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DAN THE FAN: Best/Worst Matches of the Decade
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DAN THE FAN: Best/Worst Matches of the Decade

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With the 2010s coming to an end in a couple of weeks let’s look back over the decade and pick out some of the memorable players, managers, moments and matches that have entertained and horrified in equal measure, This week we’re looking at the best and worst matches from the past 10 years.

We’ll look at five matches in each category of best and worst with five honourable mentions also included.

Best Matches

Honourable mentions: 

10. 1st January 2013 Swindon Town 5-0 Portsmouth – League One

9. 4th August 2018 – Swindon Town 3-2 Macclesfield Town – League Two.

8. 20th September 2014 – Swindon Town 5-2 Sheffield United – League One

7. 28th August 2012 – Stoke City 3-4 Swindon Town – Capital One Cup 2nd Round

6. 26th January 2010 – Swindon Town 3-0 Leeds United – League One

5. 28th April 2012 – Swindon Town 5-0 Port Vale – League Two

This match reaching number five on the list may surprise some people as it was a very straightforward drubbing of a very poor Port Vale side, and while that is true this 90 minutes perfectly encapsulated the brilliant football on display at the County Ground throughout most of the 2011/12 season and was the result that confirmed Swindon Town would be League Two Champions.

With the game sitting at just 1-0 at half-time it wasn’t going all Town’s way but as soon as Paul Benson wrapped the game up making it 2-0 the flood doors opened with Benson adding a second, Aden Flint making it four and Alan Connell finishing it off with number five.

With Town confirming the title would be heading to Wiltshire they were presented with the trophy which Paul Caddis proudly lifted to show Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon were by far the best team in the fourth tier that season.

4. 17th May 2010 – Charlton Athletic 2-1 Swindon Town – League One Playoff Semi-Final 2nd Leg

In one of the most stressful and exciting nights I’ve experienced watching Town Danny Wilson’s side managed to progress into the Playoff Final to face Millwall after beating Charlton 5-4 on penalties.

But despite the joy and ecstasy felt by all Swindon fans at the end of the evening Town got off to a dreadful start with goalkeeper David Lucas having to go off with a shoulder injury in the first minute of the game, things went from bad to worse as Simon Ferry’s OG sees Town lose their slender advantage.

David Mooney’s well placed shot then puts the hosts in front 3-2 on aggregate on the stroke of half time, to make matters just that little bit harder for Town captain Gordon Greer is shown a straight red card for a high kick and Town look down and out, but a terrific Jon Paul McGovern run into the box is nicely finished by Danny Ward to send the game into extra time and subsequently a penalty shootout.

After both teams score with their opening spot-kicks Charlton’s Nicky Bailey blasts his penalty high and wide giving the advantage to Town, and with everyone scoring their penalties it came down to Stephen Darby to send Town to Wembley, which he does with a superb spot-kick and after two incredibly entertaining but nerve-shredding contests Swindon find themselves back at Wembley Stadium for the first time since 1993.

3. 15th November 2014 – Swindon Town 1-0 Bristol City – League One

After a couple of seasons without any real local derby’s, it makes you appreciate how special these games can be throughout a season, and one of those special occasions came in November 2014 when an unbeaten Bristol City side visited the County Ground.

Steve Cotterill’s side was 22 unbeaten run spreading over a couple of seasons and were top of League One with Town sitting in the playoffs after an encouraging start the to the season.

It was the sort of encounter you could tell would be fiery on and off the pitch as soon as you walked into the ground with both sets of fans confident their side would take all the points and the stadium at near capacity.

It wouldn’t take long for tempers to flare up, as after a small tussle off the ball Wade Elliot seemed to backward head-butt Jack Stephens resulting in the away side having to play 88 minutes of the game with 10 men.

Despite the visitors being a man down Town struggled to find a through with the home sides best chance coming from Nathan Byrne as his shot smashed off the crossbar from 25 yards.

The breakthrough came with 12 minutes left as after some excellent work from Michael Smith to make an opening for himself he slotted away the only goal of the game in front of a hysterical Town End to earn Town all the points and move Mark Cooper’s side up to 2nd place in the table.

The scenes as the full-time whistle blew were magnificent as Raphael Rossi Branco sprinted the entire length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Town End and Nathan Thompson’s iconic picture was taken of him celebrating in front of the City fans, which bizarrely resulted in some away fans reporting Thompson to the Police!

It was a landmark result in the season and showed the rest of the division Swindon Town were serious promotion contenders.

2. 3rd April 2010 – Leeds United 0-3 Swindon Town – League One

After demolishing the Yorkshire side 3-0 at the County Ground earlier in the season Town knew coming into this game they had a chance of making it a league double over the former League champions with Simon Grayson’s side not in great form and Town winning three of their last four including a well-earned point against League leaders Norwich City.

After a scrappy first half with both sides cancelling each other out, it took a superb finish from Billy Paynter to opening the scoring as Town took a 1-0 lead into half time.

Just after the break, Paynter sent the Town faithful into dreamland as another fantastic strike doubled Swindon’s lead as silenced the 26,000 home fans.

