Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 3 SWINDON TOWN 2: Seeing is believing
SOMETIMES as a journalist you are privileged enough to attend a game of football which no match report could accurately do justice. Saturday’s showdown at Molineux was a case in point.
To believe it you simply had to see it. Swindon Town, little Swindon Town, utterly dominant against a club the size of Wolves.
Passing the ball around their opponents with verve, enthusiasm, dynamism and application; completely outplaying a squad put together at almost 10 times their own expense. And losing.
There could not be a visiting fan leaving the ground without a smile on their face. This was the most exceptional display of attacking football this writer has seen a Swindon side produce for some considerable length of time.
Having fallen behind to a fluke Scott Golbourne goal after three minutes, Town were always faced with an uphill challenge, but they dealt with it admirably.
If it had been a boxing match, the Wolves corner would have been racing their fighter to hospital. Instead, thanks to several brilliant Carl Ikeme saves, the hosts went into half-time two goals ahead thanks to Kevin Doyle’s header.
After the break, with Yaser Kasim, Ryan Mason and Massimo Luongo creating a monopoly of possession in midfield with embarrassing ease, Town huffed and puffed and wheezed and blew but Wolves’ house just refused to fall down.
Mason missed two glorious opportunities to reduce the deficit, Ikeme somehow kept out Nathan Thompson’s diving header and Mason struck an upright before Dany N’Guessan reduced arrears but, pushing for an equaliser, the Robins left space at the back which Kevin Foley exploited to restore Wolves’ two-goal buffer.
Mason finally found his shooting boots with a blistering 30-yard strike in added time that gave Town fans renewed late hope and the drama was such that referee Gary Sutton had to be replaced with three minutes remaining after doing himself injury in trying to keep up with the pace of the game.
But Wolves won.
“A moral victory,” said Mark Cooper after the game. The Swindon boss is right. If you can travel 100 miles, watch your team concede three goals, lose and come out with a Cheshire Cat grin from cheek to cheek, someone must be doing something right.
With Nathan Byrne serving the first game of a three-match ban, Cooper drafted in Nicky Ajose for his first start for the Robins on the right of midfield in the only change from the 1-1 draw at MK Dons seven days previously.
Lining up against Swindon’s young stars were a selection of players with Premier League or international pedigree. Republic of Ireland hotshot Kevin Doyle, French man mountain Bakary Sako, Welsh centre-back Sam Ricketts. Household names. Big-time reputations.
Yet despite their massive pedigree, Wolves needed a huge slice of fortune to take the lead with less than three minutes on the clock.
Golbourne found time on the left to get his head up and float in a cross which quickly became a shot and the backtracking Wes Foderingham could do little to prevent the ball looping into the back of the net.
Town looked rattled in the immediate aftermath of the strike, and only a fine piece of goalkeeping by Foderingham prevented Leigh Griffiths from doubling the hosts’ lead following Doyle’s neat clipped throughball.
However, once again they showed a maturity beyond their years to settle into the game, calm down and create good opportunities in front of goal.
Ikeme tipped a low, left-footed drive from Ajose whide of his left-hand post before easily holding onto Thompson’s long-range drive, while Ricketts’ superb late block prevented Nile Ranger from blasting Town level from six yards out.
Mason was next to try his luck for the Robins, bursting into the box before slicing wide, and Luongo crashed a shot hopelessly off-target when a pass to the unmarked Ajose was much the better option, as Swindon quickly silenced the initially raucous home crowd.
For all their possession and all their territory, however, Town were evidently still vulnerable on the counter-attack.
Darren Ward and Jay McEveley allowed a long Sako pass to fall over their heads and into the feet of Griffiths in the 25th minute, and only Foderingham’s big right hand kept the visitors a single goal behind.
It was a tale of two keepers as the half entered its middle section, as Ikeme produced two sensational saves in the space of three minutes.
First, a cute pass from Pritchard set Mason free inside the box but the on-loan Spurs midfielder saw his snap-shot pushed wide by the Wolves stopper. Next it was Pritchard’s turn to dance into the penalty area and his scorching left-footed drive through Doherty’s legs seemed destined for the bottom corner, only for Ikeme to stretch to his left and paw the ball to safety.
Swindon, with all the possession and all the best chances, seemed only seconds away from an equaliser. But Wolves had other ideas.
Two minutes before the break, Doyle and Griffiths took advantage of a Swindon back four which on occasion looked as out of shape as a 20-a-day smoker with a bad batch of gout, to put the home side into an unjust 2-0 half-time lead.
With the Robins’ defensive line doing their best impression of a zigzag, Griffiths could take his time to find Doyle at the near post and the ex-Reading striker had the simple task of nodding into an empty net from less than a yard out.
That left Town with a major mountain to climb, but they started the second half like seasoned Sherpas.
McEveley was neatly played in by Pritchard only for Doherty to block his effort for a corner, Mason somehow contrived to sidefoot wide from 10 yards out and then struck the outside of Ikeme’s left-hand post after a sensational throughball by Pritchard.
Swindon were totally dominating their hosts, who allowed Kasim the space on halfway to dictate play and struggled to cope with the tricky feet of Luongo and Pritchard, the latter of whom sent a curling, 25-yard free-kick over the bar midway through the second period.
Ikeme pulled off his third sensational save of the day in the 72nd minute, reaching with absurd elasticity to his right to keep out Thompson’s diving header.
But Swindon weren’t to be denied for an entire 90 minutes and after embarrassing their hosts for most of the second period they finally found a way past Ikeme with eight minutes remaining.
Luongo’s delicate chip over the Wolves back four gave N’Guessan the ammunition and the former Millwall man had the power to smash the ball past Ikeme.
Town were now rampant, but in their attempts to draw level they allowed Wolves space on the counter for Bjorn Sigurdarson to find Foley, and the substitute showed immense calm to sidefoot under Foderingham.
A sucker-punch for Swindon, but even then they refused to give up the ghost. Mason, 60 seconds later, produced an unbelievable finish from 30 yards into the top right-hand corner of Ikeme’s goal.
It wasn’t enough. Statistically this was a defeat. In every other sense it was not.
Cooper said: “I was delighted with the performance. I feel desperately sorry for the players because they didn’t deserve to lose the game, I thought they totally bossed the game.
“That’s not being disrespectful to Wolves, I just thought we totally out-footballed them and deserved to win the game. There’s not much more you can say other than that.
“I said to them ‘if you can guarantee me that level of commitment and desire, you’ve got that much ability that the peformances will keep coming’.
“We missed chance after chance and then they get a second goal. We let him turn inside and it’s too easy, that’s the only criticism I’ve got. We’re conceding too many soft goals.
“The way we’ve played in creating those chances is unbelievable. Everyone I’ve spoken to appreciates what a good football teams we’ve got. We could play like that next week and 10-0, that’s why it’s the game that everyone loves.”
Comments are closed on this article.