With October rapidly approaching and the season almost two months down, now is the time for teams to really demonstrate where they’ll be aiming when, before we know it, the issues of promotion and relegation are truly contested.
Having surprised fans, opposition and commentators alike by reaching Wembley in the play-offs last season, expectation was greater at the start of this campaign.
Despite losing the prolific Billy Paynter, Gordon Greer and the services of Bolton youngster Danny Ward, everyone around the club wanted to erase the disappointment of not performing against Millwall and push on.
The club has strengthened its squad by retaining the likes of Jonathan Douglas, Simon Ferry and Alan Sheehan while adding the experience of David Prutton, the enigmatic Togolese Thomas Dossevi and the exhilarating youth of Manchester City loanee David Ball.
Of course, changes of personnel in key areas can mean a period of settling in, but everyone wants their team to burst out of the blocks from the first whistle.
After an indifferent start, Town have finally found some form and are unbeaten in the last four matches in all competitions.
Crucially, in three of those games, no goals were conceded by a defence that has begun to look increasingly solid as the relationship between centre pairing Scott Cuthbert and Sean Morrison shows signs of flourishing.
And so, having risen from the foot to mid-table, now is the time for Danny Wilson’s side to express its prowess, validate its footballing credentials and stake its claim for a top position.
Two home fixtures over the next few days, against high-flying Huddersfield and an inconsistent Plymouth Argyle, could potentially see the club climb into a play-off position. Indeed, 15 points would not only leave Swindon within touching distance of the top teams, but would mean the club remaining unbeaten for the whole of September too.
There’s no doubt that this quest for six more points will not be easy.
The Terriers were a potent attacking force last season, seemingly scoring goals for fun on their way to a play-off place, and have started this season in a similar vein.
Currently top of the table, Lee Clark has moulded a tough, resilient team truly befitting the stereotypical northern image and Huddersfield are again likely to be there at the death.
Three days later, the County Ground will entertain Peter Reid’s relegated Pilgrims, themselves trying to put their season onto a more positive track following only one win in their last six.
With the defence beginning to gel, the key for Swindon will be how the team respond going forward. The weight of expectation on Charlie Austin’s shoulders was immense prior to his dislocation of one of them against Southampton but he was delivering goals.
It is important that Vincent Pericard strives to be a dominant presence whilst helping Dossevi to adjust quickly to the pace of English football. If that relationship begins to click, Swindon’s aim to be among the leaders will be realised and its aspiration to be in the hunt for promotion may yet prove realistic.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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