Saturday, July 30, 2011

Match Review- Swindon Town vs Reading

I returned to the County Ground after a four month absence for our final pre-season match against Reading. It was by far and away our toughest test of pre-season and gave us Town fans an opportunity to see how far the team has come since the arrival of boss Paolo Di Canio.

Swindon continued their good pre-season form into the first half and deservedly took the lead going into the break. Good build up play by Italian Raffaele De Vita led to Alex Pearce scoring an own goal. Matt Ritchie also had a couple of opportunities to add to the tally.

The tables turned second half with Reading showing their superior ability as Swindon made several substitutions. Paul Caddis conceded a penalty which was converted by the in-demand Shane Long. Pressure mounted on the Town defence so it was no real surprise to see Manset score the winner.

Mattia Lanzano is likely to be first choice in goal this year; however injury meant Phil Smith had an opportunity to stake a claim. Smith looked unstoppable first half, pulling off some great saves but couldn't do much about the goals he did concede. A small bobble second half was his only mistake. I am yet to see Lanzano play but if he is good enough to come in at 20 and be No. 1 then I feel we have a good prospect.

Callum Kennedy continued to impress as he bids to cement a regular place in the starting XI. Kennedy made some good runs and produce some testing crosses from the byline. Defensively he is still a little suspect although he won't be facing the likes of Jimmy Kebe every week. On the other side of defence, Paul Caddis wasn't at his best and conceding the penalty summed his game up. I would still rather see the Scot moved forward to right wing with either Kevin Amankwaah or the highly rated Nathan Thompson take the right back berth.

The heart of the defence looked solid throughout and Aden Flint in particular impressed. Having only seen him played a couple of times in a struggling team, it was hard to judge. Flint clearly has the attributes to become a top defender and alongside an experienced head in either Alberto Comazzi or Joe Devera he will improve. Joe Devera himself, had a decent game and looks a resilient defender.

Matt Ritchie has started this season just how last season finished off and deserved his man of the match award. He was at the heart in most of our attacking play and was a little unlucky not to score. One highlight was seeing him knocked down twice and still having the ball before finally getting barged over by a frustrated Reading player. Michael Timlin had a solid game although it is clear to see he isn't a wide man; he is work horse but just doesn't have the creative spark. Ibrahim Atiku had a cameo appearance from right wing, he does appear very lightweight which is definitely a concern.

Today was my first opportunity to watch captain Oliver Risser following injury. Risser appears to be a very influential and vocal player. He regularly got stuck into challenges and was aware of things around him. Jonathan Smith also had a good game and once again not shying out of tackles. Latest signing Alan McCormack joined play second half and impressed everyone with some showboating. That said he made a couple of careless passes but was solid in the middle. Simon Ferry came on late and brought a lift to a weary Town side; he wanted the ball and was willing to run when the opportunity arose.

Our strike force lacked a cutting edge today to put the sword into Reading's defence. Raffaele De Vita has impressed me more than any new signings in the games I have seen pre-season. He certainly doesn't lack effort and is an intelligent player. Alan Connell looked very off the pace today and had he been more alert would have scored at least one. One factor to consider is that he joined Swindon late so has not had the rigorous training schedules his team-mates have had.

On reflection on this game I would expect at worse Swindon to finish in the play-offs. Paolo Di Canio has signalled his intent to bring another striker in and is something we definitely need. The need for a winger is likely to depend on how long Etienne Esajis is sidelined for. I also suspect Di Canio will turn to old boss Harry Redknapp for a loan or two in a quest to find the next Danny Ward.

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