LUTON 1 SWINDON TOWN 2: Early learning for Cooper's maturing youngsters

Two-goal Michael Smith in action at Luton

Two-goal Michael Smith in action at Luton

First published in Sport by

FOR 15 second-half minutes of this Capital One Cup first-round tie, Swindon Town looked as though they’d learned nothing from their away-day woes of last season.

How refreshing it was, then, that the Robins came from behind to win on their travels for only the third time under manager Marl Cooper, at a tricky ground in front of a passionate and hostile home crowd.

It was a performance that oozed maturity from the Robins, whose starting line-up featured an eldest statesman, at 24 years of age, in the shape of Raphael Branco, as well as three teenagers.

They bossed the opening half-hour, lost their way towards the break and, when Luke Rooney slotted a 54th-minute penalty for hosts, after a debatable handball decision against Nathan Thompson, they showed all the worrying characteristics that caused them to crumble and fall too often on the road last season.

For a few seconds they forgot to think on the ball, rushed passes, lost their shape and threatened to implode. It was disconcerting. It brought back the odd memory many of the regular traveling fans would have been more than happy to forget.

But they stopped the rot, hit back through Michael Smith’s penalty – won by Nathan Byrne – and then edged in front thanks to Smith’s fourth in two games, beautifully crafted by Massimo Luongo.

Learning lessons, playing attractive football, grinding out results. Hmm. Things are looking up.

Town started with a composure on the ball that was a major factor in their opening-day victory over Scunthorpe United three days previously. Within five minutes they’d created two sights of goal, though Byrne’s looping, first-time cross couldn’t find a man inside the six-yard box and Ben Gladwin fired high and wide from the edge of the area.

Swindon were happy to pop the ball about in tight spaces and, in the seventh minute, they almost fashioned a chance from nothing when Gladwin, Luongo and Michael Smith exchanged passes in an area no larger than a Persian rug, only for Luongo to skew over.

Then Luongo’s back-flick teed up Byrne but the full-bac k sliced his left-footed shot wide. Luton were left to feed balls down the channels and they did manage to get the ball in the back of the net within the opening quarter-hour, only for linesman’s flag to cancel out Paul Benson’s strike.

Soon the visitors were back in the attack, keeping the ball like Shylocks in red and white, not letting their orange-clad hosts enjoy even the promise of an extended spell in possession.

Byrne crossed for Gladwin in the 20th minute and the midfielder, employed once again as a number 10 behind Michael Smith, forced Mark Tyler into an unconvincing parry. Yaser Kasim was next to try his luck, miscuing a 20-yard free-kick over the top, and it took until the 29th minute for Luton to shoot at goal in anger. Even then, Andy Drury could only drill his half-volley wide from the edge.

Scott Griffiths had a 25-yard swinging effort moments later, which had Wes Foderingham worried, but the full-back couldn’t hit the target.

After such a bright opening, Swindon had started to developed rising damp. The midfield went stagnant, delaying distribution like striking postmen, hesitating when before they had operated with a rhythm and flow.

You knew something wasn’t right when Louis Thompson got booked for diving.

The Kenilworth Road crowd were growing audibly more and more confident and that translated into the performance of their players. Fraser Franks released a bullet drive in the 40th minute, which had Foderingham doing his best Superman impression, diving to his left, but ultimately fizzed wide, and the hosts were the better side through to the break.

The game’s flashpoint came in the 52nd minute. Nathan Thompson leaned into a Luton throughball to bring the ball down on his chest, appeared to do so legitimately, and looked on in horror as the referee’s assistant flagged for a penalty.

Rooney stepped up to bury the spot-kick, despite Foderingham guessing the right way, and immediately Swindon started showing symptoms of the away day fever that they so badly suffered from in 2013/14.

With the home crowd boisterous, in the five minutes after the Hatters took the lead, Town were anxious on the ball and confused in their shape off it. It wasn’t pleasant to watch. And, in a timely exhibition of pathetic fallacy, the heavens opened – to Swindon’s detriment, too, as Byrne slipped on the freshly watered turf to break up a tidy counter-attack.

