Swindon Town made a perfect start to 2012 with a 2-0 win over AFC Wimbledon at the County Ground. A free-kick from skipper Paul Caddis was added to by striker Alan Connell to secure all three points for the Town, writes Tom Otrebski.
Paolo Di Canio made three changes to the starting line-up. After scoring on New Year's Eve, Connell earned a place alongside Ronan Murray in attack. Lukas Magera dropped to the substitutes bench where there was also room for youngster Louis Thompson and new January signing Paul Benson. Aden Flint also replaced Joe Devera, who didn't make the matchday sixteen.
With the euphoria of the last-gasp win at Northampton still fresh in the minds of the fans and the players, the first half failed to live up to expectations. Murray's early header was the only chance of note for either side but the man on loan from Ipswich could only direct Matt Ritchie's cross narrowly wide. The visitors had visibly set themselves up to frustrate the home side and their hard work paid dividends as the half wore on. With Town building the majority of their attacking play down the right flank, the usually penetrating partnership of Ritchie and Caddis were thwarted by the Wimbledon defence and midfield unit.
The second half began with Swindon in the ascendency and was punctuated by a pitch invasion from a rebellious squirrel that prompted Aden Flint into a spot of improvised animal rescue.
Paul Benson stepped onto The County Ground turf for the first time as a Swindon player just short of the hour mark and within two minutes of his arrival, his new team had scored the opener. A free-kick on the edge of the penalty area and slightly to the left of centre was smashed home by Paul Caddis. The Town skipper blasted the ball low and hard across the wall and as the ball bounced in front of the diving Seb Brown, it kicked up off the greasy surface. With the opposition goalkeeper already on the ground, he could only get half a hand on the strike, pushing it onto the post before watching as it nestled in the back of the net.
The remaining half hour saw the home side pressing to add to their advantage. First, Matt Ritchie's header hit the post square on before rebounding to safety. Minutes later it was Jonathan Smith who saw his left-footed effort smack the foot of the other post with the goalkeeper well and truly rooted to the spot. Next, Alan Connell's cheeky first-time lob from outside the box looked to be going over before dipping violently, rushing the goalkeeper into action to keep it out with the help of the crossbar.
After scoring at Northampton two days earlier, Connell rewarded the manager's faith in him with the goal that sealed victory 15 minutes from time. Substitute Lander Gabilondo's jinking run on the left allowed him to cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Connell was waiting to gratefully smash the ball home. As the game reached its climax, the striker was unlucky not to add a second to his tally from an indirect free-kick when his effort nearly snapped the crossbar in two.
With Wimbledon rarely threatening Foderingham's goal, the man between the sticks for Town had to be alert to keep out a header late on but was barely called into action over the course of 90 minutes. Both Ritchie and Benson had efforts either well-saved or just off target as they looked to write their names onto the scoresheet.
The win means that Town have now picked up six points from nine over the Christmas period and have consolidated their position among the play-off places in League Two. Saturday sees a break from league action as Premier League side Wigan travel to Wiltshire in the third round of the FA Cup.