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Ritchie: County Ground can be a fortress again
WHEN Swindon Town’s players arrive at the County Ground this evening just over a year will have passed since their last home league defeat.
Unforgettably, that loss was on August 21 12 months ago when Oxford snatched a 2-1 victory and, though Southampton have since won in Wiltshire in the League Cup, it remains a remarkable record and one that Matt Ritchie is keen to protect.
The winger was an integral part of the Robins squad which turned the County Ground into an impenetrable fortress last season, with Town’s home form being the major reason why they claimed the League Two title.
And he is hopeful, following the 3-0 defeat of Brighton last week, that those high levels of performance can be replicated over the months to come.
“At home last season we showed that we were very strong,” he said.
“I think we only conceded one goal after a certain time in the season so we’re good at home and hopefully we can make it our fortress again this season.
“You try and make your home ground as hard to come to as possible and it’s good when teams turn up and they’re thinking ‘this is a tough place to come’ and it is a tough place to come.
“We play some good football, we’re hard to beat and we look pretty solid so hopefully we can carry that on.”
Ritchie accepted that manager Paolo Di Canio’s stern words to his players following their 0-0 draw at Hartlepool on Saturday were well placed.
“Since the gaffer’s come in, throughout the whole club high standards have been expected and he’s not happy unless we hit those standards,” he said.
“That’s the way it is and it’s a good way. The club’s obviously progressing since the manager’s come in and all the boys know his standards and we have to make sure we reach them.
“We went there expecting to win the game and get three points so we were a little bit disappointed but we’ve got a Tuesday game now and games come thick and fast and hopefully we can get our first three points at home on Tuesday.
“Obviously we were up there with the favourites to be up there at the end of the season and they’re the game that you expect to go and win so it was disappointing not to win the game, but that game’s gone now and we need to concentrate on the rest of the season.
“We had some chances but we didn’t play how we know we can play so hopefully we can put that right tomorrow night, put in a good performance and get three points.”