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Town slide to Brentford loss
SWINDON Town twice squandered winning positions to slip to a 3-2 loss at Brentford on Boxing Day.
Goals from Ryan Mason and Nicky Ajose put Town ahead, either side of Sam Saunders’ first equaliser for the hosts, but Clayton Donaldson levelled in the second half before Marcello Trotta prodded home the winner for the Bees.
It was a hugely disappointing result for the Robins, who took charge of the game on two occasions against a talented Brentford outfit but failed to emerge from their trip to west London with even a point.
Swindon manager Mark Cooper made two changes to his starting line-up following the victory over Coventry five days earlier. Nathan Thompson was restored to right-back after recovering from a chest infection, with Nathan Byrne switching to the left and Jay McEveley dropping to the bench.
Yaser Kasim, who impressed as a second-half substitute against the Sky Blues, replaced Ryan Harley in the middle of midfield while Nile Ranger, who tweeted a picture of his Range Rover crashed into a lamppost on Christmas Day, started up front.
The former Newcastle frontman had the first sight of goal in the third minute, but he placed his header from Alex Pritchard’s cross wide of David Button’s left-hand post.
Despite having to withstand five minutes of sustained Brentford pressure, Town looked composed and classy in possession and the visitors took the lead in the ninth minute through Mason.
Nathan Thompson fed Pritchard on the edge of the area and, after neatly turning his man, the on-loan Spurs man found Mason with a delicate through-ball. Mason, with his typical air, flashed his shot below Button to send the visiting Swindon fans into raptures.
It was the first goal Brentford had conceded in League One in four matches and the first the Bees had let in at Griffin Park for exactly a month. In fact, since Colchester were beaten 3-1 back on October 19 only Peterborough had managed to breach the hosts’ rearguard on familiar soil.
Town’s lead would have been short-lived had it not been for Foderingham’s acrobatics. Saunders’ whipped free kick seemed to be heading towards the Robins keeper’s top right-hand corner but Foderingham managed to stretch out his right arm to tip the ball out for a corner.
Moments later Swindon’s stopper was at it again, this time producing a more routine save from Saunders’ long-range drive, as Brentford battled hard for a route back into the match.
They got just that in the 27th minute. Again Saunders was at the heart of it. After Adam Forshaw was tripped by Kasim, the midfielder set himself up to take the resultant free kick.
At the first attempt, Saunders slipped while preparing to take the set piece, drawing chuckles from the Swindon crowd. But those laughs turned to groans in a matter of seconds as the Bees’ talisman picked out the top right corner with an exquisite free kick.
Now Brentford, with their own fans at their backs, were all over Swindon like the most uncomfortable of rashes.
Foderingham’s unconvincing save kept out Trotta’s effort and the Town keeper was again called into action just before the break to claim Donaldson’s header as the visitors were left hanging onto parity by the slenderest of threads at the break.
Swindon came out for the second period with positive intent and Button was forced into action within three minutes of the restart when Pritchard darted inside onto his right foot and curled at Button.
Foderingham saved from Saunders’ tame effort from range at the other end but Town showed the greater urgency at the start of the half and were rewarded with a second goal in the 52nd minute.
Jonathan Douglas gifted possession to Pritchard 25 yards from goal and when the winger’s strike was deflected into the path of Ajose eight yards out the on-loan Peterborough frontman was never likely to miss.
Swindon held the upper hand for only three more minutes, however, as Brentford quickly found a second equaliser.
The source was a former Town captain, Alan McCormack, whose swinging cross from the right picked out a Swindon scourge in the shape of Donaldson. Four yards out and unmarked, Donaldson had the simple task of picking his spot beyond Foderingham, which he did with aplomb.
Now Town were rocking. After Massimo Luongo gave the ball away in midfield Trotta headed narrowly wide and, in the 64th minute, the Fulham loanee ran past three Robins players only to toe poke tamely at Foderingham when it seemed easier to score.
Pritchard’s low drive from 20 yards was pushed round a post by Button in the 69th minute as Swindon fumbled in the dark for a third goal, but that ultimately fell the way of the home side.
Douglas’s dinked pass over the top of the Swindon defence was allowed to bounce between Darren Ward and Foderingham and Trotta showed a poacher’s instinct to nip in and steer the ball home.
Cooper reacted by removing his two strikers, Ranger and Ajose, and throwing on Miles Storey and Ben Gladwin but it was Pritchard who came closest to pegging Brentford back when the youngster’s terrific free kick produced an even better save out of Button.
Town couldn’t find the goal they needed, however, and left west London with nothing.
Cooper said after the game: “After Sheffield United I think it was made plain that people wanted to see us attack and we opened the game up today.
“It could have been 4-4, 5-4, 6-4, whatever you wanted. When you do that you run the risk of conceding goals.
Our Achilles heel has been conceding goals, when the ball is crossed in the box we don’t defend well enough. Two schoolboy goals – the second a third one. We won the game twice and let them back in.
“It’s enjoyable to watch but you know there are going to be ups and downs. The fans at Sheffield United made it clear what they wanted and we’ve listened to that.
“We’ve played particularly well in spells and I thought the following was fantastic.
“Brentford are having a real go at promotion in terms of budget and the experience in their squad.
“They’ve won promotions before and the majority are experienced players and you have to play a lot of money for that.
“They’re a good team, they’re dogged and they ask questions of you. We played some really good football in spells and looked like we could carve them open.”
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