Date: 21 January 2006
As a Moonraker myself, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Swindon, the only Wiltshire club in the league. But I have to admit they're a very poor side this season, and with a low level of support. (What a lot of empty seats!) So they did not deserve to beat anyone 4-2, which is the score with which we gifted them through an inept performance.
Stewart had a dreadful game, getting worse and worse until he left the goalmouth wide open for Swindon's fourth (the ultimate nail in the Bournemouth coffin) on 90 minutes. Our midfield had no idea at all. Browning-Tindall in the centre was even worse than Purches-Tindall the week before: Browning had another poor game while Tindall was accurately described by someone, later, as a "headless chicken." Purches had nothing to offer on the wing either, so our only midfielder of any value was the on-loan Foley, which doesn't bode well for the future if Foley doesn't sign permanently. It's not as if we can even blame injuries when it comes to the midfield - except possibly for the lightweight Cooke. Coutts stayed on the bench for the ninety minutes despite having played better, last week, than three out of four midfielders today. Ironically our four midfielders when we won 3-0 at Swindon just ten short months ago - Elliott, Stock, Spicer, O'Connor - were all involved this afternoon in the Burnley vs Preston fixture at Turf Moor (though not all at the same time).
So are there any positives to take out of the game? Well, Rodrigues was much improved since the Rotherham game. Hayter and the back four were pretty reliable. The attacking way we played from early in the second half, when O'Connor moved up to right midfield and at times, with Foley, virtually became part of the forward line, looked very positive. At least it shows what could be achieved with a little more derring-do.
The sequence in which the goals were scored, was as follows: Cureton scored late in the first half. Then, within a few minutes of the start of the second, Swindon were 2-0 up despite Stewart blocking the initial shot. So we switched to 3-5-2, or even 3-3-4 as described in the last paragraph, and quickly got a goal back. (Hayter crossed to Rodrigues, on his left, who scored an excellent goal from a very acute angle right in front of the Bournemouth supporters.) Then we were awarded a penalty (although, curiously, the offending Swindon player only got a yellow card not a red) and Hayter efficiently drove the ball low into the corner of the net to his left. But as we continued to push forward for the Bournemouth winner, which fans on both sides now foresaw as the most likely scenario, Swindon scored their third on the break. We made two utterly pointless substitutions (Pitman for Rodrigues and Howe for Tindall) in the last five minutes of the game and, at the death, Swindon scored - yet again on the break - to produce a scoreline that flattered them, but a result that - on the day - they deserved.
The resulting damage wasn't as bad as feared: we've only slipped one place down the league table from 9th to 10th, and from four points behind the play-offs to six points. But we'll slip a lot further if we don't urgently address The Midfield Problem and start attacking the opposition's goal - from the first minute of the match - as though we genuinely want to win.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
O'Connor (7), Young (7), Cooper (7), Hart (7);
Purches (6), Browning (6), Tindall (5), Foley (8);
Hayter (7), Rodrigues (7).