Just to complete an incredible afternoon at Elland Road seven minutes later a superb cross from Paynter was finished off calmly by Charlie Austin to complete the scoring and send Town into second in League One.

This is without a doubt one of my favourite away days following the club on the road, it seemed going into the final stretch of the season no-one gave us a chance of promotion and to visit one of the big favourites and turn them over in such style was magnificent, a day I will never forget.

1. 11th May 2015 – Swindon Town 5-5 Sheffield United – League One Playoff Semi-Final 2nd Leg

Where on earth do I start talking about this incredible game of football? 

In one of the best games seen since the playoffs started in the late eighties, Town were the ones on their way to Wembley but as in true Swindon Town fashion, they made the fans go through every emotion possible inside this hectic ninety minutes.

Town made the best start possible as they flew into a 2-0 lead thanks to Ben Gladwin’s brace before Michael Smith extended the lead on aggregate to four goals to send the County Ground wild and firmly believing Wembley was in our sights.

But Nathan Thompson’s own goal and Chris Basham’s header saw the away side reduce Town’s dominance at half time.

Town managed to regain a comfortable lead as Michael Smith nicely put away his penalty on the hour mark, but five minutes later Steven Davies put United within touching distance.

Jon Obika looked to have settled it late on making it 5-3 on the night but late goals from Matty Done and Che Adams pulled United level on the night.

After what seemed forever in added time the full-time whistle went ending one of the craziest nights seen at the County Ground and most entertaining for the neutral.

The game and overall tie set a couple of new records as it broke the record for the most goals in a single play-off match and the 13 goals in the semi-final tie surpassed the 12 that were netted in Crewe’s 9-3 aggregate win over Walsall in 1993.

It was a truly incredible night at SN1 and in my opinion the match of the decade.

Worst Matches

Dishonourable Mentions: 

10. 25th March 2012 – Chesterfield Town 2-0 Swindon Town – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final

9. 26th December 2017 – Swindon Town 0-5 Luton Town – League Two

8. 28th March 2016 – Scunthorpe United 6-0 Swindon Town – League One

7. 2nd November 2010 – Swindon Town 0-3 Charlton Athletic – League One

6. 8th November 2014 – Cheltenham Town 5-0 Swindon Town – F.A Cup 1st Round

5. 15th November 2016 – Swindon Town 1-3 Eastleigh – FA Cup 1st Round Replay

On the 10th November 2016, Lee Power had a major announcement that would be “one of the biggest appointments the club has ever made” as Tim Sherwood (a close friend of Lee Power) took the job of Director of Football at the County Ground.

This confused many Town fans as they weren’t sure how involved the former Tottenham and Aston Villa manager would be in terms of selecting the team and generally in charge of the first team on matchdays.

After a thumping 3-0 win over Charlton in League One Swindon hosted Eastleigh in an FA Cup replay a few days later, but the Sherwood honeymoon wouldn’t last long as Town find themselves 2-0 down at half-time.

Sherwood’s position at the club takes a new twist on the evening as he’s seen barking out instructions from the technical area with Head Coach Luke Williams standing behind him in the dugout.

Swindon looked rudderless throughout the evening in one of the worst performances of the season, the away side make it 3-0 with a penalty as Sherwood’s side pull back a consolation goal through Nathan Delfouneso late on.

This game is on the list because it truly was a terrible performance from everyone involved but it also encapsulates the whole Tim Sherwood situation at Swindon. No one knew what was going on and it was beyond embarrassing when he turned up on the sidelines.

After this episode, he took more of a behind the scenes role and focused on the job he should’ve been doing on the entire time with player recruitment.

His time at Swindon will forever be one of confusion and complete embarrassment for the club. The Town are ultimately relegated from League One as Sherwood distances himself from the club stating his role “wasn’t a job” and he was just helping out a friend in Lee Power. It speaks volumes that his management career as remained dormant ever since.

4. 21st August 2011 – Swindon Town 1-2 Oxf*rd United – League Two

After becoming a non-league club for a large part of the first decade in the 21st century and Town mainly competing in League One this was the first league game between the two sides in ten years as we came face to face with Oxf*rd Utd.

With the club still buzzing at the newly appointed Paolo Di Canio despite losing their last two games hopes were very high things would get back on track with a victory over the quiet neighbours.

The away side took the lead early in the first half as James Constable headed in from a corner, but Town found themselves level just eight minutes later thanks to Matt Ritchie’s headed goal from Callum Kennedy’s cross.

But Town was behind again just before half-time when Peter Leven’s parried free-kick went in off Constable’s chest.

Town was the better side throughout the game with Leon Clarke having the best opportunities to draw Town level. Di Canio was so incensed by an offside decision early on in the second half he was sent to the stands by referee Mark Haywood.

This game appears in this list simply for being a huge letdown for all Town supporters as Oxf*rd claimed their first win at the County Ground in 38 years. Simply a day every Swindon fan wants to never think about again.

