Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No Plan B

A superb opening day victory over Crewe gave Swindon fans new-found optimism that we could return to League One at the first time of asking. However, successive defeats away to Cheltenham and Dagenham & Redbridge have been a harsh reminder that League Two is no walk in the park.

In spite of the win over Crewe, it wasn't always plain sailing first half; Town were somewhat fortunate to head into the break with a lead, through a Callum Kennedy penalty. Swindon certainly upped the anti second half  and began to play football at a much higher tempo. Goals from Oliver Risser and Aden Flint provided an empathic win which provided Town fans with optimism. This optimism has been going down like the Titanic ever since.

Paolo Di Canio's philosophy is clearly to play good football and pass the ball round. An unusual game plan in this league with most teams looking to have a physical presence on their opposition. This approach isn't too dissimilar to that of Crewe, who have the likes of Byron Moore providing creativity.

Swindon took the same game plan to Whaddon Road for a game versus Cheltenham. On the whole, they struggled to break down an organised and resilient side and were largely limited to hopeful, long-range shots. Heading towards the end of the game, Swindon turned to 'Plan B'; long balls up to our forwards, who were comfortably sounded out by an experienced back line.

I wasn't able to make the trip to Dagenham & Redbridge so have no personal view on our performance. However, judging by reports and hear say from those who did attend, the performance sounds like a carbon copy to that at Cheltenham. Paolo Di Canio has been frank in interviews since and changes are expected for our derby clash with Oxford.

With Raffaele De Vita and Billy Bodin starting up front, we just aren't capable of executing 'Plan B' effectively. Both De Vita and Bodin look to be decent, young players with potential to improve their game. As a partnership though, the pair are just too similar; both are nimble and have quick feet but won't ever beat League Two defenders in the air. Early days admittedly, but neither look capable of scoring many more than ten a season.

Our two most successful seasons in the past decade came in 2003/04 and 2009/10; reaching the League One play-offs in both. The most stand-out thing in our squads in those seasons was our strike forces. Town favourite Sam Parkin partnered Tommy Mooney in 2003/04 bagged 19 goals each in the league. Six years later, Charlie Austin and Billy Panyter were a formidable partnership and scored 19 and 29 goals respectively.

It remains to be seen if either Alan Connell or Mehdi Kerrouche are the answer to our striking woes. Last season, Connell performed exceptionally for Conference side Grimsby and showed his goalscoring pedigree. Algerian Mehdi Kerrouche has shown his goalscoring ability throughout his career, albeit on foreign soil. Our strike force should receive a boost with QPR forward Leon Clarke poised to sign on loan.

With Danny Wilson at the helm, Swindon also looked to play football and reached the League One play-offs by doing so. Even in an otherwise awful season, our best performance away to Charlton came as a result of playing some decent football and not a long-range hoof up field. Performances like that were all too much of a rare occasion last term and Paolo Di Canio does need to ensure we avoid a repeat of last season this time round.

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