banished in style
SWINDON Town were helped by both the sublime and the ridiculous as they buried their away-day hoodoo in League One with a crushing victory at the New York Stadium.
A breathtaking free-kick from Alex Pritchard put the Robins ahead in south Yorkshire, after the visitors soaked up an early barrage of pressure from their sixth-placed hosts during which Pablo Mills struck the bar with a bullet header, before Massimo Luongo’s fluky deflected strike put the Robins 2-0 up at half-time.
With Rotherham bereft of ideas in the second period, Town pulled out the Samba style and a swift counter-attacking move involving half the away side ended with Nicky Ajose tapping in at the back post, while substitute Dany N’Guessan rounded off the scoring in added time after the referee’s assistant failed to notice the striker standing roughly five yards offside.
It was one of the most efficient and ruthless performances you could wish to see from a side on the road and, given Town’s recent disposition to buckle in the early stages of games away from the County Ground, a very pleasant surprise.
Rotherham looked threatening in the first quarter of the game but paid the price for a recklessness in front of goal, and once behind their creative midfield became completely lobotomised as Yaser Kasim, Luongo and the brilliant Pritchard dominated.
Up until this point Swindon have not been able to get the results they need away from home to suggest they have the capacity to challenge for a top-six spot this season.
Saturday’s performance, however, showed a different side to Mark Cooper’s men. Resilient, entertaining and prolific in front of goal – the 540 travelling fans were treated to a masterclass in the weekend rain.
More of the same, please. More of the same.
Given the way Rotherham began the match a 4-0 reverse would have been utterly incomprehensible to the home side.
In a 15-minute surge the Millers forced seven early corners and should have taken a fifth-minute lead when Daniel Nardiello wriggled free of Jay McEveley on the Swindon left and swung in a cross to the near post, which Alex Revell volleyed over.
Against Wolves, Shrewsbury and Preston, Town gave themselves too much to do by conceding in the opening 10 minutes, and it seemed as though they were trying to make the task harder for themselves as they let Ben Pringle walk through the heart of their defence, only to chip beyond Wes Foderingham and wide.
A weak clearing header from Darren Ward gifted Pringle another sight of goal two minutes later but the Rotherham midfielder crashed a shot over from the edge of the box, and there home crowd were starting to bay for blood.
Swindon refused to bleed, however, and Foderingham ensured they came through the first quarter-hour unscratched with a cat-like reaction save from Mills’ header, tipping the centre-back’s effort onto his own crossbar.
From that moment on, Town found the foothold they had previously kept slipping out of on a wet afternoon at the New York Stadium.
McEveley’s diving header from Pritchard’s free-kick produced a good stop out of home goalkeeper Scott Shearer, low to his right, before Luongo thrashed over from the edge of the box.
At the other end, Revell’s header was blocked en route to goal by Ward before Pritchard curled tamely at Shearer.
The game was opening up, and this suited Swindon.
With Pritchard popping up all over the pitch with all the irregularity and speed of a faulty Splat The Rat game, Rotherham started to show major signs of weakness.
The Tottenham loanee ran through two challenges in the 32nd minute before being chopped down by Lee Frecklington on the edge of the box.
Unperturbed, he got up, dried himself off and whipped a top-class free-kick into the top corner via Shearer’s right hand.
It was a moment of high quality which completely shifted the game’s momentum.
Now Town were the aggressors and Rotherham, by now totally bereft of ideas, looked horribly exposed.
McEveley headed Pritchard’s corner over at the back post before Pritchard sent a wayward free-kick, which he had won, well wide.
Still, Swindon got the lucky break they needed to put daylight between themselves and their hosts with the final kick of the first half.
Nathan Byrne, playing as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation, darted down the left and cut the ball into the path of Luongo, whose shot looped up off the leg of a Rotherham defender to catch Shearer in No Man’s Land.
With a buffer at the break, Swindon came out for the second half with renewed gusto and self-belief. Rotherham couldn’t get near the ball as their guests stroked it around the park with the carefree abandon that had the travelling supporters cooing in the terraces.
Pritchard fired over early in the period but most of the second half was spent in midfield, where the Millers did their best puppy-dog impression, chasing from left to right and round and round to the point where it almost felt cruel.
It took 20 minutes of the second half for Town to go further in front. A clinical counter-attack saw Kasim find Luongo, who in turn picked out Byrne.
The defender timed his pass to perfection in seeking out Pritchard and the midfielder’s cross left a fourth goal of the season on a plate for Ajose.
Easy, easy, easy.
Seven minutes later, Swindon almost scored the sort of goal you’d want to frame and put on your mantelpiece.
Thirty passes across defence and midfield wore Rotherham’s concentration thin before Nile Ranger’s dainty backheel found Pritchard steaming through the middle unchallenged, only for the man of the match to fire narrowly wide. It would have been special.
It was to be the penultimate piece of goalmouth action, as Swindon coasted home with a joie de vivre that had the ‘oles’ ringing out across south Yorkshire.
The Robins’ party wasn’t quite over, however, and in added time N’Guessan slotted calmly beyond Shearer and the goal was allowed to stand despite the former Millwall frontman quite clearly being several kilometres offside when Louis Thompson’s tackle broke his way.
The visitors weren’t complaining. This was a day to remember.
Cooper said after the game: “I thought we were very good today.
“I think it’s been coming.
“We put something in place a couple of weeks ago with this game in mind and the players have carried that out fantastically well today and I thought they were outstanding.
“We put another defender in at the back and we asked one of our full-backs to stay at home rather than both going at the same time.
“We did it and still created numerous chances.
“We sustained a little bit of pressure early on, which you expect when you come to Rotherham.
“Once we withstood that I thought some of the football was outstanding again.
“We questioned them after the Preston game and they’ve bounced back and gone on another little run.
“They deserve everything that’s coming their way – plenty of pats on the back – they get a little bit of time to themselves between we play again on Friday.”
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