Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
SWINDON TOWN: Robins in Deep trouble at Preston again
SWINDON Town fans won’t want to head back to Deepdale in a hurry.
It appears Preston North End’s famous stadium is forbidden territory for the Robins, who seem cursed beyond any voodoo remedy in this particular north western outpost.
A little more than a year prior to Saturday’s frankly disastrous trip an episode involving Paolo Di Canio, Wes Foderingham and a water bottle drew national notoriety as Town were dissected by the Lilywhites.
Fast forward 12 months and, while all the liquid receptacles on the touchline remained unharmed, Swindon’s egos didn’t.
Mark Cooper’s men were bullied off the ball with worrying ease for 70 minutes, falling behind to Iain Hume’s 10th-minute opener before being all but cut off by Jay McEveley’s bizarre own goal just after half-time.
It was one of those days where you just want to curl up in bed with a hot chocolate and pretend nothing ever happened.
Were Swindon’s bodies and minds drained by a local derby and a glamour tie against Chelsea packed into four whirlwind days? Did a ridiculously long coach trip to Preston on Friday leave the Robins leg-weary? Was it simply that Simon Grayson simply got his side’s tactics spot?
Relevant questions all, and ultimately Cooper and his players will have to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out just what went wrong at Deepdale.
Gone was the arrogant swagger, the calmness in possession, the neat, crisp passing that draws applause from all sections. Instead there were groans. Lots of them.
Town didn’t seriously threaten the Preston goal until the final quarter of the match, when substitute Mohamed El Gabbas came off the bench to provide the one performance of any note in 90 tepid minutes.
Yaser Kasim and Massimo Luongo in the middle of the park lost the ball more times in a half-hour spell than throughout the whole of the rest of the month combined, the frontline was limp and impotent and the hosts could barge Swindon out of the way like a playground bully forcing his way to the front of the ice cream queue.
It was ugly.
Preston didn’t let off. Their physicality fluctuated between hard-knuckled and common assault – Kevin Davies was lucky not to see some sort of card for two awful tackles, the first of which resulted in Nathan Thompson having to be replaced before half-time.
But Swindon allowed themselves to be intimidated by the former Bolton man, and that left room for Stuart Beavon and Iain Hume to gallivant unmarked in the space around him like ponies let off their reins.
Town have found their kryptonite in the shape of Deepdale, let’s hope the after-effects are quickly shrugged off.
In a first half practically devoid of goalmouth action, Hume handed Preston the lead in the 10th minute.
Kasim let Beavon slide past him far too easily and lay the ball into the feet of Davies who, having been allowed the freedom of the penalty box, fired at Wes Foderingham. The Town goalkeeper kept out the striker’s effort but Hume – all five foot, seven inches of him – leapt above McEveley to plant the ball in the back of the Town net.
Moments later Davies produced his first rash challenge, going in with his studs on Thompson’s knee in an effort to prod a loose ball home from close range. With Thompson hobbling, Swindon were now leaving great chasms of space in which Preston could roam free.
Keith Keane volleyed horribly over after Foderingham’s clearing punch fell to him on the edge of the area before Beavon was allowed to merrily dance 40 yards before dragging a left-footed effort wide.
Scott Laird then picked out Beavon in the 39th minute only for the striker to clip his volley over the crossbar, with both players unmarked inside the Town 18-yard box.
On the stroke of half-time, Swindon mustered half a chance but Alex Pritchard could only hit the sidenetting. It was instantly forgettable.
Just when they needed a positive opening to the second period to get some momentum behind them, Town shot themselves in the foot with the proverbial cannon.
A loose ball broke across the area, Foderingham came to collect and somehow McEveley contrived to lob his own keeper with his backpass. It was comic and tragic in equal measure.
Nicky Ajose’s errant pass in the 57th minute almost gifted the hosts a third, only for Foderingham to save well from Hume, while at the other end the substitute – on for the injured Nathan Byrne – dragged a shot well wide.
With all seemingly lost, Swindon suddenly realised they can play with 18 minutes left. A neat passage of possession football opened up space for Ajose to gallop through one on one with Declan Rudd in the Preston goal, but the home stopper made a terrific save low down to his left.
After Chris Humphrey was denied by Foderingham, Town handed themselves an undeserved lifeline.
N’Guessan, by now hobbling around the pitch, picked up the ball on the edge of the area and curled a delicious effort beyond Rudd. It was a rare moment of quality in a game otherwise bereft of them.
And despite their undeniable inferiority, Swindon came within inches of snatching a draw at the death.
El Gabbas, tricky and bright, switched play from left to right, Jack Barthram darted to the byeline and centred for Kasim, whose right-footed attempt was brilliantly save by Rudd high to his left.
It was the final significant action of a game that no one associated with Swindon Town will want to remember for too long.
Cooper said after the match: “I’m frustrated. We looked very lethargic for large parts of the game. I think the efforts of the other night took it out of us. Preston were in our faces, very physical and we didn’t deal with it particularly well.
“If we started the game like we played in the last 15 minutes it might have been a different story, but you can’t do that.
“We didn’t pass the ball properly, we didn’t match Preston physically and we conceded another two sloppy goals which at the end of the day it’s all about. You can’t concede goals like that and expect to win games of football.
“It’s a comedy goal. Between them they’ve got to sort it out. One of them has got to take control of the situation and deal with it. They’ve scored a goal without even trying.
“We can’t start games at half-time or after 60 minutes, you have to be ready from the start of the game. Once we made the changes we looked a completely different side.
“El Gabbas came on and looked a threat, Ajose came on and looked a threat running in behind and once we did that we always looked as though we were going to nick a goal.
“We didn’t deserve enough. To play in the last 15 minutes doesn’t warrant getting a result, you have to play longer than that and full credit to Preston.
“They obviously watched us and were physically better than us.
“We could have nicked a point at the end, but it was a great save from their goalkeeper and we go home with nothing.”
Comments are closed on this article.