Despite not holding onto a well earned lead, Swindon Town can be pleased with a much-improved performance at Crawley’s Broadfield Stadium in the FA Cup. Given both sides’ recent form, the match was always going to be tough for Town but, to their credit, the players pulled together and put in a solid display.
Danny Wilson, criticised in some quarters for tactical deficiencies, made three changes from the starting 11 that played poorly at Rochdale and Notts County. Fit again Vincent Pericard replaced Thomas Dossevi up front and John-Paul McGovern returned to midfield on his favoured right-hand side, with Michael Timlin moving into the centre replacing the injured Jonathan Douglas.
Scotland’s Paul Caddis played superbly at right back, with Scott Cuthbert moving back into the centre at the expense of the luckless Lecsinel Jean-Francois.
The home side started brightly with the slight Sergio Torres seeing a lot of the ball. Swindon defended solidly across the pitch and ex-Red Devil Phil Smith had little to trouble him throughout the first half. His opposite number Michel Kuipers, however, looked less than comfortable in the freezing conditions, dithering lots and hacking clearances wide several times when hassled by, in particular, Charlie Austin.
As the first half wore on, the League One side asserted their dominance and created the best chances. The clearest fell to Matt Richie, whose low drive came back off the upright and hit the Crawley keeper, only to rebound back off the woodwork on its way behind for what should have been a corner, but was mysteriously given as a goal-kick. Soon after, Austin forced Kuipers into a great reaction save from a close range volley.
Crawley didn’t buckle, however, and started the second half forcefully, aided by some sloppy, ineffective Robins football. Under attack from the whistle, Swindon either failed to play their way out of tight corners or hit it long. In both cases, the home side was able to resume the offensive and Town struggled to relieve the pressure; during this period, Smith was required to make the save of the game to deny the prolific Matt Tubbs.
Danny Wilson later praised his team’s ‘mettle’ and, weathering the early storm, took the lead following a concerted spell of their own. Following a succession of corners, where goal-bound efforts from Ritchie, Cuthbert and Sean Morrison were repelled, the ball eventually fell to Charlie Austin whose super swivel and firm shot found the back of the net through a crowd of legs.
Even though Tubbs, like Austin a former Salisbury City player, equalised just ten minutes later with a sweet, outside-of-the-boot shot that left Smith reaching for air, his finish was out of the blue somewhat. Having gained the initiative and the lead, Swindon kept their composure and didn’t really look like losing it until the effervescent Torres slipped Tubbs through.
Although many reports will rightly show that Tubbs earned his Blue Square Premier side a replay with his exquisite finish - his 17th goal of the season – Swindon will be grateful for the opportunity to fight another day at the County Ground. And, with the tie definitely still up for grabs, the incentive of knowing their next cup opponents will certainly drive them on.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.