Swindon’s poor start to 2022 picked up more momentum this week, as two promotion rivals took maximum points from Ben Garner’s side, leaving Town sat outside the top seven by four points.
Two wins in our last twelve have seen our bid for promotion hit a large bump in the road, with Town played off the pitch at Prenton Park in our most comprehensive defeat of the season.
All three of Tranmere’s goals were from defensive mistakes, as Brandon Cooper’s wayward pass saw the hosts go ahead. Joe Tomlinson losing the ball cheaply just shy of the hour mark saw the game taken out of Town’s hands, and Jake O’Brien conceding a penalty put the full stop on an awful night in Birkenhead.
There is no escaping the fact that our performances in recent weeks haven’t been to the same standard we’d enjoyed earlier in the season, we’ve had good spells in games, but from start to finish we’ve struggled to maintain our style, letting in mistakes, as a team, and from individuals.
Some players have put their hands up and the Head Coach has done the same, accepting the buck stops with him in every post-match interview, and after witnessing the mess of Tuesday night some fans on social media are calling for a change in management.
But I don’t agree with sacking Ben Garner, with him showing how effective his style of play can be over the first half of the season, taking us into the top three at points last year.
He’s become a victim of his success, with Town overachieving in the first six months of the season, and in fairness, he has had to deal with situations taken out of his hands.
With five players leaving the club over January; and the same number arriving, alongside key players missing through injury and suspension, it’s understandable that results and performances would be affected.
I firmly believe our back three of O’Brien, Cooper, and Odimayo or Conroy will come good as a unit despite its rocky start to life at Town, through time together in games and on the training ground.
Tomlinson looks to be a good replacement for Kaine Kesler Hayden, and despite the scoreline, he enjoyed a superb debut last Saturday, but he needs to play down the right-hand side, as, despite Rob Hunt enjoying a solid campaign, he isn’t a natural wing-back, as instead of looking to carry the ball forward and try to beat the man like Kesler Hayden, he will look to find the pass.
Moving forwards, we need Tomlinson down one side, and Ellis Iandolo down the other, two players who can naturally play that role, with Hunt as the right-sided centre-back when called upon.
It’s clear looking at upcoming fixtures our season will be heavily shaped by what happens in the rest of February, as this Saturday we welcome 24th place Scunthorpe United to the County Ground, followed by a long trip to third from bottom Carlisle United, then Matty Taylor’s Walsall who are 21st in League Two visits Wiltshire, before we end the month with Salford City at home.
Taking a maximum from three of the bottom four will be a must for Town if we have any ambitions of finishing inside the top seven in League Two.
As mentioned, it begins with The Iron, and the return of “The General” Anthony Grant to SN1, some would say, and I agree, his departure midway through a season when we have a few players who are venerable to picking up injuries, was a mistake, and that has turned out to be the case, as we were crying out for a player in his mould on Tuesday night.
But instead, we go head-to-head with our former title-winning captain in what promises to be a battle in midfield.
Hopefully, Jack Payne will be fit to start the game, and will play ahead of the returning Louis Reed from suspension, having these two players back will be the turning point in our season, as I’m confident Town will return to winning ways this Saturday, which will kick start our season once again.