Swindon’s First Home Defeat Of The Season Saw Them Slump 3-1 To Walsall Who Controlled The Game For Large Periods, writes Adrian Smith
A defensive error early in the second half meant that Swindon were always going to find it hard going against Walsall who put in arguably the most attacking performance seen by a visiting team at the County Ground this season. The visitors had taken the lead in the first half with a bullet-like shot from Ashley Hemmings who looked fired up from the start with a
‘shoot on sight’ approach. Wes Foderingham saved Swindon’s blushes with several superb saves to keep the score down and Nile Ranger’s late goal was only scant consolation on a disappointing night for Mark Cooper.
Swindon had kicked off on a blustery night at the County Ground against Walsall who started the match in 9th place but it was the visitors who had the first attack of the night when
Hemmings cross was knocked behind by Hall but the resulting cross was cleared.
The Robins had made one change from the Notts County game with Nicky Ajose replacing Dany N’Guessan and were looking to record their 5th win on the trot.
The visitors made the stronger start but finally Nile Ranger tricked his way down the wing to earn a 14th minute corner for Town and when the ball was cleared, Ajose’s audacious overhead kick was cleared off the line by a defender.
Swindon had a scare in the 17th minute when a Walsall forward backheeled the ball goalbound which was flicked away by Hall for a corner. However the Robins did fall behind to a thunderbolt goal scored by Ashley Hemmings in the 18th minute when the ball was cleared from the corner to reach Hemmings some 20 yards from goal and he celebrated wildly on the halfway line.
Hemmings clearly had his eye for a second and tested Foderingham’s reflexes with another fierce shot which the Town keeper did well to push over the bar for a corner . The resulting cross was only partly cleared before the ball struck Nathan Thompson and went out for another corner. Town were struggling to clear their lines playing against the wind as the Saddlers swung in numerous high balls.
Walsall scorer Hemmings seemed to be under orders to shoot on sight and he was again denied by Foderingham in the 24th minute.
Walsall had another corner in the 25th minute but that was cleared downfield but the referee ignored claims for handball against James Chambers and the chance was gone.
Wes Foderingham found himself playing as a sweeper in the 27th minute to snuff out a Walsall attack on the right wing as the Saddlers continued to do most of the attacking.
The home crowd were very quiet until Sam Mantom fouled Ajose some 25 yards from goal and was shown a yellow card and when Alex Pritchard took the free kick, the ball struck a defender and went out for a corner but the resulting move ended when Ranger was flagged offside.
Walsall’s Hemmings gained yet another corner when his cross was knocked behind in the 34th minute but Swindon regained possession when a Walsall forward was penalised in midfield for a foul after the ball had been crossed.
Nile Ranger appeared to have his heels clipped as he ran towards goal but the referee ignored Town’s claims for a penalty as the match entered the 37th minute.
Swindon counterattacked strongly through Pritchard after a sustained period of attacking by Walsall but the Town midfielder eventually lost possession in the penalty area and the ball was cleared long by the visitors’ defence.
James Baxendale tested Foderingham’s reflexes with a powerful shot in the 43rd minute but the Town keeper did well to beat the ball away and the Robins defence cleared.
There was a break in play just as the match entered the 45th minute for James Chambers to receive treatment after colliding with Nile Ranger’s back and he left the field clutching his nose so Walsall started the two minutes of added time playing with 10 players although he was able to join for the last 30 seconds before the half time whistle was blown by the referee D Sheldrake.
Ryan Mason replaced Ajose at half time but within two minutes Darren Ward gifted possession to Walsall with a very weak pass forward and the ball was played into the area where it eventually reached Sam Mantom to easily double the Saddlers lead.
Walsall continued to press forward and Craig Westcarr went very close to adding a third when he outmuscled the Town defence to fire a shot narrowly wide.
Dany N’Guessan was introduced in place of Byrne in the 52nd minute as Mark Cooper looked to strengthen his attack to try and get back in the game.
The visitors seemed to have a player over every time they attacked but Swindon nearly got back in the game when Ranger narrowly headed over from the home side’s first corner of the half.
Massimo Luongo had Town’s first shot of the half in the 59th minute but his effort went well wide and that was only temporary respite as the visitors continued to attack.
Jack Barthram replaced Nathan Thompson in Mark Cooper’s final throw of the dice as he elected to play with a 3 man defence with Barthram playing in midfield.
Jay McEveley saw yellow for the 5th time this season for a late challenge so misses the next match at Oldham. The resulting angled free kick from 20 yards was blasted high over the bar much to Town’s relief.
Swindon were still struggling to keep any possession and almost went further behind in the 67th minute through a superb shot by Featherstone but Foderingham again saved the day with a fantastic save and must have increased his chances of being named Man Of The Match for the Robins on a disappointing night so far for his outfield colleagues.
Yaser Kasim did well to snuff out an attack on the edge of the area when he bravely headed the ball away from Mantom. Shortly afterwards Hemmings shrugged off Town’s defence to fire in a superb shot which went just wide of the home goal’s right hand upright.
Walsall replaced Baxendale with Julian Gray in the 73rd minute with the Saddlers looking comfortable and they almost went further ahead through Mantom but his long range shot struck the crossbar and rebounded to safety with Foderingham well beaten.
Alex Pritchard was hacked won by Chambers in the 77th minute and he saw a yellow card before Pritchard took the kick into the penalty area where Grant Hall had half hearted claims turned down for a penalty.
Immediately Walsall attacked again and the Swindon defence folded as some weak challenges allowed Hemmings to fire home unchallenged from close range in the 79th minute. Alex
Pritchard was cautioned for dissent in the aftermath of the goal for what appeared to be prolonged complaining about the declined penalty appeal at the other end of the pitch.
Swindon threatened briefly through Ranger but his effort clipped a defender and went out for a corner. However the resulting cross was not cleared properly before the ball was crossed to the back post where Nile Ranger headed home from close range for his 5th goal in Town colours.
Walsall continued to ping the ball around the pitch with ease and their travelling support of 202 in the crowd of 8188 must have been glad they made the trip.
Town had a corner as the match entered 5 minutes of added time and Nile Ranger had two good chances to score initially with a powerful header from close range which was parried by Walsall keeper O’Donnell and then Ranger fired the rebound just wide.
Grant Hall was cautioned for a late challenge near the halfway line as Town’s frustration continued in added time so the final whistle was blown to end a disappointing night under the floodlights at the County Ground.
Swindon Town: Foderingham, Thompson N, Hall, Ward (C), McEveley, Kasim, Luongo, Pritchard, Ajose, Ranger, Byrne
Subs: Belford, Mason, N'Guessan, Thompson L, Barthram, Branco, Elgabas