SWINDON Town beat Shrewsbury by three goals to one thanks to a brace by new signing Michael Smith and Nile Ranger’s 8th goal of the season, writes Adrian Smith.
The scoreline does not tell the full story though because Town keeper Wes Foderingham put on a superb ‘Man Of The Match’ performance with numerous saves to deny Shrewsbury as they placed Swindon under heavy pressure. However it is goals that win matches and Michael Smith’s fine debut gave Town more of an attacking outlet and Nile Ranger again showed his eye for goal despite joining 15 minutes or so into the second half.
Swindon Town had kicked off playing towards the Town End with new signing Michael Smith, signed from Charlton, starting as number 28.
Town had earlier signed Jamie Reckord from Wolverhampton Wanderers and he was included on the substitutes bench and made his debut in the second half replacing Jay McEveley. The visitors included Frasier Fyvie, signed on loan from Wigan in their starting line up.
Town’s first corner of the match in the 7th minute saw Michael Smith head Pritchard’s cross over under pressure from Chris Weale in the visitor’s goal.
A mistake by Darren Ward gifted the ball to the visitors but Nathan Thompson was able to deflect the ball behind at the expense of a corner and Wes Foderingham was easily caught the resulting cross.
Ryan Mason carved out a chance in the 13th minute with a run at the visiting defence where he was tripped on the edge in a central position just outside the penalty area but Pritchard’s free kick flew to the right over the crossbar. Shortly afterwards Mason left the field clutching his left hip and went straight down the tunnel and before he could be replaced, new signing Smith sent in a good cross from the right wing which evaded Pritchard and the ball was cleared.
Ryan Harley replaced Mason at a break in play while Shrewsbury were waiting to take a free kick.
Shrewsbury were playing with a strong breeze blowing down the pitch which was making the corner flags lean over at right angles and both teams were struggling to get the ball under control as the half wore on.
Wes Foderingham did well in the 24th minute to deny Jon Taylor who fired in an angled drive but the Town keeper parried the shot at the expense of a corner. There was a brief scramble in the Town penalty area when the ball was crossed before McEveley hoofed the loose ball clear.
Nathan Byrne tried his luck with a powerful shot from 20 yards after brushing off the challenge of two defenders and the visiting keeper Weale did well to catch the ball which was swirling in the wind.
Town’s opening goal came in the 30th minute following a corner earned by Thompson. Alex Pritchard took a short corner and the ball reached Kasim who fired in a low cross across the box and when the ball was deflected, debutant Michael Smith volleyed the ball into the right hand side of the net for his first goal in Town colours.
The visitors responded quickly with a shot by Taylor which only just went over the crossbar much to the relief of Foderingham.
Shrewsbury were playing their first game under caretaker manager Michael Jackson and were putting in a determined effort to try and get an equaliser as torrential rain lashed down on the County Ground pitch for several minutes.
The conditions got so bad that defensive clearances were hanging in the wind placing the Town defence under severe pressure and they were tested even further when a free kick was awarded 25 yards from goal and the ball was tapped to Paul Parry who fired in an unstoppable shot which beat Foderingham to level the scores.
Town’s response was immediate and almost levelled through a deflected shot with Pritchard just unable to reach the loose ball before it went out for a corner which was cleared downfield.
Shrewsbury had an attack just before the final whistle which saw the ball pinging around the penalty area before it was cleared downfield to safety and the players left swiftly to dry off after weathering the storm!
Shrewsbury kicked off the second half with the rain having eased off but it was Swindon who had the first serious attack when they were awarded a free kick 30 yards from goal for a trip. The kick was delayed while McEveley limped off to replaced by new signing Jamie Reckord for him to make his debut in the 48th minute. Alex Pritchard eventually took the kick but his low effort struck the defensive wall and the ball rebounded to safety.
The Robins had a sustained period of possession where they penned the visitors back without getting a shot on goal but eventually a good cross by Mason to the back post only just evaded Michael Smith with the defence nowhere near the ball.
Swindon continued to get plenty of possession without delivering a final attack but the visitors looked to get the ball forward at every opportunity which led to a corner in the 61st minute and the kick was held up while Nile Ranger replaced Nathan Byrne. The visitors went close to taking the lead when Taylor’s powerful header struck the crossbar and then the loose ball was fired wide by a Shrewsbury forward.
Massimo Luongo was cautioned for an off the ball incident just after Smith had been penalised for fouling a Shrewsbury player just inside their half.
Wes Foderingham kept his side in the game with a fantastic diving save to push a powerful shot around the post for a corner in the 67th minute and Town eventually cleared the resulting cross downfield
Massimo Luongo tried his luck from 30 yards but his effort flew wide and at the other end, Asa Hall gave Town a scare with a long range effort which dipped under the crossbar but Foderingham backpedalled and caught the ball under the crossbar.
Shrewsbury replaced Fyvie with Jermaine Grandison in the 74th minute and shortly afterwards the visitors were awarded a corner which they wasted.
Darren Ward was guilty of a weak backpass to Foderingham but the Town keeper did well to keep the ball away from goal at the expense of a corner.
Finally Town started sending longer passes downfield instead of their short passing game and were looking more dangerous in attack without delivering the killer blow.
Shrewsbury were pressing forward quickly with a series of attacks placing the Town goal under pressure with Foderingham continually being called into action.
Town went ahead for the second time in the 89th minute when Michael Smith challenged the keeper at a corner and the ball ricocheted across goal where Nile Ranger headed home from close range for his 8th of the season.
The visitors had been rocked by conceding the goal against the run of play and some hesitant defending in the last minute of added time saw Ranger win possession on the edge of the area before laying the ball off to Michael Smith who gleefully fired the ball under Weale to seal a fine two goal debut by himself and all three points for Swindon Town.
There was no time for any comeback so Swindon now move onto 40 points from 27 games although Town were indebted to Wes Foderingham for his ‘Man of the Match’performance in restricting Shrewsbury to one goal with some superb saves which helped secure the win for Mark Cooper’s team.
Swindon starting XI v Shrewsbury: Foderingham; Thompson N, Branco, Ward (C), McEveley, Kasim, Luongo, Mason, Pritchard, Smith, Byrne
Subs: Belford, Reckord, Harley, Thompson L, Barker, Barthram, Ranger