Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
Di Canio: Now lets fly away from the rest
PAOLO Di Canio wants his ‘warriors’ to now take off and fly away from the rest of League Two after Swindon moved top of the standings for the first time since the start of the season with a battling 2-1 victory over Shrewsbury last night.
Perhaps feeling the weight of expectation, Town were distinctly off key in the first half and could have few arguments when Matt Richards gave Shrewsbury the lead shortly before the break.
But Di Canio’s substitutions in the second half changed the game in Swindon’s favour with Alan Connell adding bite to the attack while Simon Ferry brought much-needed creativity to midfield.
Connell equalised just after the hour and the striker then grabbed the winner with 16 minutes remaining to secure a vital three points that not only moved Swindon into first place, but also give themselves a four-point cushion inside the automatic promotion places.
“We have taken off, we are top and now we must fly away,” said Di Canio.
“My players were warriors yesterday and we know we have done well up to now, but the road is long, there are 16 or so games to go and many teams around us.
“Obviously to be top with two games in hand is a good position because if you win those then you can extend the gap between ourselves and fourth place.
“After that is done then we can think about achieving more, like claiming the title.”
From the outset it was clear that Swindon were far from at their best as they struggled to connect passes or create anything of note in the final third.
Luke Rooney flicked a header harmlessly wide from Matt Ritchie’s ball into the box but it was the visitors who perhaps had the best chance of the early stages when Joe Jacobson’s fierce drive warmed the hands of Wes Foderingham.
That was to be as exciting as things got as half time approached, although the visitors were looking the most likely to get a goal and had a good chance just after the half hour when a flowing attack ended with Mark Wright having a clear sight of goal, but the winger sidefooted over the bar.
However, Shrewsbury were ahead in the 40th minute when Wright whipped in a corner that the unmarked Richards rose to meet and the midfielder flicked a header beyond Foderingham. The goal was the first the Town keeper had conceded in a league match at the County Ground since joining back in October.
After such a poor first half it was of little surprise that Di Canio made a change at the start of the second half, bringing on Connell for Billy Bodin.
But Swindon could count themselves very lucky not to be further behind seven minutes after the restart.
Terry Gornell was sent through on goal and the striker tumbled in the area when under close attention by Alan McCormack but, fortunately for the hosts, the referee waved away calls for a penalty.
Swindon continued to struggle to compete though and just two minutes later they had Foderingham to thank for preventing Shrewsbury effectively killing off the game when he made a great block from Wright’s close-range shot before James Collins shot wide when the loose ball fell to the striker.
The industrious pairing of Jonathan Smith and Lee Cox was clearly not working and Di Canio opted to introduce the creativity of Simon Ferry for the former just before the hour.
The Scot’s arrival sparked a revival from the home side and out of nothing they were level with 64 minutes on the clock.
Ritchie hit a speculative effort from distance that Shrews keeper Chris Neal compounded to spill straight to Connell, who gleefully stabbed home from close range.
The goal caused the confidence to suddenly return to the Town players while it clearly sapped out of the Shrewsbury players and the home side embarked on wave after wave of attacks.
And amazingly they took the lead with just over 15 minutes remaining when Rooney launched a superb strike from outside the box that struck the underside of the crossbar and Connell again showed his predatory instincts to scramble the loose ball home.
That strike visibly deflated Shrewsbury and ultimately it was a comfortable final quarter-of-an-hour as Town defended well to wind down the clock and secure victory.
The League Two table now makes for very pleasant reading, and Di Canio has urged the Swindon fans to get fully behind the players and cheer them on throughout their push for the title.
“I am not criticising my fans but there was a moment when I could hear a few boos (against Shrewsbury), but I want to tell the fans to keep supporting the players,” he added. “They can blame Paolo Di Canio if things are not going well, but a bad day can happen for even Barcelona.
“So I want to say help them through any difficult moment in a game. I can understand sometimes the frustration but it is not easy to always play our football. Please don’t expect 4-0 or 5-0 and fantastic football every game.
“It is not a criticism because overall the stadium was fantastic again but I ask you to keep calm and put all your support behind the players.”