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SWINDON TOWN: Rose a thorn in Town's side
A FAMILIAR face came back to haunt Swindon Town last night as Michael Rose marked his return to his former club with the winning goal for Colchester in an instantly forgettable game at the County Ground.
Rose, whose torrid single season with the Robins took in relegation from League One in 2010/11 and who is not remembered fondly by many sections of the Swindon support, struck with 20 minutes to go of a match that lacked quality and ended with Town’s first defeat in six.
The left-back curled a low free-kick around the Swindon wall to lift the 121 travelling Colchester fans to their feet and give new U’s boss Joe Dunne his second straight victory since he took charge last week.
After the first 10 minutes last night, Town looked creatively redundant and confused in the middle of the park.
Where the County Ground audience has become accustomed to fluency and fluidity, they were treated or rather subjected to errant passes, needless short corners and poor decision-making at the crucial moments.
Not once did the hosts sting the gloves of visiting keeper Mark Cousins. Not once did they produce the kind of football that has got Swindon fans ooh-ing and aah-ing for much of Paolo Di Canio’s tenure.
Rose added an ocean’s worth of salt to the wound with that late goal, but it was nothing more than Colchester warranted.
They may hardly have threatened in a menacing sense but, away from home and against a side in form, they showed what a little bit of composure can do.
It must surely be a minor blip on the Swindon Town copybook, and it was certainly out of character, but while Rose will be talking about that game for years to come it is, from a Robins persuasion, a match better left forgotten.
Swindon started the game well, passing tidily to feet and looking lively all over the park.
In the eighth minute Andy Williams cleverly spun his marker to race onto Paul Benson’s flick-on but could only fire straight at Mark Cousins from eight yards.
While the hosts opened up with a swagger, Colchester almost knocked them out of their stride in the 12th minute.
Anthony Wordsworth was given time and space to shoot from range and his fizzing effort was deflected narrowly over the bar by a Swindon leg.
Moments later Brian Wilson also tried his luck from distance without success as the visiting U’s tried to match fire with fire, while Tom Eastman found himself in acres of space inside the area in the 15th minute only to shoot pathetically wide.
Although Swindon started with confidence and crispness, they lost their rhythm for much of the first half.
Only Williams’ effort on the half-hour, which was blocked behind for a corner, got the home crowd slightly excited, while manager Paolo Di Canio repeatedly assaulted his dug-out after every collapsed attack.
Frustratingly, Town’s forward movements were breaking down quicker than a dodgy second-hand car as both Tommy Miller’s and Alan Navarro’s passing radars deserted them and the Robins resorted to long balls down the channel which had Williams and Benson chasing scraps up front.
At the other end, Colchester were finding chances were at a premium and they went into the break without a shot on target to their name after Magnus Okuonghae’s header from Craig Eastmond’s corner drifted wide and Jabo Ibehre’s deflected volley didn’t trouble Foderingham.
Raffa De Vita saw his side-footed volley from Navarro’s centre bounce over the crossbar with seconds left of the opening period but that would have done little to appease Di Canio’s anger at the interval.
The game improved little in the early moments of the second half.
Brian Wilson sent a 20-yard free-kick high over the bar in the 55th minute but otherwise the ball spent too much time in the damp evening sky for either side to open the other up.
Di Canio made a double substitution just before the hour mark in an effort to change the flow of the match, and with it the atmosphere inside the County Ground as the Town fans grew more and more frustrated.
James Collins could have turned frowns into smiles barely more than 60 seconds after his introduction, but he could only poke a tame effort at Cousins after De Vita tapped a deep cross neatly into his path.
Williams then blazed over when crossing was the better option before Ritchie dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box as Swindon started to show some of their better qualities.
But no sooner had the signs of improvement peaked their heads above water, than Colchester went in front and the identity of the goalscorer could not have antagonised the home support more.
Rose endured an at-best frosty relationship with the Town fans during his brief spell in Wiltshire, but he made his return to the County Ground a happy one on a personal level as he fired his new team in front with 20 minutes remaining.
The full-back curled home a low free-kick, round the wall and inside Foderingham’s near post. It was no more than the U’s deserved. Swindon tried to retaliate and won a series of corners but the limp delivery matched the overall performance.
Freddie Sears, on as a sub, had a golden chance to put Colchester out of sight within a minute of his introduction following confusion between Troy Archibald-Henville and Alan McCormack, but he could only slide wide as he bore down on Foderingham’s goal.
And Matt Ritchie’s poor free-kick in the final minute of added time summed up a dismal night for Town.