Luongo tested Tyler in on the hour mark with a daisy-cutter, which was easily gathered by the Luton stopper, while Cooper introduced Andy Williams to add know-how up front, but the striker could only fire a 68th-minute volley well wide.

Jack Barthram, sporting a Terry Butcher-esque head bandage after a second-half clash of heads, skidded a long-range attempt into the arms of Tyler with a little over 15 minutes to go, and then, in the 76th minute, Town found a way back into the tie.

Byrne, again impressive down the right, danced around Drury and had his legs taken from under him. Smith stepped up to find the bottom right-hand corner of Tyler’s goal with a calm, side-footed finish.

Having calmed themselves down, Swindon hit back again within five minutes. Luongo was the architect, sliding a perfect pass into the feet of Smith, with all the timing of an international scrum-half, allowing his striker to break the line, take a touch and clip over Tyler.

Now Town were rampant. Williams took on Franks for pace down the left, knackered his marker, cut inside and only Tyler’s outstretched right arm prevented the hosts from falling further behind.

Rooney was sent off for the hosts, against his former club, in the second minute of injury time – his second yellow card received for an alleged dive, but it didn’t impact the result.

A coming of age showing from Swindon Town.

Comments (9)

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5:59am Wed 13 Aug 14

smirg kcab says...

Fantastic result.
Shame about the bookings
Bring on the big guns
A nice easy round against west ham will do
Fantastic result. Shame about the bookings Bring on the big guns A nice easy round against west ham will do smirg kcab
  • Score: 1

7:39am Wed 13 Aug 14

mandrossian says...

I was impressed with our resolve. I think we will do alright this season.

But who is Marl Cooper?
I was impressed with our resolve. I think we will do alright this season. But who is Marl Cooper? mandrossian
  • Score: 1

8:10am Wed 13 Aug 14

Psychedelic Syd says...

Ref sounds bad but what a gutsy performance. The lads have done us proud because Luton is a horrible place to play even when the home team aren't trying to put you in hospital. The team is starting to develop character and heart; that's 2 hard physical teams with very experienced lower league players that we have overcome. Cream always rises to the top.

I think we will suffer a few heavy defeats this season because there will be some teams that will punish us for the naivete at the back but on balance I'm feeling optimistic. It's exciting watching a young team of skilled youngsters and Mark Cooper deserves a lot of credit for the way he encourages and develops young players. The team spirit and cameraderie comes from the top and he is doing a wonderful job on a shoestring. I'm glad he's our manager. We worry about losing Wes, Mass, Louis etc but there must be plenty of clubs starting to look at our manager, hope we can hold onto him.
Ref sounds bad but what a gutsy performance. The lads have done us proud because Luton is a horrible place to play even when the home team aren't trying to put you in hospital. The team is starting to develop character and heart; that's 2 hard physical teams with very experienced lower league players that we have overcome. Cream always rises to the top. I think we will suffer a few heavy defeats this season because there will be some teams that will punish us for the naivete at the back but on balance I'm feeling optimistic. It's exciting watching a young team of skilled youngsters and Mark Cooper deserves a lot of credit for the way he encourages and develops young players. The team spirit and cameraderie comes from the top and he is doing a wonderful job on a shoestring. I'm glad he's our manager. We worry about losing Wes, Mass, Louis etc but there must be plenty of clubs starting to look at our manager, hope we can hold onto him. Psychedelic Syd
  • Score: 12

8:31am Wed 13 Aug 14

umpcah says...

Psychedelic Syd wrote:
Ref sounds bad but what a gutsy performance. The lads have done us proud because Luton is a horrible place to play even when the home team aren't trying to put you in hospital. The team is starting to develop character and heart; that's 2 hard physical teams with very experienced lower league players that we have overcome. Cream always rises to the top.

