“The goal that we gave away was almost laughable because we don't get goals given to us like that”, said Michael Flynn after Swindon Town’s 1-0 defeat against Bradford City in League Two.

Three days later, Lewis Ward said something similar after a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Reading in the EFL Trophy, “We have to learn from those goals because they were not good enough. That is one of the things we have to cut out even with the first-team boys, we have to cut out the silly goals.”

In a crazy League Two season that has seen an average of 3.06 goals in every game, Town’s 18 goals conceded is actually the ninth fewest in the division, but it is seven more than they had conceded at this stage last season and eight more than at this stage of 2021/22.

In fact, when playing in the fourth tier, no Swindon team has ever conceded more than 18 goals after 12 matches, with the 1984/85 vintage the only ones who have matched them to this point.

With those stats to mind, is it conceivable that the secret to Swindon continuing to succeed is as simple as to, “take our chances and not give silly goals away”, as Flynn has suggested?

None of this is meant to suggest that Swindon are inherently flawed defensively, as has previously been written about, the aggressive style out of possession has actually been a positive aspect of their game. That style adds more than it detracts, but no solution in football is perfect. With that said, I am about to grab a big, ol’ magnifying glass and take a good, hard look at the imperfections.

To try and figure out if errors were a constant Achilles heel, I decided to watch back every goal that Swindon have conceded this season and attempt to diagnose what was the cause of each goal. This is not something I would recommend for your general peace of mind, after watching each goal multiple times I am booked to begin therapy next week. The workings are far from scientific, but they did produce some notable patterns.

Out of the 18 goals conceded, five of them were attributable to errors, and actually, if those goals were taken away then Town would have taken five more points this season, earning wins against Wrexham and Morecambe, as well as a point at Valley Parade.

However, five goals have been conceded as a result of poor marking, something which Flynn pointed out at Notts County, and seven more came from an inability to defend crosses into the box. A cross is being used here as an umbrella term for any ball into the box, these goals include four from open play, two long throws, and one corner.

Often these goals from crossing situations could equally be classed as acts of poor marking but went down as crosses as they directly came from these positions but note that they are often similar.

Some readers questioned after the initial pressing piece whether there was a flip side in which Swindon had been caught out trying to win the ball high up. The answer to that is that only one goal was actually conceded from a counterattack. However, many of these goals have come from positions where opposition players have been able to escape their markers, often caught too far upfield, and create a numerical overload.

When implementing a defensive system that relies upon man-marking, the moments when someone is even slightly out of position are going to be costly. All season, Swindon have only conceded five goals to opposition strikers, one of which was Macaulay Langstaff’s penalty, it has been deeper players getting away from their markers that have been a much bigger issue.

Using Notts County’s opener as an example of these situations, you can see the struggles Swindon have faced.

Many have criticised Remeao Hutton’s defending for this goal, but there was more than a slice of misfortune in this and it was only a problem because of the poor marking ahead of him.

Swindon Advertiser: Khan is responsible for marking McGoldrickKhan is responsible for marking McGoldrick (Image: YouTube, Swindon Town)

In the build-up to this goal, David McGoldrick dropped deep and after Udoka Godwin-Malife followed him into midfield, he and Saidou Khan swapped over the players they were responsible for to allow the centre-back to drop back in.

Swindon Advertiser: Khan is now goal side, but loses track of McGoldrickKhan is now goal side, but loses track of McGoldrick (Image: YouTube, Swindon Town)

However, as Jodi Jones squares up to Hutton, Khan is caught ball-watching, noticing this like the wily, old fox that he is, McGoldrick makes a blindside run beyond him and into the free space, which Swindon were initially happy to leave as they should be in a strong position to prevent it from being exploited.

Swindon Advertiser: McGoldrick gets in behind to put Swindon 1-0 downMcGoldrick gets in behind to put Swindon 1-0 down (Image: YouTube, Swindon Town)

After some ricochets off the shins of Jones and Hutton, the ball falls kindly for the County man, McGoldrick has got beyond Khan, and he can be played into the box to dink the ball beyond Murphy Mahoney.

It only took a short lapse in concentration from Khan, but it set about a series of events that left Swindon with a mountain to climb. Khan is far from the only one to have been guilty of this this season, but in this scenario, it was his man who got away from him.

You could argue that when Flynn is referring to “silly errors”, it is these situations that he is talking about, but this goes beyond a missed tackle or miscommunication, and at what point does something go beyond individual errors and into the realms of a problem?

Leaving that Football Cliches question to one side, since that game at Meadow Lane, Flynn has spoken about working hard to prevent these situations and neither Bradford nor Newport County have been able to exploit this in the same way. This fact gives cause for optimism, as it shows that Town are learning and working hard to stop the things which have created difficulties previously.

The general play this season and the goals that have been scored have been a joy to watch and if goals like this can be minimised then there is every chance that this could become a special campaign. Playing this way, you are never going to get lapses in concentration to zero, but if they can be kept at a manageable level then it can be incredibly beneficial.

Even in a league that has gone goal crazy, it would be nice if Swindon could be one of the sane ones.