THE DEEP defensive performance, midfield squandering of possession and shooting 18 times less than your opponents.

Realistically, there are just three positives for Swindon Town to take from Saturday’s poor display against Crewe Alexandra.

In goal, Steven Benda made two fantastic saves – the first prevented what would’ve been an embarrassing early marker for a buoyant Crewe team.

Gabriel Zakuani’s no-nonsense first-half defending also caught the eye.

And Eoin Doyle’s excellent first-half goal speaks for itself.

But that’s all, really. Town were outclassed, outperformed and outwitted by a Crewe side that ultimately struggled to pierce the final third for large periods of the game.

Another defeat leaves Richie Wellens’ side in a delicate position, and bottom club Stevenage’s visit to SN1 on Tuesday comes at a timely moment – or perhaps untimely, depending on how you view it.

Of course, Swindon are still – somehow – in the play-off frame. But that only tells half the story.

The bigger picture shows Town are just as close to sixth as they are 18th. Slip up against Stevenage and Crawley Town in the next week at your peril, then.

It was an unchanged side from last weekend’s visit of Plymouth Argyle, that didn’t take anyone by surprise.

However, it was clear after minutes of Town’s latest game that Keshi Anderson didn’t possess his usual flair – we haven’t seen it since he picked up a hamstring injury at Cambridge United, mind.

Crewe dictated possession. Dion Donohue stood no chance against the on-form Perry Ng, Tom Lowery and Owen Dale.

Twenty-year-old Dale, in particular, caught the eye before he was substituted with six minutes of play remaining.

It prompted a change, a change that worked – but only briefly.

On the whole, Town were defensively flat. There were no great dashing runs through midfield by Lloyd Isgrove or Jordan Lyden.

Doyle netted a goal, but was kept quiet otherwise. And Jerry Yates’ involvement was minimal.

The transformation of the team in recent weeks has been remarkable, but not in the way you’d want it to be.

Fans have gone from watching a free-flowing, confidence-powered and simply dominant squad crumble. They’ve not collapsed – another poor five games would confirm that.

But the spark has, without question, been temporarily lost.

Wellens is right to say a winning run will occur. But in a world where almost anything can be accessed instantly, fans want exactly that – an instant response.

Stevenage present that golden opportunity.

No changes were made by Wellens following last week’s 1-1 draw at home to the Pilgrims.

Diallang Jaiyesimi did, however, make the bench after months out with an ankle injury.

Five minutes hadn’t passed before Town were first put on the backfoot.

Smart build-up play on the edge of the visitors’ 18-yard box granted dangerous winger Charlie Kirk possession, his pass to Harry Pickering was delicately directed towards Benda’s bottom right corner.

But the German goalkeeper quickly got low to excellently guide the hosts’ first effort wide.

While that was Crewe’s only serious attempt of the game’s opening half-hour, they pressed hard during that period – Town were dominated and had no answer.

It prompted a change – Anderson departed for Danny Rose with just 33 minutes on the board.

Anderson wasn’t the only player to depart the pitch prematurely. Crewe’s Nicky Hunt was replaced by former Swindon captain Olly Lancashire with 16 minutes on the clock.

Against the run of play, Doyle notched Swindon’s opener.

An excellent turn after receiving the ball from Lyden on the penalty spot granted the Irishman the split-second he needed to fire the ball into Will Jaaskelainen’s bottom far corner – an excellent goal.

Crewe’s threat remained right up until the conclusion of four minutes of stoppage time, though.

Dale and Kirk squandered chances as Town found themselves fortunate to be a goal up. Crewe that started the second half brighter.

Chris Porter headed a corner over before Ng went close too – the right-back’s effort crashed into Benda’s side netting, although it took half the ground a heart-stopping second to work that out.

Pressure eventually told, and Porter levelled the game after latching onto Lowery’s excellent cross after Mathieu Baudry’s clearance fell to his feet.

There was a definite lull to the game after this – and it lasted some 15 minutes.

Dion Donohue had a chance to put Town back ahead, but Jaaskelainen made a comfortable two-handed save.

Four cheap yellow cards were then awarded – Kaiyne Woolery, Rose and Doyle went into the book for fouls, while Lyden’s card followed his handling of the ball amid protests for a foul and he will now miss Tuesday’s visit of Stevenage.

It was evident Crewe were back in the game’s driving seat, and it told when Porter netted the game’s winning goal despite Benda made a superb initial save.

Kirk then confirmed Crewe’s three points when scoring after Rob Hunt made a shuddering defensive error.

With struggling Stevenage set to visit SN1 on Tuesday, pressure is quickly building on the County Ground outfit.