I think we will suffer a few heavy defeats this season because there will be some teams that will punish us for the naivete at the back but on balance I'm feeling optimistic. It's exciting watching a young team of skilled youngsters and Mark Cooper deserves a lot of credit for the way he encourages and develops young players. The team spirit and cameraderie comes from the top and he is doing a wonderful job on a shoestring. I'm glad he's our manager. We worry about losing Wes, Mass, Louis etc but there must be plenty of clubs starting to look at our manager, hope we can hold onto him.
" there must be plenty of clubs starting to look at our manager ". That was a thought that I had when I came up to the computer this morning. We don't know much about this chap from Australia but with finds like Kasim, Gladwin and Smudge Town`s scouting isn`t bad not to mention the development skills which are now obviously present in the coaching department. I know two results are not a guarantee of a brilliant season but I`m really on a high today ! Keep up the good work Coops - please !
[quote][p][bold]Psychedelic Syd[/bold] wrote: Ref sounds bad but what a gutsy performance. The lads have done us proud because Luton is a horrible place to play even when the home team aren't trying to put you in hospital. The team is starting to develop character and heart; that's 2 hard physical teams with very experienced lower league players that we have overcome. Cream always rises to the top. I think we will suffer a few heavy defeats this season because there will be some teams that will punish us for the naivete at the back but on balance I'm feeling optimistic. It's exciting watching a young team of skilled youngsters and Mark Cooper deserves a lot of credit for the way he encourages and develops young players. The team spirit and cameraderie comes from the top and he is doing a wonderful job on a shoestring. I'm glad he's our manager. We worry about losing Wes, Mass, Louis etc but there must be plenty of clubs starting to look at our manager, hope we can hold onto him.[/p][/quote]" there must be plenty of clubs starting to look at our manager ". That was a thought that I had when I came up to the computer this morning. We don't know much about this chap from Australia but with finds like Kasim, Gladwin and Smudge Town`s scouting isn`t bad not to mention the development skills which are now obviously present in the coaching department. I know two results are not a guarantee of a brilliant season but I`m really on a high today ! Keep up the good work Coops - please ! umpcah
  • Score: 6

8:57am Wed 13 Aug 14

London Red says...

This report makes it sound like a close contest - when it certainly was not!
.
64% of the ball, 15 shots to 5 and 5 corners to 1 - just show how dominate the boys were!
.
We are not perfect and do still need to work on a few things as despite all the dominace in the first half no real chances were created - but we were totally in control
.
Yes Luton had a 5-10 mins spell in the 2nd half just after the goal - as the boys were clearly rocked by the shocking decision and Luton got their tails up
.
But we came through that without really being threatened and resumed business as usual and got the goals our play deserved - I still can't remember a save Wes actually had to make!
.
I didn't go on Sat so can't comment to much on that performance - but it seems Byrne (who was sensational in the 2nd half), Luongo, Kasim and Smith carried on where they left off as they were top notch
.
Smith has certainly imporved over the summer his movment and skill for the 2nd goal was top notch and the finish itself wasn't half bad
.
Just think a few weeks ago it was all - Where are our goals going to come from? Yet Smudge now has 4 already!
This report makes it sound like a close contest - when it certainly was not! . 64% of the ball, 15 shots to 5 and 5 corners to 1 - just show how dominate the boys were! . We are not perfect and do still need to work on a few things as despite all the dominace in the first half no real chances were created - but we were totally in control . Yes Luton had a 5-10 mins spell in the 2nd half just after the goal - as the boys were clearly rocked by the shocking decision and Luton got their tails up . But we came through that without really being threatened and resumed business as usual and got the goals our play deserved - I still can't remember a save Wes actually had to make! . I didn't go on Sat so can't comment to much on that performance - but it seems Byrne (who was sensational in the 2nd half), Luongo, Kasim and Smith carried on where they left off as they were top notch . Smith has certainly imporved over the summer his movment and skill for the 2nd goal was top notch and the finish itself wasn't half bad . Just think a few weeks ago it was all - Where are our goals going to come from? Yet Smudge now has 4 already! London Red
  • Score: 7

10:01am Wed 13 Aug 14

old town robin says...

