Town’s unpredictable start to the new season gathered new momentum this past week as both performances showed the very best and worst of this current Swindon side.
Saturday’s League One clash with Peterborough United and Tuesday evening’s Leasing.com Trophy game against Exeter City emphasised how much talent Richie Wellens has signed over the summer in attacking areas, but also how much work is needed at the back.
This was evident last night as Town lost their third cup game of the season, this time against the Grecians, with the away side running out 4-3 winners, but the scoreline is deceiving as Wellens’ side were well beaten.
Last week I mentioned if we weren’t able to bring in another centre-back it wouldn’t be an issue, with the defenders we had available, sadly, two of those now can’t be included, but for different reasons.
Zeki Fryers picked up an injury in the defeat to Peterborough, and will be a big loss for the manager, as his conversion last season to a centre-back from a wing-back was a tactical success story, last night First Team Coach Tommy Wright confirmed after the game the defender would miss between 3-4 weeks of action.
The other defender who can’t be included is Taylor Curran, not because of an injury but simply because his terrible performance last night was one of the worst seen at the County Ground is many years.
When I was making the list of fit centre-backs who could come in and fill the void if needed I initially didn’t include Curran as I don’t see him as a first-team option, but later added his name as he could be used as a back-up, but after last night he can’t be used again this season, even in a break glass in case of an emergency situation.
Incredibly the former Southend man signed a new deal in the summer to extend his contract until 2023, a move which surprised me at the time, and now looks a poor piece of business.
All this may come across as incredibly harsh on a young footballer who has only ever made eight first-team appearances for the club as he wasn’t the only culprit to play below par with Rob Hunt not enjoying his evening either.
Going from what I’ve seen already from Curran, he needs a loan move away from SN1 to gain valuable experience, and improve significantly before coming close to touching a Swindon Town shirt again.
This weekend I expect Mathieu Baudry to return and partner Jonathan Grounds at the back, when the former Birmingham man gets up to full match fitness, I can see him becoming a big assist moving forward this season.
Thankfully there were some positive notes to come from both defeats this week as despite coming out on the wrong end of the result at London Road Town dominated the first half and should’ve easily taken a 3-0 lead into half-time.
The Peterborough defenders couldn’t cope with the high press Wellens’ side has become known for at Town, especially former Swindon captain Nathan Thompson.
Jonny Smith, Jack Payne, and Jordan Stevens all looked impressive and implemented the manager’s plans well in the first half, as did Joel Grant, Diallang Jaiyesimi, and Hallam Hope last night.
After a disastrous start where Town found themselves 2-0 down inside seven minutes and not creating anything, Grant and Hope switched flanks and it paid off with both players looking far more dangerous on the ball.
Since coming back from his injury DJ hasn’t quite been the same player and although he wasn’t at his best last night, he played a major part in two of Town’s goals with superb through balls to the wide areas of the pitch for Grant and Payne respectively to lay on for Tyler Smith to tuck away.
The major highlight of last night’s performance came from the mentioned on-loan striker, as he took both his goals brilliantly, to take his tally to four goals in all competitions this season.
The manager will have a big decision to make this Saturday when his side welcomes Wimbledon to the County Ground. Does he go back to the experienced goal scorer in Brett Pitman, who endured a poor performance last weekend, or stick with Smith?
Also, will he see a need to change tactics? Stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation he’s used this season or go back to last season’s 4-5-1 with Anthony Grant sitting in the defensive midfielder position with possibly Matt Smith, Jack Payne or if he’s still around, Matty Palmer in front of him?
It’ll be interesting to seeing which way the manager decides to go, as his side takes on of the favourites for the drop this season and will be expected after the previous results at the County Ground to pick up another home win this Saturday.