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James rescues Town
JAMES Collins enjoyed his very own Roy of the Rovers moment as Swindon Town came back from two goals down to earn a point in an entertaining clash with Coventry.
Collins, who was a season-ticket holder at Highfield Road between the ages of seven and 11, smashed home a fierce eight-yard volley to top a remarkable late resurgence by the Robins at the County Ground.
Having fallen behind in the 13th minute thanks to David McGoldrick’s neat header, Swindon faced a steep uphill task when the striker bundled the ball home from close range eight minutes before the break.
However, displaying a steadfast refusal to go out with a whimper, Town rallied.
Injury to Coventry playmaker John Fleck, who was stretchered off with a fractured skull with 18 minutes remaining, in addition to a change of system by Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio, saw the away side struggle to contain their hosts for the final quarter-of-an-hour.
Gary Roberts celebrated his return from injury with his first goal for his new club, a tidy volley at the back post from Tommy Miller’s flick-on, before Collins pounced with 11 minutes left having already seen a tap-in ruled out for offside.
Both Miller and Adam Rooney had glorious chances to win the game for the Robins as six additional minutes were played, and Town will ultimately feel disappointed not to have won.
Swindon almost found themselves ahead with less than two minutes on the clock.
Jay McEveley’s deep, chipped cross from the left picked out the late run of Matt Ritchie and his header bounced back off Joe Murphy’s right-hand post, with Paul Benson unable to turn it home.
It was a ridiculously fast start, but Coventry soon caught up and accelerated into the lead nine minutes later.
Callum Ball had given the Swindon backline their first moment of worry when he brushed the side-netting with a 25-yard volley before, in the 13th minute, McGoldrick fired the Sky Blues in front.
Fleck was fouled around 25 yards from goal, wide on the left, and got up off the turf to curl in a wicked free-kick which McGoldrick glanced in at the near post.
Stunned, it took Swindon a while to rediscover their composure. John Bostock, starting for the first time this season, struggled to develop the sort of partnership with Benson that had the Coventry defence quaking in their boots, though the Tottenham midfielder showed on plenty of occasions his undeniable talent with ball at feet.
Another of Town’s tricky players, Roberts, created space for Simon Ferry to tee up Benson from 18 yards midway through the period, but the forward lashed high over the crossbar.
Ten minutes later Benson’s clever flick gave Bostock the chance to shoot at goal, but his effort cannoned wide.
For all their invention in the final third, Town didn’t have a goal to their names, and they were made to pay for their profligacy in the 37th minute.
Again it came from a set piece, this time a corner from the right, which Wes Foderingham came for and failed to collect allowing McGoldrick to poke home in what seemed like slow motion.
After recent home defeats to Colchester and Leyton Orient, the tone appeared to have been set for another miserable afternoon at the County Ground.
But Swindon proved that they are made of sterner stuff.
Bostock raised spirits, and volume levels within the ground, when he darted round several challenges to shoot at Murphy with five minutes remaining of the first half but within seconds of the restart Coventry should have put the game out of sight.
Franck Moussa cleverly twisted around Aden Flint before collapsing to the ground as though his legs had dissolved beneath him.
Referee Lee Collins waved away claims for a penalty, but the loose ball fell to Fleck who should have done much better than fire into the Town End.
It was a real let-off for the Robins, who were being negated well by the Sky Blues rearguard.
That was until a series of events completely altered the landscape of the game.
Firstly, manager Paolo Di Canio swapped his tried and trusted 4-4-2 formation for something a little quirkier, a brand of old fashioned Christmas-tree goodness that saw Collins lead the line with Roberts and Rooney playing just off him and Navarro, Tommy Miller and Ferry holding fort in midfield.
Apparently confused, it seemed like the Coventry defenders suddenly had no idea who to mark and when starved of their most reliable relief outlet, Fleck, due to injury, they were stumped going forwards as well as back.
Instantly Town looked a different side, creating space all over the pitch and with both full-backs finally getting up the pitch to overlap and provide from wide areas.
Collins nudged in from close range after Rooney’s shot was saved in the 74th minute, only to see his strike chalked off, but Swindon didn’t have to wait long after that for a legitimate goal to cheer.
McEveley crossed from the left, Miller got across his marker to head the ball on to the back post where Roberts steered home.
The volume levels increased again.
Now Swindon were rampant, beating Coventry back into a corner.
Collins hadn’t managed a league goal in 10 games for Town before the trip to Bury nine days ago, but it certainly hasn’t affected his confidence if this finish was anything to go by.
He produced an absolutely rasping volley that went off like a gunshot and ended up in the back of the net even quicker.
The decibels rose once more.
If we’re being honest, Swindon could and should have won the game.
First, Miller could only sidefoot straight at Murphy at the end of one of his trademarks late bursts into the box, while Rooney contrived to head straight at the visiting stopper in added time when completely unmarked six yards out.
A point would have to do.
All thoughts turned to Navarro late in the game, as he was withdrawn on a stretcher with an ugly-looking knee injury. The midfielder is set to see a specialist in Rome today.
“I hope it’s not very big but, in the way he went out, he was hurting and Paul told me straight away it was the knee,” said Di Canio afterwards.
“I hope for him it’s not a big problem and not for us also.
“I’m very happy for the reaction that we showed in the last part of the game. The way we played during the game, we played much better and dominated the game but this is the level.
“If you switch off at any moment, your opponent has quality and pedigree. I mentioned during the week the names and experience.
“They arrived in our box three times, twice from set plays and one from open play. Two goals.
“You know how many times we were in their box? Over 32 times. After the goal we had four clear chances again and we didn’t score.
“We have to do more.”
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