London Red wrote:
This report makes it sound like a close contest - when it certainly was not!
.
64% of the ball, 15 shots to 5 and 5 corners to 1 - just show how dominate the boys were!
.
We are not perfect and do still need to work on a few things as despite all the dominace in the first half no real chances were created - but we were totally in control
.
Yes Luton had a 5-10 mins spell in the 2nd half just after the goal - as the boys were clearly rocked by the shocking decision and Luton got their tails up
.
But we came through that without really being threatened and resumed business as usual and got the goals our play deserved - I still can't remember a save Wes actually had to make!
.
I didn't go on Sat so can't comment to much on that performance - but it seems Byrne (who was sensational in the 2nd half), Luongo, Kasim and Smith carried on where they left off as they were top notch
.
Smith has certainly imporved over the summer his movment and skill for the 2nd goal was top notch and the finish itself wasn't half bad
.
Just think a few weeks ago it was all - Where are our goals going to come from? Yet Smudge now has 4 already!
LR, It's great to see Smithy getting on the end of the chances being created, may it long continue, but it would be very optimistic to think he will continue in such a rich vein of form all season, all strikers will have a lean spell sooner or later and that's when others have to step up to the plate.

Still a valid question though where are the goals going to come from. One would hope Williams and Byrne's will soon be chipping in with a few and I would expect our mid-fielders will do their bit with Luango showing the way, One area I would like to see us do better from is set pieces when the big lads come up for corners you would expect them to challenge and at least get some efforts on target. For the first time for as long as I can remember last season the centre backs didn't score one goal between them I think we will improve on that this season, if they can chip in with 5 to 10 between them, they will be doing well.
[quote][p][bold]London Red[/bold] wrote: This report makes it sound like a close contest - when it certainly was not! . 64% of the ball, 15 shots to 5 and 5 corners to 1 - just show how dominate the boys were! . We are not perfect and do still need to work on a few things as despite all the dominace in the first half no real chances were created - but we were totally in control . Yes Luton had a 5-10 mins spell in the 2nd half just after the goal - as the boys were clearly rocked by the shocking decision and Luton got their tails up . But we came through that without really being threatened and resumed business as usual and got the goals our play deserved - I still can't remember a save Wes actually had to make! . I didn't go on Sat so can't comment to much on that performance - but it seems Byrne (who was sensational in the 2nd half), Luongo, Kasim and Smith carried on where they left off as they were top notch . Smith has certainly imporved over the summer his movment and skill for the 2nd goal was top notch and the finish itself wasn't half bad . Just think a few weeks ago it was all - Where are our goals going to come from? Yet Smudge now has 4 already![/p][/quote]LR, It's great to see Smithy getting on the end of the chances being created, may it long continue, but it would be very optimistic to think he will continue in such a rich vein of form all season, all strikers will have a lean spell sooner or later and that's when others have to step up to the plate. Still a valid question though where are the goals going to come from. One would hope Williams and Byrne's will soon be chipping in with a few and I would expect our mid-fielders will do their bit with Luango showing the way, One area I would like to see us do better from is set pieces when the big lads come up for corners you would expect them to challenge and at least get some efforts on target. For the first time for as long as I can remember last season the centre backs didn't score one goal between them I think we will improve on that this season, if they can chip in with 5 to 10 between them, they will be doing well. old town robin
  • Score: 1

10:01am Wed 13 Aug 14

old town robin says...

London Red wrote:
This report makes it sound like a close contest - when it certainly was not!
.
64% of the ball, 15 shots to 5 and 5 corners to 1 - just show how dominate the boys were!
.
We are not perfect and do still need to work on a few things as despite all the dominace in the first half no real chances were created - but we were totally in control
.
Yes Luton had a 5-10 mins spell in the 2nd half just after the goal - as the boys were clearly rocked by the shocking decision and Luton got their tails up
.
But we came through that without really being threatened and resumed business as usual and got the goals our play deserved - I still can't remember a save Wes actually had to make!
.
I didn't go on Sat so can't comment to much on that performance - but it seems Byrne (who was sensational in the 2nd half), Luongo, Kasim and Smith carried on where they left off as they were top notch
.
Smith has certainly imporved over the summer his movment and skill for the 2nd goal was top notch and the finish itself wasn't half bad
.
Just think a few weeks ago it was all - Where are our goals going to come from? Yet Smudge now has 4 already!
LR, It's great to see Smithy getting on the end of the chances being created, may it long continue, but it would be very optimistic to think he will continue in such a rich vein of form all season, all strikers will have a lean spell sooner or later and that's when others have to step up to the plate.

