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SWINDON TOWN: It's all coming together for Paolo
THERE are signs that the Swindon Town class of 2012/13 are starting to come together quite nicely following their 6-1 victory at Weston-super-Mare last night.
Two goals from Matt Ritchie and further strikes from Andy Williams, James Collins, Raffa De Vita and Paul Benson secured a handsome win, as Town flirted with elegance and negligence at the Woodspring Stadium.
A first half brimming with quality was followed by a more scratchy second, but Paolo Di Canio’s Robins gave off several early warning signs that they are fast becoming a unit to be feared with the start of the new campaign rapidly approaching.
Swindon started as though they were enjoying a day by the seaside, however, and almost fell behind in the first minute.
Troy Arcibald-Henville failed to see the ball out of play, allowing Nat Pepperell to pick up possession inside the six-yard box and at a narrow angle.
The Weston wide man fired at Foderingham but when the rebound broke to Dayle Grubb, four yards out and dead centre, it seemed certain that the home striker would stroke his side in front.
However, Paul Caddis appeared out of nowhere to block the frontman’s effort and spare Town’s blushes.
Swindon needed to capitalise the moment of good fortune and commitment of their captain, and the Robins did exactly that six minutes later.
A corner from the left was not properly cleared by the Weston defence and Ritchie was on hand to smash the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of Lloyd Irish’s goal.
Quickly Town doubled their advantage, as the visitors began to find a fluency that bodes extremely well for the new campaign.
Gary Roberts was freed down the left and produced a superb low cross to pick out Williams, who kept his cool to flick the ball beyond the home keeper.
Weston were unable to cope with the movement of Ritchie, Roberts, Williams and Collins and the two-touch interplay of Simon Ferry and Tommy Miller – and it was Ferry who came close to Town’s third after 18 minutes.
Roberts brought down Williams high, high cross from orbit with a delicate touch into the path of the Scot and his drive was destined for the bottom left-hand corner but for the big paw of Irish, that poked the ball to safety.
Di Canio’s men, rarely troubled at the back, seemed able to turn on the flair as if it was available on draft. And though they were playing a team several leagues below them on the league ladder it was still impressive and hugely encouraging to watch.
Irish was in inspired form to deny Ritchie low to his left and then Miller from all of three yards, as Weston clung on for dear life before the break.
But their challenge was effectively up with 11 minutes remaining of the opening period, as Archibald-Henville’s long ball caught the hosts’ back four daydreaming and Collins capitalised, rounding Irish and tapping home.
There was time before the teams went in for half-time for Swindon to add a fourth and it summoned up a sense of déjà vu.
A free-kick routine right off the training ground, as was so effective for Luke Rooney’s third goal in the 9-1 win over a select XI in Italy last week, saw Jay McEveley and Roberts play in Ritchie and, though his first effort was well saved yet again by the in-form Irish, the former Portsmouth man buried the rebound.
Di Canio made five changes at the break and Swindon struggled to settle into the rhythm they had found so natural in the first 45 minutes.
Five minutes after the restart their hosts pegged a goal back as Chris Young, given too much space on the right, was allowed to pick out the unmarked Grubb who fired beyond Foderingham.
Town retaliated with Luke Rooney seeing his side-footed effort blocked en route to goal by Matt Villis and Paul Benson shooting straight at Irish from 18 yards, but there was something less convincing about the away side in the immediate moments after the interval.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying, as Town’s midfield buzzed around the ankles of their opponents like bees around a honeypot, but the visitors couldn’t force themselves into a rhythm as they had in the opening period.
That was until the 67th minute when the away side were gifted their fifth.
A careless pass out of defence gave De Vita a direct route to goal and the former Livingston man forced the ball beneath Irish with his first effort before smashing home from close range just to make sure.
Compared to the first half incident was at a minimum in the second, and it took until four minutes from time for Town to pull further in front.
Rooney leathered a free-kick from 20 yards at the wall and the ball broke to Benson who finished with his traditional calm.
“I’m very pleased because it’s obvious now that the lads, the new players are starting to understand what I want,” Di Canio said afterwards.
“The legs are working better, they are starting to feel stronger, more fluid and I’m very pleased with the first half.
“You can see that the quality is at a different level compared to last year.
“In the second half I was not happy, not because of the quality but because of the desire, the discipline – obviously we have to work and now is the time to make mistakes but there was a totally big difference between the first half and the second half.”