Thank heavens for Charlie Austin: 17-goal man

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With the football season almost half done, Npower League One remains a tight division. Only 11 points separates the playoff positions from the relegation zone. Hartlepool have shown in recent weeks what a string of wins can do for team confidence and league position; despite a comprehensive defeat last Monday, Pools are two points from sixth place with a game in hand.

Swindon’s season seems to have been a series of false dawns. Town have earned some impressive victories over promotion-chasing teams that are often talked about; Huddersfield, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday and Colchester. The manager, the team and the fans expected a strong sequence of results following these games but, frustratingly, these never came. Instead, these triumphs were punctuated by draws and defeats by teams similarly treading water near the bottom.

There is certainly a hangover from last season. Expectations of a repeat were definitely high at the start and on the terraces, perhaps unfairly, this outlook has prevailed. The collective desire remains unfulfilled.

Inconsistency has clearly blighted the Robins’ challenge. Even the three games over Christmas and New Year brought a mixed trio of results; a home draw and defeat followed by an away win. At least the performances were largely encouraging.

Analysing the reasons for unpredictability is not easy. Injuries and suspensions have played a part but they affect every team now and again. The bad weather during December didn’t help match preparations but, again, the whole of the division has similarly suffered. The squad is pretty young and Danny Wilson has, arguably, been unable to replace the experience of Billy Paynter and Gordon Greer from last year’s Wembley-bound team.

Wilson has been forced to tinker with his team selection and will no doubt continue to do so. What is clear is his faith in the players that are at his disposal and rightly so, there is depth for this level in several positions. When reinforcements were needed Michael Timlin was brought back from his loan at Southend. January has seen Andy Frampton’s loan extended, while Matt Ritchie’s switch from Portsmouth is being made permanent.

Key to what happens next is 17-goal talisman Charlie Austin. Given that a shoulder injury interrupted his season his strike rate is incredible; since returning to the first eleven, in the thirteen games where Swindon have scored, he has only failed to find the net once. His continued presence at the County Ground is crucial.

Yet Austin has earned his reputation, the plaudits and his suitors. He fully deserves the opportunity to test his ability at a higher level. No Swindon fan will begrudge him a move and most are resigned to losing him. Their hope is simply that the club receives a fair price that enables Wilson to bolster his playing staff with quality.

Swindon must kick on following the fantastic win at the Valley. 18th place is only six points above the relegation zone but it is also only six points off Charlton’s own 5th place. While Austin remains a Robin Swindon certainly have a better chance of achieving that playoff aim. Whatever happens, there is plenty of time for twists and turns yet!

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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Charlie Austin
League One
Swindon Town

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