After defeats in their last two outings, Swindon find themselves back at the lower end of the table before tonight’s clash with local rivals Bristol Rovers. Victory will see the home side leapfrog the visitors on goal difference and return to a mid-table position that, in a tight division, puts them back in touching distance of the play-off spots.
Added to the spice of a derby atmosphere, all played out in front of live television cameras, is the hurt caused by two heavy defeats last season that are still fresh in the mind. As manager Danny Wilson confirmed ‘they spanked our backsides twice last year’. Rovers won 3-0 and 4-0 respectively.
In both matches, the Pirates truly lived up to their nickname with first half smash-and-grabs that netted three goals in 20 minute spells. Wilson further remarked: “The manner in which we conceded our goals last year was disappointing, so we've got to make sure it doesn't happen again and turn those results upside down.”
Paul Trollope’s side will no doubt arrive at the County Ground in an upbeat mood with the positive psychological effects of last season’s results fresh in the mind and following two recent victories. Like Swindon, Rovers recently lost to a side below them in the division, Tranmere, but also imitated their hosts by beating Huddersfield 1-0 and, last time out, Aldershot of League Two.
Trollope asserted his Bristol team will be intending to put on a performance: "We've had some fantastic encounters. We've got a lot of respect for them. They had a good season last year and just missed out at the final hurdle, but we go into the game with the belief we can go there and win."
Nevertheless, Swindon will not let Rovers have it all their own way. Despite the recent league defeats to Plymouth and Dagenham & Redbridge, Town will be buoyed by last week’s victory over Torquay in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Apart from keeping a clean sheet, that game was marked by the first senior goal by Manchester City’s 20-year old loanee David Ball.
Having started in midfield during the loss at the Daggers’ Victoria Road ground, striker Ball repaid Wilson for switching him forward with a goal after only ten minutes. His crisp right-foot shot from Vincent Pericard’s clever lay-off demonstrated the hard work clearly taking place in training and the positive relationships that the Robins’ forwards are building.
With Charlie Austin still not fully fit and Togolese Thomas Dossevi involved in his country’s African Nations Cup qualification, Ball is likely to continue up front with Pericard, who also scored against the Devon side. Hopefully, those goals will furnish the pair with enough confidence to erase the negative memories of those recent games and give the home fans something to cheer.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.