After two draws and two defeats in their last four outings, Swindon will be hoping to snap back into form in their next two games.
Saturday’s first round FA Cup tie at Plymouth and Tuesday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern quarter final clash at home to Brentford provide the Robins with a chance to forget the recent League One disappointments.
The Town squad, depleted by injuries and low on confidence, will hope to earn encouraging results and provide positive performances that will revive their flagging season.
So far, every time the club and its supporters believe that the next win will propel them up amongst the leaders, a poor score on the back of mistake-ridden play has let them down.
Whilst there have been heartening individual displays in each of the recent games, and compelling comebacks against Argyle, Peterborough and Yeovil, Tuesday’s apologetic acquiescence against Charlton showed none of that fight and determination. Unusually of late, Swindon started brightly and Charlie Austin constantly ensured the Addicks’ defence were alert, but once Phil Parkinson’s team had secured the lead they strangled Swindon into submission and fully deserved their victory.
Whilst there may be an element of bad luck with injuries in crucial positions, such as central midfield where Simon Ferry and Jonathan Douglas are both missing, and at the back where Millwall loannee Andy Frampton looked set to bring some much-needed experience and organisation to an increasingly uncertain defence, it is the tactical response that is unfortunately lacking.
Although the players must shoulder a lot of the responsibility for the situation, manager Danny Wilson must also accept much of the blame. Without the support of Ferry and Douglas, David Prutton still had a solid game against Charlton, but the recall of Michael Timlin from Southend was clearly a game too late. Jon-Paul McGovern is always doggedly determined but is like a fish out of water unless he plays wide on the right.
Furthermore, the three substitutes were all like-for-like and the back four was unchanged for the entire 90 minutes; where was the ambition? We could have sacrificed young Nathan Thompson and bolstered the attack with a 3-4-3 formation. No wonder sections of the home crowd were booing Wilson and a minority calling for his head; bulletin boards and forums have been scathing in their assessment of his team selections and lack of ideas.
Unfortunately, but certainly out of necessity, Wilson really does need a back-to-basics approach that will restore the players’ confidence in their own abilities and rejuvenate the entire club. Plymouth is a team not dissimilar to Swindon, having not yet realised the expectations placed upon it at the start of the season.
Both teams are lacking consistency, with injuries and suspensions playing their part and, although the Pilgrims enjoyed a win in midweek, Peter Reid has warned his side to beware the ‘wounded animal’. Following that analogy, hopefully Swindon will be seeing red, wearing red and, subsequently, painting the town red.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.