After a poor run of results punctuated by some dreadful performances, matters came to a head after the midweek capitulation against Charlton.
Danny Wilson locked his players in the changing rooms following that game, presumably to hold an inquest into recent displays, stop the rot, and move forward. Even so, that didn’t stop message boards being blighted by comments calling for his head.
The F.A. Cup and a trip to Plymouth provided a welcome distraction from the team’s poor league form, and a chance for the players to respond. Late last week Wilson, who wouldn’t be drawn on what was said after Tuesday’s game, confirmed that his squad had worked hard in training.
Wilson himself had to react also, recalling Michael Timlin from Southend and promising a confidence restoring return to the fundamental aspects of football.
Although Peter Reid prepared his players for a backlash, even he could not have predicted the manner in which his Pilgrims would be comprehensively outfought, outplayed and knocked out of the cup. Wilson was ecstatic and wanted to offer his critics a riposte: “The [team’s] character was there to be answered and I think we've proved it.”
Not only were the travelling Swindon fans treated to a comfortable victory and a determined performance on the field, but also the thoroughly encouraging sight of Argyle fans leaving well before the ninety minutes was up.
Right from the outset, in their change strip of all black, the Robins set about dominating in every area of the pitch…and succeeded. Both managers were frank in their post-match assessments and in no doubt as to who deserved to be in the draw for round two. Wilson described his side’s play as ‘absolutely magnificent’ and added: “That was as comprehensive as you'll get in a football match.”
Reid, for his part, offered no excuses despite injuries, suspensions and a first-half red card. “We were second best all over the pitch. It was men against boys really. We got well and truly beaten. Their defenders bossed out attackers, their attackers bossed our defenders and they won balls in the middle of the park.”
A real plus for Swindon was the fact that, despite talk of low confidence and too much inexperience, the win was secured with a team that did not alter very much from recent games. Timlin slotted into the centre of the park to bolster the side in the middle, and Jon-Paul McGovern reverted to the right side where he has always been most effective.
And there were other positives too. Another bonus was the return from injury of Haitian Lecsinel Jean-Francois; he was, surprisingly, the only change in a much-criticised back four.
Clearly the whole team wanted to prove their worth and demonstrate they are better than recent displays have suggested. Four goals from four different players, with both starting strikers scoring, and a clean sheet was the perfect reward for a team pulling together under pressure.
The squad has shown what it is capable of given the right application. Now, the whole football club will be hoping that it can kick-on from here and translate this result into consistent league form too.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.