Away day defeat for Stevenage at Swindon
- Credit: Archant
SWINDON Town will be vying for a play-off place again this season if this performance is anything to go by, but for Boro it was a second defeat in their opening two league matches.
Swindon Town 1 Stevenage 0
Sky Bet League 1
It was a lacklustre first-half display that lacked the vim of Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup win over Ipswich Town, but there were signs that this latest Graham Westley side is beginning to replicate the traits of old – none more so than in a strong finish to the game, usually as other teams begin to wilt.
Here, though, it was too little too late. Afterwards Greg Tansey said had the game gone on a little longer his side would have scored an equaliser and he is probably right.
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Yet Swindon also had two very good chances themselves to take the lead before they did so in the 25th minute.
Westley named an unchanged starting XI from the midweek cup win, but on the bench there were five changes as in came James Dunne and Jimmy Smith, both following injury, Dani Lopez, following suspension, and Ben Smith, a goalkeeper on non-contract terms.
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Swindon scored seven goals in two games against Boro last season without reply, and they almost made it eight consecutive goals against Stevenage in the opening minutes with Tijane Reis setting up Andy Williams.
The striker was one of three well-placed Swindon players unmarked in the box but his shot was closed down by Sam Wedgbury leaving Town’s attackers to appeal unsuccessfully for a penalty.
That first chance was followed soon afterwards by another, but this time Williams could not beat Steve Arnold in the Stevenage goal.
A third, if somewhat less threatening, opportunity presented itself to the hosts from a corner, but Grant Hall headed over.
Arnold, though, was soon left to pick the ball out of his net as Swindon took a deserved lead. The hosts made 20 or so passes before Massimo Luongo, central and in space 22 yards from goal, fired past the Boro goalkeeper.
Oumare Tounkara suddenly found himself unshackled by the home defenders and he struck a good shot at goal which was initially fumbled by Wes Foderingham before the goalkeeper beat Jordan Burrow to the loose ball in what was Boro’s only chance of the opening period.
With a strong bench at his disposal the Stevenage manager made two changes within 12 minutes of the start of the second period with Dunne and Lopez, who was sent off here in the penultimate match of last season, replacing Simon Heslop and Burrow.
The changes gave Stevenage some impetus and Lopez’s striker partner, Tounkara, was the architect of the next move.
The striker, back on the pitch following a slight injury, picked up the ball, took it past four players before back-heeling to Luke Freeman. The winger, seeing Tansey free, set up his team-mate but the midfielder’s shot from 15 yards was wayward.
The next change was enforced, Filipe Morais picking up a knock and being replaced by Robin Shroot. The substitute then used his guile to almost set up Lopez for the equaliser, his delicious cross into the box teeing up the striker who could not get enough on it as he flicked the ball out of play.
Swindon substitute Alex Smith, who was on loan with Stevenage at the end of last season, then had a shot from distance, his dipping effort going just over Arnold’s bar, while Luongo hit an effort from 25 yards straight at the Boro goalkeeper.
With just a minute left of normal time, Boro almost pulled back level. Tansey’s free-kick up to Darius Charles saw the defender knock down the ball to Freeman but although the winger, now playing more centrally, turned and fired at goal, he could only hit the side-netting.
Swindon took the points – and they’ll take plenty this season – but for Boro it was a case of what might have been.
Next up are free-scoring Leyton Orient on Saturday – at home, Stevenage will be expecting to do better.
Swindon Town (4-3-3): Foderingham 6; N Thompson 7, Byrne 7, Ward 6, Hall 6; Kasim 6, Harley 6 (L Thompson 90); Luongo 7; Reis 7 (A Smith 79), Storey 6, Williams 7. Subs: Belford, McEveley, Waldon, Barthram, Archibald-Henville.
Stevenage (4-4-2): Arnold 6; Wedgbury 6, Hills 5, Ashton 7, Charles 6; Morais 6 (Shroot 68 6), Heslop 6 (Dunne 49, 6), Tansey 6, Freeman 6; Tounkara 6, Burrow 5 (Lopez 57, 6). Subs: B Smith, Haber, Hartley, J Smith.
Ref: D Whitestone