AT HALF-TIME on Saturday, one of Swindon Town’s most coveted sons was paraded in front of the stand that bears his name. It was the celebration of a notable anniversary.
Fifty years to the day after Bert Head handed a 17-year-old by the name of Don Rogers his Robins debut, the winger was back on the County Ground pitch to remember the afternoon an incredible career began.
In a bizarre quirk of fate, Swindon’s current crop echoed the events of November 17, 1962 down to the finer details as they demolished Yeovil 4-1 – a performance of dominance and class to commemorate an important date in the club’s history.
Half-a-century previously, Rogers & Co had also won 4-1, albeit against Southend, as centre-forward Jack Smith bagged a brace and Mike Summerbee and Cliff Jackson got their names on the scoresheet.
Fast forward a handful of generations and Town’s latest number nine, James Collins, also registered twice, while Andy Williams scored against his former club and Darren Ward poked home his first goal for the Robins as the Wiltshire side leapt into third place in League One.
Yeovil were never in the contest. The visitors were undone like a loosely tied shoelace countless times through both left and right channels, as their unstable defence seemed unable to cope with Swindon’s movement and pace up front.
The Glovers briefly got themselves back into the game when James Hayter’s header was adjudged to have crossed the line by the assistant referee after Wes Foderingham pawed it against the crossbar, but it was false hope.
Truth be told, Town should have had several more and a scoreline of 6-1 or 7-1 would not have flattered the home side.
As it was, four had to do, and perhaps it was always meant to be.
Yeovil’s Paddy Madden had the game’s first shot on target in the fifth minute, but his tame volley presented Foderingham with little difficulty.
After seeing off the physical challenge of their guests in the early exchanges, Town quickly grew into the game. Gary Roberts, Matt Ritchie and Andy Williams’ pace and trickery caused the Glovers’ backline untold problems and Ritchie flashed a shot over the bar on the quarter-hour following Simon Ferry’s lay-off.
Williams was next to fire wide, two minutes later, before Ferry saw his scissor kick fail to test Marek Stech in the Yeovil goal – but the pressure was building and the away side were shaking at the foundations.
Yeovil could only hold out so long, and that turned out to be 24 minutes.
Williams, who turned down the offer of a new deal with the Somerset club to move to Swindon in the summer, eased past Byron Webster on halfway with a delicate flick and cantered through on goal.
The 26-year-old might not have scored at the County Ground since the 4-0 victory over Bournemouth on September 22 – coincidentally the last time Town had won at home in the league prior to Saturday – but he took the chance with aplomb, slipping the ball beneath Stech and into the back of the net.
One-up, Swindon were confident and classy. It was only a matter of time before the Robins scored again.
Four minutes later Town did exactly that.
Joe Devera, again immense at the heart of defence, waltzed round two tacklers in the middle of midfield and darted down the left wing.
Those inside the County Ground questioning where the centre-half was going could have been forgiven for their cynicism, but Devera produced a sensational low centre to pick out Collins, who muscled in front of Dan Burn to stab home.
Within 60 seconds of the restart Swindon were at it again. Williams collided with Stech in the area and the loose ball fell to Ferry, whose goalbound shot was deflected out of play by a Yeovil defender.
Visiting manager Gary Johnson was forced to shuffle his pack before he lost all control, and the introduction of Keanu Marsh-Brown provided the Glovers with an outlet of some substance.
The wide man fired a free-kick at Foderingham within seconds of his arrival and, two minutes later, provided the cross which led to Yeovil’s consolation.
Hayter rose to nod goalwards, Foderingham pushed the ball onto the bar and, when it came back down to earth, the linesman was convinced it had crossed the goalline. Foderingham was not impressed.
Having dominated proceedings, going into half-time just one goal in front would have been an unfair reflection of Town’s dominance but Ward popped up just before the break to restore Swindon’s two-goal cushion.
Ferry swung in a free-kick from the left, Devera’s effort was saved but Ward was on hand to prod the ball home.
After Rogers received a standing ovation during the interval there seemed an air of anticipation around the County Ground, as though the Town’s supporters expected more goals.
Given that the Robins hadn’t won at home in the league in eight weeks, the atmosphere was an accurate illustration of the hosts’ utter supremacy.
In the end those goals didn’t come. Chris Martin, on for his Swindon debut in place of the injured Williams, blazed over and dragged wide and Roberts fired straight at Stech while Yeovil, apparently still in shock, could only manage one effort of note in the first 20 minutes after the break.
Madden should have reduced arrears when he was handed a free header at the back post but the on-loan Carlisle striker nodded over, and soon Town were back on the attack.
Danny Hollands, Ritchie and Martin all failed to find the target from range before Collins’ fizzing volley was well saved by Stech as Swindon toyed with their guests.
Madden had another opportunity to cue a late rally for the visitors but collapsed like a listed building when volleying at Foderingham and, with the game reaching a conclusion and play stretched, Town finally struck again.
Collins latched onto a long ball, showed tremendous stamina to sprint into the area and picked his spot beyond Stech.
The stand dedicated to Swindon’s most treasured idol could rise again to applaud the Robins’ heroes of today.
After Town’s 4-1 victory over Southend in 1962, Don Rogers & Co climbed to sixth in England’s third tier.
In their next Saturday fixture they faced Notts County; the following May they were promoted automatically to what is now the Championship.
In five days’ time Swindon make the trip to Meadow Lane. Fifty years on, will the Robins of 2012 continue to replicate the past?
“It was a good win. We always know now we have to suffer for the first 20 minutes because it is a different level this year, but in the end we won and we should have won by more goals,” said Di Canio afterwards.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant but we have to become greedy, we have to become nasty because there were a minimum of another 10 times where we should have done better.
“I don’t want to say we have to win by a large and amazing result – maybe 8-1 – but when we have the opportunity we have to score.
“If you have the opportunity to kill the opponent you have to do this, you have to kill the game, because otherwise every time you give a free-kick away and they come six or seven in the box then anything can happen.
“We have to try to do a much better job when we’ve got the opportunity but anyway it is a very good win after a few games when we didn’t win at home.
“Now we are back as we did last year at home, winning a good game with a good performance. The lads did their best and I’m very happy with the way we did.
“We can improve some aspects of the game, some tactical decisions individually – sometimes people try to play tippy tappy and I don’t like it but 90 per cent of the things were positive.”