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The perfect Christmas Storey for Swindon
FORGOTTEN man Miles Storey came off the bench to make sure the County Ground was full of festive cheer with the winner in Swindon Town’s victory over Coventry.
The teenager, who hadn’t managed a minute in Town colours for three months prior to his 70th-minute introduction, clipped a cheeky dink over Coventry keeper Joe Murphy with four minutes left to steal all the points for the Robins, who had to show plenty of character in coming from behind to win.
Leon Clarke, the pantomime villain of the piece, put the visitors ahead before stage-walking along the front of the Arkell’s Stand, lapping up the vitriol of the Swindon crowd, but by the final whistle he was red-faced as Yaser Kasim levelled with a stunning volley prior to Storey’s late effort.
Manager Mark Cooper made three tweaks to his starting line-up following the 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United a week earlier, with Nile Ranger being the most notable change.
The former Newcastle frontman began a match for the first time since November 9 after a series of disciplinary issues, while Nathan Byrne and Ryan Harley replaced Nathan Thompson and Kasim.
Coventry were minus Callum Wilson, as Chris Dagnall filled in up front alongside Leon Clarke, and it was the ex-Town striker who had the Sky Blues’ first shot on target in the seventh minute – but his tame header from Carl Baker’s cross was easily dealt with by Wes Foderingham.
Swindon took a few minutes to get to grips with Coventry’s crisp passing but soon the Robins found space in midfield to work some magic of their own.
In the 12th minute Massimo Luongo let fly from range, forcing a one-handed save out of Joe Murphy, low down to his right, before Franck Moussa tried his luck at the other end without success.
With Luongo, Ryan Mason and Ryan Harley regularly finding acres of space to dictate play in the middle of the park, Town looked increasingly dangerous in attack, and Luongo volleyed with in the 18th minute after bringing down a loose ball in the Coventry box.
The visitors, however, were a major threat going forward in their own right.
Moussa had Foderingham sprawling across his goal in the 19th minute as the midfielder’s shot fizzed past a post, and the Town stopper was on his belly again seven minutes later as Chris Dagnall’s deflected shot bounced narrowly wide.
Carl Baker and Cyrus Christie were causing Swindon all sorts of problems down their left-hand side, and the latter’s excellent cross almost led to the opener in the 33rd minute, only for Leon Clarke to steer his effort wide.
Clarke spurned Coventry’s best chance of the first half moments later, heading wide from six yards out after Grant Hall misjudged the flight of a left-wing cross, as the home fans began to voice their frustrations.
After a bright beginning, Swindon were struggling to string together long and telling periods of possession, and their best opportunity before the half-time whistle sounded came after a bout on pinball on the edge of the Sky Blues’ penalty area.
Even then, Ryan Mason’s volley was comfortable for Murphy to save.
Coventry had Murphy to thank in the early moments of the second half for keeping them level, as the visiting stopper pulled off a superb save, leaping to his right to keep out Ranger’s header, and the importance of the save was made doubly evident a minute later as the City took the lead.
Christie, a thorn in Swindon’s left-hand side throughout, darted in a low cross from the right and Clarke got in front of is marker – not for the first time on the day – to head past Foderingham.
Clarke, whose ill-fated spell at the County Ground in 2011 has evidently scarred him, then launched into a 50-yard celebratory run in front of the Arkell’s Stand, angering home supporters and lapping up their jeers.
The goal stung Town into life. With substitute Jack Barthram’s runs pulling the Coventry defence to pieces, Swindon looked to exploit the resulting space. Cooper switched to a 3-5-2 formation in an effort to force an equaliser but, while Town immediately looked more creative going forwards, at the other end their fragile defence appeared weaker.
Miles Storey was chucked on by Cooper as a last-ditch throw of the dice and the teenager’s neat flick was hacked clear en route to goal by a Coventry defender before Ranger’s header landed in the hands of Murphy.
The visiting keeper was in action again minutes later, reaching to his left to smother Luongo’s drive from range, and watched Pritchard’s drive drift over the Town End before Coventry came within a whisker of doubling their lead.
Baker twisted into space inside the Swindon penalty area and struck a low effort to Foderingham’s near post, where the home keeper pushed the ball onto an upright. The save was crucial.
Within two minutes Town had drawn level. Ranger’s cushioned header teed up Kasim on the edge of the box and the Iraqi produced a quite brilliant first-time volley to leave Murphy rooted to the spot.
Storey galloped through one on one with Murphy in the 78th minute but couldn’t beat Murphy but, after John Fleck hit the Swindon crossbar with a blistering, 35-yard screamer, Storey got a second bite at the cherry. And he made the most of it.
After shrugging off the challenge of Jordan Clarke, Storey showed tremendous pace to burst into the Coventry area and exquisite touch to lift the ball over the onrushing Murphy.
It was a consummate finish, belying the fact Storey hasn’t made an appearance in League One since the trip to Wolves in September.
Town pushed hard for a third, and Kasim’s deflected effort struck the outside of Murphy’s right-hand post, but two goals were enough. Three points for Christmas.
“That’s all we really wanted.
“It was a fantastic game of football, two really good football teams – they’re the best team we’ve played,” said Cooper after the game.
“Their forwards are very, very good, they’ve got good movement and we did well to keep it to one I thought.
“We didn’t start great, the wind was a factor for both teams but they settled better than us and they were better than us in the first half.
We made some radical changes and started the second half okay and then I just decided to open the game up and see if we can win it. Sometimes it works.
“We’ve gone away from home and played open and end up getting beat, so we’ve asked the players for a bit of balance and responsibility.
“I’ve said to them ‘if you can play with a bit of responsibility we’ll take the leash off you and let you go and play’.
“Today they showed that they can have a little bit of balance.
“We had to defend a lot of times and it was end to end, but it was much more enjoyable watching that than last week.
“Their two full-backs were causing us problems so we decided to go to three at the back and go with two wing-backs to look after their full-backs and I thought on the whole nullified that.
“We decided to play five across the middle and it gave us more of an attacking threat going forward.
“We could have scored four or five, I thought. That was tense, that was hard work for the coaching staff. You’re always trying to come up with something to give you that edge and get you back in the game.
“It was a brilliant game and a fantastic result for us.”
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