SWINDON Town brought high-flying Preston North End down to earth with a 1-0 home win thanks to Michael Smith’s 56th minute penalty, writes Adrian Smith
Town put on a good performance against Preston who had started the day in 4th place with a Man of the Match performance by Ben Gladwin and the welcome introduction of Miles Storey’s pace on his return from loan. The penalty was awarded for a trip on Gladwin in the penalty area and Michael Smith made no mistake from the spot.
Mark Cooper made 4 changes from the team that drew at Bristol City with Louis Thompson, Alex Pritchard, Ryan Harley and George Barker replaced by Yaser Kasim, Alex Smith, Ben Gladwin and Miles Storey starting.
Preston kicked off playing towards the Town End but it was Swindon who had the first shot of the match through Ben Gladwin but his effort from 20 yards flew wide of the right hand upright.
Preston’s response shortly afterwards came via a wayward header by Joe Garner but his effort lacked direction and went well wide of the goal.
The visitors had their first corner in the 9th minute which eventually led to Wes Foderingham having to tip the ball over from a shot by Paul Gallagher at the expense of another corner and the Town defence were able to eventually clear the ball after a brief scramble in the 6 yard box.
Joe Garner went close in the 14th minute with an attempted lob following a weak defensive clearance but the ball landed on the roof of the net with Foderingham furiously backpedalling.
Jack Stephens made an important interception on the edge of the penalty area from an attempted cross by Craig Davies in the 17th minute. Davies was also denied by Troy Archibald Henville’s tackle shortly afterwards as the Preston player looked poised for a shot on goal.
Neil Kilkenny was shown the first yellow card of the match in the 25th minute for holding Luongo back as he attempted to run out of defence with the ball.
An error gifted Luongo possession and his measured pass across the field into the penalty area reached Miles Storey but his shot across goal was saved by the keeper Declan Rudd with his feet and the chance was gone.
Preston responded immediately via Garner but his header from close range was saved by Foderingham who got his body behind the ball to keep it out of goal.
The second yellow card of the match was shown to Clarke in the 38th minute for a couple of fouls in quick succession and when the free kick was taken, the ball eventually reached Luongo after some fancy footwork by Archibald Henville with his back to goal but the Australian midfielder’s effort was high and wide. Swindon continued to attack with Gladwin and Luongo involved but the move ended when Michael Smith’s header went wide.
Nathan Thompson was cautioned for a late challenge in the 45th minute and he also needed treatment when the resulting free kick was taken after he took a knock when the ball was crossed but he was able to continue after the physio had provided some treatment.
Swindon continued to attack as the match entered two minutes of added time although there was no action to report in either goalmouth before half time.
Neither side made any substitutions at half time and a bright start by Swindon led to Miles Storey earning the home side’s first corner of the game in the 47th minute which eventually led to Luongo trying his luck from 20 yards with a shot and although the keeper spilled the ball, it was cleared by a defender.
Storey was featuring heavily in attack and another of his trademark runs led to a corner when his shot struck a defender and Yaser Kasim went agonisingly close to scoring after the ball had been cleared but the ball went straight through the defence but inches wide of the upright.
Some determined play by Michael Smith earned the Robins 4th corner of the half but the ball was cleared.
Town’s bright start to the half was rewarded with a penalty in the 56th minute when Gladwin was tripped after tricking his way into the penalty area and up stepped Michael Smith to score with a shot to Rudd’s left who had dived to the right. The goal was Michael Smith’s 6th in 12 matches for the Robins maintaining an impressive scoring ratio for the Town forward.
Preston manager Simon Grayson responded by making three substitutions replacing Craig Davies with Kevin Davies, Joe Garner with Stuart Beavon and Neil Kilkenny with John Welsh.
Preston earned a corner after some determined attacking and although the ball was cleared, they continued to push the Town defence backwards.
Alex Smith tried his luck from distance in the 65th minute but his effort was parried by the keeper.
John Welsh was cautioned for a foul shortly afterwards and when the ball was crossed, Michael Smith’s point blank header was parried by Rudd and the ball was cleared.
Ben Gladwin had made a good impression on a rare start for Town and he went close to doubling the lead when a shot struck and defender but the ball looped agonisingly over the bar for a corner. Gladwin was again denied by the keeper after tricking his way past two defenders before sending in a powerful shot but the ball cannoned off the keepers legs and a defender cleared it downfield.
Alex Smith saw a yellow card for a foul near the dugouts in the 72nd and Paul Gallagher was cautioned for retaliation so play was held up for a while until the referee restored order after some pushing and shoving by players from both teams.
Wes Foderingham made an important interception from a curling cross from the left wing with the Town keeper pushing the ball out for a corner and when the ball was crossed, Tom Clarke headed well over the bar.
Preston enjoyed several minutes of heavy pressure without seriously threatening the Town goal and eventually the ball was cleared long downfield by Archibald Henville. Swindon continued to press forward and the referee waved away strong claims in the 80th minute for a Town penalty when Michael Smith appeared to be fouled after Storey passed the ball across the box and play continued.
There was a brief scramble in the 84th minute as the ball pinged around following a shot by Beavon which took a deflection which wrongfooted Foderingham but the defence cleared the danger.
Preston still looked strong in attack and Kevin Davies managed to outjump Foderingham at a cross but his header flew wide of goal.
Town had a good opportunity in the 87th minute through Michael Smith who received the ball at the backpost but he took too long to control it and his shot was charged down.
Ben Gladwin was named Sponsors Man of the Match shortly before being substituted by Rossi Branco in the 89th minute.
Nathan Thompson conceded a foul near the corner flag deep in the 3 minutes of added time and was grateful to see Foderingham tip the ball over for a corner.
Preston had two further corners in quick succession to keep the supporters on the edge of their seats but eventually the ball was cleared out of defence and the final whistle was greeted with a tremendous roar in celebration of Town’s first win since February 8th which moves them onto 51 points.
Swindon Town: Foderingham, Thompson (C), Stephens, Archibald-Henville, McEveley, Smith A, Kasim, Gladwin, Luongo, Storey, Smith M
Subs: Belford, Barthram, Branco, Reckord, Reis, Barker, Waldon