HEIGHTENED levels of expectation may surround Swindon Town after an entertaining, opening-day victory over Scunthorpe United.
Two goals from Michael Smith and one from Massimo Luongo, all in the first half, helped see off the visiting Iron, as Town created enough going forward to compensate for their defensive fragility and send 6,500 Robins fans home happy.
Paddy Madden reduced arrears for Scunny, who had Marcus Williams sent off with a little more than 10 minutes remaining, while Wes Foderingham was to thank for excellent stops from the Irish frontman and Jennison Myrie-Williams.
Scunthorpe contributed to their own demise by missing a glut of chances inside the Town area in the first half but they looked stumped for ideas after the break and Swindon, who passed the ball around with pizazz, manipulated possession with an arrogant swagger.
Thoroughly enjoyable. Extremely encouraging. Perhaps things aren’t all that bad at the County Ground.
Swindon got their season off to the perfect start, scoring from their first attack inside three minutes. Ben Gladwin broke with the ball from midfield and slipped in Nathan Byrne down the right and, when the wing-back delivered a teasing cross into the penalty area, Luongo was on hand to prod beyond Sam Slocombe.
It was the Australian’s first goal since November 30 last year but it gave Swindon the early Launchpad from which they got get at Scunthorpe. And get at the visitors they did. Town should have had a penalty in the eighth minute, when Byrne was clipped by Neal Bishop in the box only for referee Stuart Attwell to remain unmoved, but within 12 minutes they were two goals in front.
A sweeping move caught Scunthorpe off-guard, as Yaser Kasim fed Louis Thompson down the left channel and the midfielder crossed for Michael Smith to stab home.
At 2-0 up and cruising, only the self-destruct button was a threat to Town. Sadly they pressed it in the 20th minute. A long ball caught the home defence out and Madden was allowed the freedom of the County Ground to saunter into the penalty area and slot beyond Foderingham.
The Iron then missed two gilt-edged chances, with Madden firing against the unsuspecting Jordan Turnbull with the goal at his mercy and Gary McSheffrey producing a messy air-kick when unmarked six yards out, and they were made to pay when Smith notched his second and Town’s third on the stroke of half-time.
Gladwin’s cannonball strike bounced back off Slocombe’s right-hand post and the shins of Smith, into the back of the net. It was a whirlwind reintroduction to competitive football for the Swindon crowd.
The second half took a while to reach the same levels of intensity, with Foderingham making an excellent save from Madden’s back-post header and Andy Williams seeing his effort cleared off the line by Eddie Nolan.
And visiting midfielder Marcus Williams did his team no favours whatsoever when he reacted to a tussle on halfway by pushing Nathan Thompson in the face. Duly sent off by Attwell, Williams left his teammates with no chance of hauling themselves back into the game late on.