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No happy return for Austin as Town down Clarets
CHARLIE Austin scored on his return to the County Ground but ended up on the losing side as Swindon Town marched into the fourth round of the League Cup for the first time since 1994/95.
The former Swindon striker received plenty of verbal stick from the home crowd throughout, and was frequently reminded that his current side were losing, as he came back to his old club for the first time since his £1.2million move to Turf Moor in January last year.
And those chants would no doubt have been ringing in his and his Burnley teammates’ ears as they made the long trek back to the north west having been dumped out of the competition by lower league opposition.
Swindon played well throughout a game that oozed Championship calibre and enhanced their remarkable reputation as giant-killers under Paolo Di Canio.
The Robins had Paul Benson, Andy Williams and Troy Archibald-Henville to thank for the goals which secured their eighth victory over higher-ranked opponents under Di Canio’s reign, with Austin’s strike with 15 minutes remaining rendered utterly redundant.
The Town fans were reminded that while Austin is very much the past, this Swindon team is set for a bright future.
The hosts were given an early warning of Burnley’s attacking potential in the third minute, when Kieran Trippier’s corner from the right was dummied through to Austin who lashed over from 15 yards.
The striker should have at least hit the target but, as if the home side needed any reminding, it showed Austin’s uncanny knack of finding space in the area.
Three minutes later the bricklayer-turned-goalscoring machine used a different aspect of his game to come so close to edging Burnley in front.
Ross Wallace’s corner floated into the box where Austin outmuscled his marker to rise highest and head goalwards. Only Alan Navarro’s clearing boot on the line kept Swindon’s clean sheet intact.
Chris McCann thought he had nudged the Clarets ahead in the ninth minute, steering home after Austin had miskicked Marvin Bartley’s cross, but the linesman’s offside flag cut short his celebrations.
Having sponged up the pressure in the early minutes, Town soon discovered a natural rhythm and with their first shot on goal took the lead in the 19th minute.
A short corner routine from the left ended with Jay McEveley whipping the ball in from the left.
The Burnley defence stood and stared, as if waiting for each other to lay laces to leather, and Benson took advantage to calmly sweep home with his left foot - a sublime finish that lifted the County Ground crowd off their seats.
The fans in the Town End were quick to mock Austin with chants of ‘Charlie, Charlie what’s the score?’ The ex-Town frontman was almost able to turn around and say ‘1-1’ seconds later, but Chris McCann could only direct his header from Austin’s cross straight at Foderingham as the Clarets set out in search of a quick response.
Burnley looked the more composed on the ball when they had it at feet but Swindon remained resolute defensively, and Austin became more and more anonymous as the period progressed.
With such a solid foundation, the Robins had given themselves the perfect platform from which to launch the odd assault on the visitors’ goal.
While frequently the Town forays into opposition territory came to nothing, with three minutes left of the first half one particular attack came to another glorious conclusion.
David Edgar’s poor pass out of defence fell to Tommy Miller who stayed strong in the tackle to release Williams.
Until a week ago the former Yeovil striker seemed to be cursed in front of goal, but over the course of seven days he has transformed into the clinical finisher he was hired to be and he made no mistake in sliding the ball beneath Brian Jensen to send Swindon into the break two goals ahead.
After the break Town quickly got back into the flow they had established in the first half, Ritchie’s free-kick from 18 yards, after Benson was hauled down, flew off the wall and out for a corner.
Navarro then saw his shot stopped by Jensen before Foderingham produced a sensational save at the other end to keep Swindon two goals ahead.
Trippier’s fizzing free-kick from deep on the right flew to the back post where substitute Sam Vokes’ point-blank header seemed destined for the bottom corner, only for the Robins keeper to spread himself wide and push the ball to safety.
Williams, full of confidence, showed the Burnley defence his Road Runner impression to ghost into the area in the 58th minute, but the former Yeovil man could not find the unmarked Roberts for an easy tap-in.
Evidently unhappy at the prospect of having to settle for two and shut up shop, Swindon risked being stretched in midfield to find a killer third goal.
It almost worked when Roberts picked out Ritchie at the back post, but the winger’s diving header was well-saved by Jensen.
But it was the visitors who were next on the scoresheet, and if Burnley were going to register it was only ever going to be through one man.
Vokes crossed low from the right and his inch-perfect pass fell into the stride pattern of Austin, who danced around Foderingham to tap home.
In the previous round at Stoke, Town had held a two-goal lead at the break only to be forced into extra-time and the Robins were desperately trying to avoid a repeat situation as Burnley piled on the pressure.
Thompson blocked Austin’s neat shot on the turn and, while Williams almost notched his second with a curling shot from the edge of the area, the Clarets were largely on top.
However, Town sealed victory and progression to round four with six minutes remaining.
McEveley’s free-kick from the left was low to the back post and, though Archibald-Henville’s header lacked power, it somehow squirmed through the grasp of Jensen.
There was still time for Swindon to go close to notching a fourth. Simon Ferry, on for Navarro, cantered into the area and his teasing cross picked out Roberts whose deflected effort was hacked off the line by Trippier.
But in the end three had to do.