Robins need to improve - and quickly

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How many times this season have Town fans questioned whether the next game is the crucial, crunch match that either kick-starts or defines their season?

Several games have meant to be both; the home league wins against Southampton and Bristol Rovers and the away win at Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup first round. Whilst the victory over Saints came amidst a five-game unbeaten run, they’ve all proven to be false dawns, ultimately unsustained.

And three months in to an inconsistent season, where some performances have suggested that the players have been simply arranged in higgledy-piggledy fashion, it is no wonder that many supporters feel frustrated.

A great home triumph over Colchester has been followed up with the topsy-turvy draw at Spotland and an abject display in defeat to Notts County: one solitary point from two matches against struggling promoted sides, both of whom were below them in the table at kick-off and supposedly short on confidence after a run of bad results.

The players know it’s not good enough. The manager knows it’s not good enough. Then you find your next game is the reward for that truly excellent display at Plymouth, Friday night’s televised FA Cup second round match away to a team that are flying high in the Blue Square Premier division having scored seven goals in their last game. Some reward that! It is a game that, in many respects, the team can’t win.

If Danny Wilson’s men do succeed on the night, and a draw or victory will definitely mean Swindon had to play well, it will be a timely morale boost. Yet the records will simply show that a League 1 side defeated a non-league outfit.

Only a win backed up by positive subsequent displays and results will suggest that the Robins have turned a corner. If, however, they are knocked out of the cup, not only will Town have once again been beaten by a “lesser” side, the dissenting voices in the stands and online will only get louder.

A cross-roads? It feels like everyone connected with the club, whether staff or supporters, is trying to cross Spaghetti Junction blind-folded. If Swindon do manage to negotiate their tricky non-league opponents, the five opponents to face before the end of 2010 are by no means easy.

Sheffield Wednesday are up next, fourth in the table after five wins on the spin. After that it’s Oldham, unbeaten in three; Tranmere, with three one-nil victories before Tuesday’s blip against Hartlepool; Exeter, unbeaten in three games and boosted by three goals in twelve late minutes to draw three-all with the Latics in midweek.

Finally, we have Peterborough, as erratic as Swindon but having beaten the Reds at London Road recently by the odd goal in nine! If that’s not enough, the Robins see in the new year by entertaining third-placed Bournemouth.

Will we still be asking the same questions in January? What about March, or April? I’m keeping my fingers well and truly crossed that tonight proves to be the night that the team respond, and answer them with an emphatic, resounding “NO!”

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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Danny Wilson
League One

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