Still a valid question though where are the goals going to come from. One would hope Williams and Byrne's will soon be chipping in with a few and I would expect our mid-fielders will do their bit with Luango showing the way, One area I would like to see us do better from is set pieces when the big lads come up for corners you would expect them to challenge and at least get some efforts on target. For the first time for as long as I can remember last season the centre backs didn't score one goal between them I think we will improve on that this season, if they can chip in with 5 to 10 between them, they will be doing well.
[quote][p][bold]London Red[/bold] wrote: This report makes it sound like a close contest - when it certainly was not! . 64% of the ball, 15 shots to 5 and 5 corners to 1 - just show how dominate the boys were! . We are not perfect and do still need to work on a few things as despite all the dominace in the first half no real chances were created - but we were totally in control . Yes Luton had a 5-10 mins spell in the 2nd half just after the goal - as the boys were clearly rocked by the shocking decision and Luton got their tails up . But we came through that without really being threatened and resumed business as usual and got the goals our play deserved - I still can't remember a save Wes actually had to make! . I didn't go on Sat so can't comment to much on that performance - but it seems Byrne (who was sensational in the 2nd half), Luongo, Kasim and Smith carried on where they left off as they were top notch . Smith has certainly imporved over the summer his movment and skill for the 2nd goal was top notch and the finish itself wasn't half bad . Just think a few weeks ago it was all - Where are our goals going to come from? Yet Smudge now has 4 already![/p][/quote]LR, It's great to see Smithy getting on the end of the chances being created, may it long continue, but it would be very optimistic to think he will continue in such a rich vein of form all season, all strikers will have a lean spell sooner or later and that's when others have to step up to the plate. Still a valid question though where are the goals going to come from. One would hope Williams and Byrne's will soon be chipping in with a few and I would expect our mid-fielders will do their bit with Luango showing the way, One area I would like to see us do better from is set pieces when the big lads come up for corners you would expect them to challenge and at least get some efforts on target. For the first time for as long as I can remember last season the centre backs didn't score one goal between them I think we will improve on that this season, if they can chip in with 5 to 10 between them, they will be doing well. old town robin
  • Score: 0

1:28pm Wed 13 Aug 14

Park Street Robin says...

Really enjoyed the game last night and we showed real character getting back in the game , thought smith had a great second half and Andy Williams made a real difference when he came on, nathan byrne was the man of the match for me, he terrorised their left back from start to finish~ Come on you redss
Really enjoyed the game last night and we showed real character getting back in the game , thought smith had a great second half and Andy Williams made a real difference when he came on, nathan byrne was the man of the match for me, he terrorised their left back from start to finish~ Come on you redss Park Street Robin
  • Score: 1

4:34pm Wed 13 Aug 14

Swindon1984 says...

Park Street Robin wrote:
Really enjoyed the game last night and we showed real character getting back in the game , thought smith had a great second half and Andy Williams made a real difference when he came on, nathan byrne was the man of the match for me, he terrorised their left back from start to finish~ Come on you redss
Looked fantastic for me Saturday as well young Byrne - play him in position and he loves taking players on. Should have won us a penalty Saturday as well but the ref couldn't see beyond his cataracts.

Draw tonight will definitely be interesting...
[quote][p][bold]Park Street Robin[/bold] wrote: Really enjoyed the game last night and we showed real character getting back in the game , thought smith had a great second half and Andy Williams made a real difference when he came on, nathan byrne was the man of the match for me, he terrorised their left back from start to finish~ Come on you redss[/p][/quote]Looked fantastic for me Saturday as well young Byrne - play him in position and he loves taking players on. Should have won us a penalty Saturday as well but the ref couldn't see beyond his cataracts. Draw tonight will definitely be interesting... Swindon1984
  • Score: 1

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