SWINDON Town manager Kevin MacDonald was shocked by the playing surface at Banbury United’s Spencer Stadium, branding it “dangerous” after watching his team lose to the non-league side.
The Robins were beaten 2-0 in the second of their pre-season friendlies last night on a pitch ridden with divots and ridges and grass much higher than you would commonly expect on a Football League playing surface.
The conditions restricted the Swindon players to using the game as a fitness exercise, as the Robins tried to limit the amount of physical exertion they put into the contest in a bid to avoid serious injury.
Afterwards MacDonald expressed his disappointment at what was presented to the Town squad when they arrived in Oxfordshire.
“To be fair when we came and saw the state of the pitch we were very much aware of it being a case there were no injuries. I told the players to run around, not to get too close, not to make any contact and be very aware of where they are,” he said.
“It’s never nice to lose and we missed two or three chances but it wasn’t really a football match at all. It was an exercise in running around for a little bit.
“(We learnt) Nothing. I think we learnt more this morning in the training matches we had between ourselves. You come to these places and Jed’s got a very close affiliation with them so he asked us to come and we’ve come and played the game.
“I must admit I was worried, I thought it was quite a dangerous surface actually and I was a little bit worried that something might have happened to any of the players and we just can’t afford that at the moment.”
Neither side started with any fluency, as passed kicked on off rivets and held up in the grass, and any forward play was largely limited to balls over the top down the channels.
James Collins should have put Town in front after 22 minutes but saw his header saved after neat link-up play between Mark Francis and Andy Williams, before Banbury took the lead three minutes later.
Ben Poke swung in a tidy cross from the left and Luke Craig rose above his marker at the back post to nod past Wes Foderingham.
The Swindon goalkeeper was called into action again in the 29th minute, getting down well to deny Ade Talabi who, along with Kynan Isaac and Albi Skendi, were playing for Banbury having returned from their trials at Liddington.
Skendi, largely ridiculed for his display in a red shirt at Swindon Supermarine on Tuesday, got his own back five minutes after half-time when he was gifted all the time in the world to sidefoot home from close range after Scott Bridges floated a free-kick into the penalty area.
And the Albanian and his Banbury teammates could consider themselves unlucky not to win by a greater margin as MacDonald flooded the Swindon ranks with youngsters – four scholars were on the pitch at the end of the game and Paul Benson was the only player over 21 – in an effort to preserve his more senior professionals.
Leigh Bedwell made two smart saves at the death while the best Town could muster was a Miles Storey effort which flew high over the crossbar and Massimo Luongo’s blocked shot from the edge of the box.
It was a tame performance and a largely pointless exercise, the abiding memory of which was Williams throwing a stray hammer off the playing surface in the 30th minute.
Paul Caddis and Alan Navarro were absent from the Swindon squad at Banbury, while Luke Rooney traveled but did not feature as MacDonald ran the rule over Finnish Under 21 international Denis Abdulahi and another unnamed trialist.
“Alan had a niggle in his knee, Paul didn’t play today because he had to go back to Scotland. He had a family do and that’s why he played a little longer on Tuesday night,” said the Town boss.
“He’ll probably play a bit longer next Tuesday but I don’t have any worries about Paul’s fitness. Alan had a little niggle to there was no point for them to play on that because it would have made things worse.”