After the highs of wins over Newport and Hartlepool in the previous week, Ben Garner and his side fell back down the earth with a bump this week as a poor home performance followed up with a Cup exit a few days later.
Despite this Town is performing high above expectations this season, it doesn’t take away the frustration when you watch a below-par performance, knowing the same side had outplayed their previous opponents convincingly.
In the first-ever meeting between Swindon and Harrogate, the away side brought a game plan, and it worked well for the majority of the afternoon as their scouts obviously pointed out Kaine Kesler Hayden as our best-attacking outlet and promptly tried to kick him out of the contest.
The biggest disappointment from the afternoon came at the back where Akin Odimayo, Dion Conroy, and Rob Hunt endured a disappointing afternoon and didn’t look the same defensive unit that had helped Town enjoy such a rich vein of form over November.
At times they looked like strangers on the pitch as again and again passes went astray and the playing out from the back lacked any real urgency, the last charge can also be labelled against Jojo Woollacott whose distribution was not up to scratch across the 90 minutes.
Over the 24 games played so far this season in all competitions, the back-line has performed well despite being asked to play different systems they have always adapted well, but along with another striker to help out Tyreece Simpson, another centre-back being on the shopping list in January is essential.
Even more so the 3-5-2 system continues to be the most used formation going into the second half of the campaign, and has seen so far with several players in this position likely to pick up injuries signing trusted players to come into the side will be vital.
Having Romoney Crichlow return to the first team yesterday will be a big boost to Ben Garner, as he was the standout as Town bowed out of the Papa John’s Trophy at the second-round stage.
With Town putting out the usual side for this competition and giving players who find themselves on the cusp of the first team a chance to impress the visitors came with a very different approach bringing a strong 18-man squad, including the vast majority of their first eleven.
This resulted in a more experienced U’s side taking full advantage of Town’s slow start scoring two goals from set-pieces within the opening 12 minutes of the contest.
Despite Crichlow’s header late in the first half setting up an intriguing second period it never materialised as the manager named a young bench with no first-team players, resulting in a lack of experience, which these young players will hopefully learn over time.
It was encouraging to see Harrison Minturn, Levi Francis, Donny Gordon, Anton Dworzak, and Harvey Fox all step out onto the County Ground pitch, the majority for the first time, hopefully, some of these names will have a future at Town if given the time needed to succeed.
Thankfully there was some good news at the County Ground despite our Cup exit as it was announced Ellis Iandolo signed a contract extension at the club for an undisclosed number of years.
Ellis has enjoyed an impressive campaign making 16 starts, his highest total in a season for Swindon, despite being the club’s longest serving player after arriving in 2015 he’s still only 24-years old with by far his best years ahead of him.
Let’s hope Ellis is the first player in a long list of names to be signing contract extensions over the coming weeks so Ben Garner can build his side on a firm foundation going into the second half of the season.