3. 29th May 2010 – Millwall 1-0 Swindon Town – League One Playoff Final

After finishing the previous season in 15th promotion hopes weren’t too high for a playoff campaign during the 09/10 season but after a season full of great signings including Jonathan Douglas, Scott Cuthbert, Simon Ferry, Alan Sheehan, Danny Ward and of course the key man Charlie Austin this Town squad and manager Danny Wilson surprised everyone with a memorable campaign, which as you can see here is still thought of fondly today.

After two epic playoff semi-finals against Charlton Swindon found themselves at Wembley facing Millwall for a place back in the Championship ten years after relegation from the second tier in 2000.

Town set up with the normal 4-4-2 but the less said about the first half the better as Swindon never settled into the game with Millwall the better side and took a deserved lead six minutes before half-time.

Danny Wilson’s team selection was called into question with Kevin Amankwaah suffering huge abuse from the Millwall fans due to supposed comments he made to Neil Harris in a previous meeting between the clubs, you could see this affected Town’s right-back as he never looked comfortable in the game and should’ve come off at H-T.

With the east end side leading they sat back with Town having the better chances in the second half, after a mistake by goal scorer Paul Robinson Charlie Austin raced through on goal only for the striker to scuff his shot wide from 16 yards, as he was thwarted by a bobble on the poor Wembley pitch at the critical moment.

This moment in the game summed up a frustrating afternoon for Wilson side as they failed to threaten Millwall’s goal seriously again, and the game petered out with the Town players failing to the floor at full time.

It was an afternoon every Town fan and especially the 32,000 Swindon fans in attendance at Wembley will want to forget. Nearly ten years on it still feels like a huge opportunity that this team should’ve taken with both hands but sadly a disappointing performance saw the chance of promotion disappear for another season.

2. 24th May 2015 – Preston North End 4-0 Swindon Town – League One Playoff Final

A couple of weeks after experiencing one of the most entertaining games ever seen at the County Ground and progressing into the playoff final Town faced a huge test in Preston North End at Wembley Stadium.

Just over 20,000 Town fans made the journey to the home of football in England, the third time in just five years after our previous inclusion in this list and our losing effort to Chesterfield in the JPT Final in 2012.

After beating the Lilywhites 1-0 at the County Ground earlier in the season and Town losing at Deepdale just one month before the Town faithful knew it would be a difficult task to overcome such a talented side but had faith it could be done if certain players turned up on the day.

Sadly not one player seemed to turn up on the day let alone the ones who could make a real difference as Town suffered the worst start imaginable as captain and key player Nathan Thompson had to go off injured just after Preston had taken a third-minute lead.

With hindsight, Thompson should never have started that final and he and all parties have acknowledged that since, but it left Mark Cooper having to change his tactical plans early on in the game, but nothing he could’ve done would have stopped a much superior side in every department take Town apart piece by piece as they took a 3-0 lead into half-time with them.

I remember feeling numb at half-time knowing the game was practically over and having to watch another half of our side being humiliated in front of the whole country.

Preston added a fourth just before the hour mark which saw Town fans turning on each other and most of the Swindon fans who stuck around during half-time now making their way towards the exit.

It was a truly painful day and an awful way to end such a memorable season, which still holds many fond memories as you’ve read about already.

The aftermath of this game saw Mark Cooper’s squad sold off over that summer and never replaced with the same talent which ultimately laid the seeds for relegation in 2017.

1. 23rd April 2011 – Swindon Town 1-2 Notts County – League One

Just one month into the 2010/11 season most Town fans had the sinking feeling that this squad wouldn’t be good enough to reach the ambitions of the last campaign, in early January Town found themselves in a disappointing 17th position.

After beating Charlton 4-2 at the Valley on 3rd January Town didn’t win a league game again until Brentford away on 9th April, a run of results that cost manager Danny Wilson his job, with the club appointing Paul Hart as the new boss.

After picking up a desperately need three points against the Bees Town found themselves five points from safety going into two huge home games against Milton Keynes and Notts County, after suffering defeat to the franchise Town welcomed the Magpies knowing only three points would give them any chance of safety.

Town started the game well and took a deserved 1-0 lead thanks to on-loan midfielder Matt Ritchie, but in the second half, Hart’s side disintegrated as Alan Judge levelled things up with Lee Hughes scoring the winning goal with just five minutes left of the contest.

The level of pure spinelessness from the players and management and Hughes’ strike saw a whole season of building frustration unleashed towards clueless manager Paul Hart as stewards had to surround the dugout to stop supporters approaching the manager, but it couldn’t stop the abuse aimed at the Town boss.

During the 26 years I’ve been following Town Paul Hart is without a doubt the worst manager I’ve seen appointed at the County Ground, his tenure was one whole block of pure failure as he oversaw the clubs relegation from the third tier.

This performance and result embodied everything dreadful about the team and management and is easily one of the lowest moments I’ve experienced as a Town fan.

Finally and on an upbeat note I want to thank everyone for reading my ‘Dan the Fan’ articles throughout 2019, wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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