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Crash, bang, wallop
SWINDON Town came crashing back to earth with an almighty bump as a Sunday afternoon trip to Deepdale turned into disaster.
Following their 4-3 midweek win over Stoke, the Robins arrived in Lancashire looking to protect an unbeaten record in all competitions in 2012/13.
However, inside 11 minutes Town were 2-0 down and struggling, after 22 minutes Paolo Di Canio made the unusual decision to withdraw goalkeeper Wes Foderingham – landing 18-year-old Leigh Bedwell with a daunting debut – and by half-time Swindon were three goals behind and staring up a mountain they had no chance of climbing.
Though in the second half the Robins improved, they were still nowhere near the levels of performance at the Britannia Stadium last week.
Raffa De Vita briefly raised hopes of an unlikely comeback with a 58th-minute strike, but unlikely was as good as it got as John Welsh fired home Preston’s fourth.
By that stage, Foderingham and Luke Rooney had chosen to go and sit with the Swindon fans in the Bill Shankly Stand – a powerful gesture which did not go unnoticed by Di Canio.
In his post-match press conference, Di Canio accepted the blame for the defeat but berated Foderingham for what he perceived as “arrogance” and “ignorance”.
After the elation of Tuesday night, Sunday was a day to forget. Swindon could barely have got off to a worse start.
Within four minutes of kick-off they found themselves behind, and in embarrassing fashion.
Joe Devera passed back to Foderingham but the Robins keeper took one touch too many and, as he tried to clear, Stuart Beavon got in to make the block.
The ricochet looped into the Swindon area where Akpo Sodje was in the right place, at the right time with what seemed like an eternity to pick his spot and coolly volley beyond Foderingham.
Di Canio stood, arms outstretched, on the touchline. He had watched a moment of madness which shook Town.
Normally settled as a defensive unit, now the Robins were stretched at will by a Preston side with creativity and pace to burn.
Within six minutes the visitors slipped further behind. Preston, almost teasing their guests as they switched play from right to left and back again, created space for Wroe to gallop into at the back post.
Beavon picked out the Lilywhites captain with a tidy pass across the 18-yard line and Wroe produced a deft touch to beat Foderingham.
Swindon and Di Canio were stumped.
In retaliation to watching his side stumble out of the blocks, the Italian made the bold decision to replace Foderingham with first-year pro Bedwell midway through the opening period.
Foderingham, evidently upset, marched straight down the tunnel, kicking out at a water bottle on the way.
The substitution, combined with such an awful start, pretty much silenced Town’s travelling contingent.
It was unnecessary, reactive and threw Bedwell into a shark-infested deep end for his professional debut which, to be fair, he dealt with with a maturity that belied his tender years.
Briefly, Town attempted to rally and James Collins should have done better than head Rooney’s cross wide when he was unmarked at the near post.
But by and large the opening 45 minutes were played out inside the Swindon half, with Wroe, Sodje, Jeffrey Monakana and Beavon turning and darting their way around the Robins defence at will.
To say it was easy for Preston would be doing an injustice to both sides, but the hosts certainly benefited from slapdash football from Town all over the park.
Wroe and Sodje both fired wide from the edge of the area as the Lilywhites continued to threaten and, with Swindon still shaking from an opening 25 minutes from hell, Beavon popped up to put the home side out of reach before half-time.
A corner from the right drifted to the back post, Bailey Wright nodded across goal and, with Bedwell unable to get to the ball, Beavon was on hand to tap home from close range.
After the interval Swindon went close to pulling a goal back when De Vita fired at Thorsten Stuckmann within a minute of the restart, while John Bostock’s cross-shot deflected off a Preston head and looped over the home keeper only to bounce off the top of the crossbar and out for a corner.
The visiting fans needed something to spark them into life, and they got exactly that after 57 minutes.
De Vita again found himself in space on the left and this time the wide man kept his shot low and wide of Stuckmann to find the bottom left-hand corner.
The goal momentarily opened the door for Swindon but it was soon slammed shut as Preston restored their three-goal cushion.
A corner from the right was not properly cleared by Town and Welsh drove through a crowd of bodies and past Bedwell.
At the other end, Stuckmann produced a fine save from point-blank range to deny Aden Flint a quick reply but there was no way back for Swindon.
“After the goals we conceded I think we made the worst performance, without any sort of dignity, commitment, desire from some of the worst arrogance players in this specific game – not because they are arrogant in general,” said Di Canio after the game.
“But this is completely the manager’s fault because I know exactly Jay McEveley, I know exactly Aden Flint, I know exactly Joe Devera, I know exactly Raffaele De Vita – I know who they are, I mention only those five or six names because the new signings arrive just two months ago I am starting to know exactly their mentality.
“Unfortunately they are very close to them at the moment, not because they are unprofessional but because it’s difficult after a game like we played against Stoke to have a group of players that understand that in football you have to have pressure.
“You can’t relax and just because it happened after the Brighton game, when we put in a bad performance against Hartlepool, I should look at it more and change six or seven players.
“Today I waited again because I thought I am curious to see if we became more mature but today was the worst.
“Now if we are capable of making another good performance in the cup or the JPT, a game later we will change seven or eight players for sure.
“Once again I believe in hierarchy but in this situation I have to be more straight and change without any regret.
“My only concern now is unfortunately in the JPT I cannot change 11 players. I can bring in only five, this is my worry at the moment.
“A few of them are not strong enough to play five games, six, seven, eight nine in a row with this level.”