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SWINDON TOWN: A performance to forget
SWINDON Town’s visit to Oldham is not one which will live long in the memory.
The Latics took a 2-1 victory thanks to goals from Carl Winchester and Danny Philliskirk, sandwiching a bizarre James Tarkowski own goal which levelled matters, although both teams were far from their best in a game lacking real quality.
Town kept the ball better than they did in Tuesday night’s loss to Walsall but also found it harder to create chances, and indeed didn’t have a shot in a dire first half missed to varying degrees by sections of the Swindon support, and the Advertiser, due to traffic chaos which played havoc with fans travelling to games in the north west.
Even when things improved and the chances came in the second period Town still didn’t meet the high standards they have set themselves in recent weeks, but would still have been good value for at least a point in an even contest.
Manager Mark Cooper sent keeper Wes Foderingham forward for two late set pieces in a bid to ruffle a few Oldham feathers but the plan didn’t produce a dramatic equaliser, while the scoreline could have looked a lot worse had Latics substitute Sidney Schmeltz not missed two glaring chances in front of an open goal in the final minutes.
As always seems to be the case with Cooper’s young Town side there were positives to take, with Nathan Thompson proving he is capable of taking on a more central role in the Swindon defence, Jack Barthram looking comfortable, if unspectacular, on his first league start and Ryan Mason always eager to pull the strings having returned to the starting line-up following injury.
Much of the pre-match talk had involved former Robins striker Adam Rooney, and the inevitability of him finding the net against his old club, with a further positive coming as the Irishman never really threatened the Swindon goal and was marshalled well by both Grant Hall and Darren Ward.
Town were neither spectacularly good nor shamefully bad and if the Robins can get back to winning ways against Port Vale on Saturday this will be a contest quickly wiped from the memory.
After an opening half an hour in which both sides failed to create any meaningful chances, though Kirk Millar did manage to prod an effort well wide after escaping Hall, Winchester lit up the game with his opener and forced it into life.
The converted full-back claimed possession inside the Town half and drove towards the corner flag, before out of nowhere letting off a rocket of a shot which dipped over Foderingham and into the back of the net to break the deadlock.
Town were stung by the opening goal and had to see out the half with their backs to the wall and after Millar hit a tame volley wide Ward had to nick the ball off Philliskirk’s foot with a well-timed header.
Following Cooper’s words at the break Town came out after the interval with a different focus and within minutes had had their first shot on goal as Alex Pritchard drilled in a low shot which was well held by Mark Oxley.
Town were piling on the pressure, with Mason looking to make things happen, but it was his two former Tottenham teammates, Massimo Luongo and Barthram who combined to create the next chance of the contest. Barthram’s chipped ball into the area was spilled by keeper Oxley under pressure from Luongo, but as the ball ran free the Australian was guilty of letting his concentration wander as he didn’t see the second opportunity.
Mason saw a shot blocked as the Town charge continued and after a rare, but necessary, piece of defending from the confident Thompson the home grown product played a vital part in Swindon’s bizarre equaliser.
Despite shifting to a more central role, the youngster was able to embark on a surging jaunt forward and when he tried to find Pritchard his pass was cut out at speed by Tarkowski who could only lob the ball over his own keeper from the edge of the area.
Yaser Kasim went into the referee’s book for a foul on Korey Smith which will keep him out of next week’s clash with Port Vale, and he was later joined by Pritchard who went into a challenge with a high foot which quickly saw him replaced by Dany N’Guessan.
Former Town man Rooney had his first, and only, real sniff at goal as he attempted to get on the end of a rebound after Foderingham spilled Wesolowski’s effort into this path but the keeper was able to recover and jump on top of the ball.
Mason curled wide for Town as the game became stretched with both sides wanting the win, exemplified by Jonson Clarke-Harris’ free effort which he drove wide despite being able to see the whites of Foderingham’s eyes.
Town didn’t heed their warning as Jonathan Grounds found some space down the Town left with 13 minutes left on the clock, and the former Middlesbrough man’s sweeping cross from deep allowed Philliskirk to beat Barthram off the ground to head home for the goal which ultimately won the contest.
Cooper’s side looked to respond quickly but Kasim’s free kick and then Mason’s corner evaded every red shirt and flew clear, before N’Guessan chose to shoot straight at Grounds rather than slip Byrne through to his right.
Oldham’s Schmeltz had the chance to kill off Town once and for all but he could only find the side netting from a tight angle when presented with an empty net, which gave the visitors a shred of hope after winning a late corner.
Keeper Foderingham went forward and the ball was sent his way, but big striker N’Guessan was centre of attention again as he fired Hall’s knockdown straight at an Oldham shirt on the line with the goal gaping.
Foderingham stayed up for a free-kick which soon followed and was almost caught out when the ball was quickly cleared and missed by Barthram, but once again Schmeltz missed an open goal as his trundled effort didn’t even reach the goal when he could have simply walked the ball into the back of the net.
The blunder mattered not, though, as seconds later the full-time whistle blew to condemn Town to defeat.
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