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Mason bags treble as Town destroy woeful Crewe
6:00am Monday 2nd September 2013 in STFC News
WHISPER it quietly, but this Swindon Town side may just have something about it.
Fresh off the back of victory at QPR in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday and the resulting third-round draw which pitted the Robins with Chelsea, Town’s players could have been forgiven for suffering a bout of post-Lord Mayor’s show syndrome when Crewe came calling on Saturday.
Instead, Mark Cooper’s Robins made the Loftus Road performance look like the dress rehearsal as they put on a display of calmness on the ball, clinical finishing and utter class that rendered Crewe totally impotent and worryingly rudderless.
In truth, this was not Town in top gear. Swindon struggled for rhythm in the opening 20 minutes, as the match meandered between the mundane and the turgid, but once they opened the scoring through Nile Ranger in the 33rd minute, there was only one winner.
Crewe came to Wiltshire with a reputation for attractive, ball-on-the-floor football. What they brought to the occasion was a woefully out of shape defence, a limp and at times non-existent midfield and a lack of creativity on a par with a lobotomised civil servant.
Swindon exploited their guests’ flaws efficiently, with an engine room led by the pragmatic and mesmerisingly cool Yaser Kasim shrugging off their opponents’ presence with disdain.
Ranger netted the first with aplomb, latching onto Kasim’s delicate through-ball to lash past Alan Martin - the kind of finish Town have so noticeably been lacking for many, many months.
The striker, whose arrival at the County Ground was met with a mixture of excitement, trepidation and anger, is quickly growing into his role as the Robins’ target man.
As against QPR on Tuesday, the former Newcastle man’s first touch and hold-up play was superb and provided the aerial outlet Swindon had been so desperately in need of for some time.
His presence up top created the space necessary for Alex Pritchard, Ryan Mason and Massimo Luongo to run riot around him, and Town made the most of their superiority to add to their lead with Luongo’s cross-cum-shot, which drifted over Martin’s head, three minutes before the break.
After a first-half display that was effective but hardly awe-inspiring, Swindon were improved after the break.
Within 60 seconds of the restart the hosts netted their third.
Again it was that man Kasim at the heart of it, the Iraqi playing an excellent reverse pass into the feet of Ryan Mason, who calmly finished across Martin.
It was the first goal of a 24-minute hat-trick for the on-loan Spurs youngster.
Eight minutes later he was celebrating again, this time after scoring from the penalty spot after Ranger was felled by Martin, and with 20 minutes left he got the faintest of touches to Pritchard’s left-wing cross to make sure he went home with the matchball.
It could have been even better for Town and Mason had the chance to score a fourth late in the game only to see his spot-kick saved by Martin, while Nathan Thompson struck the crossbar with a header in the final minute.
A stroll in the glorious, late August sunshine, then, for a Swindon side who are rapidly showing they are a team not to be taken lightly in League One this season.
From all the doom and gloom of pre-season and the naysayers suggesting 2013/14 could be a relegation battle in the waiting, there appears to be more than a smidgen of hope as autumn presents itself to us.
A slow start to the contest featured little in the way of attacking enterprise from either side. Town’s best moment in the first 15 minutes was a speculative Pritchard shot from range which flew into the Stratton Bank, while Grant Hall’s overhead kick from a corner lacked the power to cause Martin any serious problems.
With Crewe offering nothing by way of meaningful attacking options, Swindon needed just one clear sight of goal to put themselves in front and they got just that in the 33rd minute.
Kasim picked out Ranger with a sumptuous, weighted through-ball and the striker wasted little time in firing past Martin into the bottom right-hand corner of the Alex keeper’s goal.
The effort sprung a miserable game into life.
Nine minutes later Town grabbed a fortunate second. Luongo, producing another of his masterful displays in the middle of midfield, found himself in possession wide on the left after a tidy passage of play from the Robins.
The Australian, who later in the day made his loan move to Wiltshire permanent, swung in a cross which failed to pick out any of his teammates but did beat the backtracking Martin to fall into the net.
It was a lucky strike and Luongo admitted after the game that he didn’t mean it, but it gave Swindon the two-goal cushion they deserved after fairly dominating the opening period.
Having resumed play with the comfort of a buffer, Town wasted no time in the second half extending their lead.
Mason’s clever run into the area was well-found by Kasim, whose timing of his pass was scrum-half-esque, and his teammate clipped the ball across Martin into the bottom, left-hand corner of the goal.
It was the goal that put to bed any notions that the visitors might be able to haul themselves back into the contest. Eight minutes later Crewe went from thoughts of a cheeky fightback to a desperate attempt at damage limitation.
Ranger waltzed into the box, jinked around Martin and went to ground and referee Andy Davies was able to give perhaps the most blatant penalty he will have to all season.
Mason stepped up, sent Martin the wrong way and ran off to celebrate his first goal in Swindon colours.
It took Crewe until the 66th minute to register a notable effort on target, but even then Brad Inman’s daisy-cutter was simple for Wes Foderingham to claim.
Within a minute, the Robins were back down the other end and threatening as Mason’s deflected strike was well stopped by Martin, but the visiting goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent the home side’s fifth with 20 minutes remaining.
Pritchard’s crazy legs left his marker seeing triple and the diminutive winger produced a tantalising cross which Mason got the slightest of touches on to divert the ball into the back of the net.
Now Swindon were rampant. With the crowd chanting ‘we want six’, the Robins did their best to oblige.
Substitute Ryan Harley’s exocet-like effort from range was unconvincingly saved by Martin, Jay McEveley nodded wide at the back post and then, just as the 7,000-odd Swindon fans were starting to make their way out of the County Ground, Mason had the chance to rub a heap of salt into Crewe’s gaping wounds.
Again Ranger was chopped down in the box and again Mason went to Martin’s right with the penalty.
This time, however, the Alex stopper guessed right and Mason was left to rue missing the chance to bag four in a single game.
Even then Town were not done and Thompson leapt highest to strike the bar with a header at the death.
Perhaps 6-0 would have been unkind to Crewe.
In the end, five had to do. It was still five, mind you, and by the looks of it there’s plenty more to come.
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