Well, a win is indeed a win and that’s all that matters. It would have been unacceptable to lose five on the bounce and Blackpool were a poor side. Let’s not kid ourselves that a 1-0 win via a goal that could easily have been disallowed is a sign that everything’s hunky dory.
This forthcoming game against a resurgent Swindon Town side who’ll be backed by a large away following is going to be a much sterner test of our play-off credentials. They may be seven places below is in the league but are in much better form, scoring goals and will still believe that they can still get into the play-offs. If we win this game, it’s time to believe again. If we don’t, then we’re entering the ‘hail Mary’ stage of salvaging our season.
Whether we can take anything from the Blackpool game aside from the points is debatable. Having Aaron Martin back and looking like the player he was before the injury was nice, but still we gave a poor Blackpool side some good chances to score. Marc-Antoine Fortuné had his fourth good game for the club out of 20 league appearances, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
In defence, we’re having to deal with the injury to Chris Stokes, although he’s not out for the season, the campaign could effectively be over by the time he returns in around about a month. Sam Ricketts seems like the most natural replacement, although I’m not sure I’m too happy about him playing out-of-position against a free-flowing attacking side. The alternative is another out-of-position player in Stephen Hunt, which should really be a non-starter (literally). Mowbray has talked about bringing in another loan player for this position, which is odd considering we could do with using that loan slot elsewhere and we have Ryan Haynes out on loan who we could recall.
Further forward, it’s once again a case of deciding who is in form and smushing them into a coherent line-up with Marc-Antoine Fortuné on top. Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong look like being in the best form out of our current options but both could do with a goal. Maddison has been out-of-sorts in recent weeks but it’s then a choice of a Joe Cole in the midst of an existential crisis or Ruben Lameiras who blows hot and cold.
Last Time We Met
I usually try to avoid mentioning these kind of things because I don’t think they have too much of an effect on individual games of football, but we have an awful record against Swindon. It’s not a mystery as to why over recent given that Swindon have simply been a better team than us, although last time was probably the exception.
It wasn’t a great performance at the County Ground but we sure enough took the lead through Romain Vincelot after a lapse in concentration from Swindon’s keeper Lawrence Vigouroux. Marcus Tudgay gave us what looked to be an unassailable lead 10 minutes from time after scoring the rebound from his own penalty miss. We sat back though a little too much and were punished for it, Ben Gladwin smacked in a great effort from just outside the box before Nicky Ajose scored from the spot in stoppage time after Aaron Martin and Aaron Phillips contrived to give away a penalty at the death.
How Are They Doing?
Back in October, Swindon were managed by their chairman, Lee Power, following the sacking of Mark Cooper, the man who ostensibly led them into the play-offs last season. I say ostensibly, because Cooper was reportedly merely the front man for Lee Power who signed the players and Luke Williams who coached them.
Swindon have decided to dispense with this third wheel in their well-oiled machine following the surprise departure of Martin Ling after two months in charge. Williams is now the organ grinder and the monkey, having accepted the role of manager reluctantly and subsequently being tied down to a five-year deal.
Williams though has proven to be a pretty good manager in addition to being the coach who turned the likes of Nathan Byrne, Massimo Luongo and Ben Gladwin from freebies into multi-million pound players. Restoring the possession-oriented approach of the last two seasons, Swindon under Williams have seen the goals flow in as they’ve risen away from relegation danger and into a late play-off push.
Nicky Ajose is the man in the limelight with an excellent return of 21 goals this season for a player who has previously struggled for consistency. Jon Obika is another pacey forward alongside Ajose who’ll relish running at our slow backline, he has 11 for the season. Midfielder Michael Doughty is on four having joined in January on loan from QPR, a spell which has coincided with their upturn in form.
Doughty, alongside midfielders Fabien Robert and Louis Thompson make up a strong central unit who could monopolise the ball in this fixture. Thompson is the legs of the midfield, with Doughty and Robert the more technical operators. Robert possesses a fearsome shot from long range and set-pieces.
Williams is still deciding whether he prefers a three or four-man backline, having flickered between the two over the past couple of months. Whatever defensive set-up he choses, Nathan Thompson (older brother of Louis) will be crucial. Not the biggest defender, he’s mobile and can play the ball out from the back adeptly while also being a cynical so-and-so who can dive, kick and time waste with the best of them. Expect full/wing-backs Bradley (Gareth’s nephew) Barry and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill to get forward with every opportunity to stretch the game.
If you ignore the league table, then there’s no way that Swindon aren’t favourites for this game. In fact, the nature of where the two teams sit in the league table with Swindon playing for their season and us trying to hold onto our spot swings things further in Swindon’s favour. Add to that a large (not quite 5,000 though) away following, our terrible record against Swindon and our awful record at the Ricoh Arena since the turn of the year, then there can only be one winner in this game.
I’m sorry if this isn’t very positive but I can’t ignore so many of those things stacked against us heading into this game. The team right now simply doesn’t have the mental strength or confidence to overcome so many negative factors. A 3-0 defeat is coming.