Preview: Swindon Town

Where We Are

The news since the Hartlepool match has undoubtedly been the unveiling of a computer generated drawing of a stadium with Coventry written on it by the club. For a few this has been a decisive move by SISU/Otium to declare the end of their negotiations for the Ricoh and a move to a more permanent future (slightly) out of Coventry. For the majority this has been viewed as another attempt by the club’s owners to make their ‘pokerface’ appear more convincing to the council and force a cut-price deal for the real prize, the Ricoh Arena.

On the footballing side, a win over Hartlepool makes us unbeaten in our last 4 games and we’re starting to see confidence pick back up after being humbled by both Tranmere and Rotherham. More importantly the performance of Leon Clarke on Tuesday night made it plain who the team’s most important player is, without him we flatter to deceive, with him we actually have a cutting edge. Whilst I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, it seems vital that if it’s possible to keep him in January, the club should make sure that they do.

That being said, MK Dons aside, performances over the past couple of weeks have been far from convincing with several players suffering from a lack of form. Jordan Clarke has been committing some serious defensive howlers at times recently, Baker and Moussa appear to be out of sorts, Cyrus Christie appears to be waiting for his big move to Huddersfield in January and none of the loan signings appear to add much quality to the side.

Overall it’s been a mixed bag. A tough trip to an upwardly mobile Swindon team will go a long way to deciding whether Coventry are back on the up or are reverting to where many pre-season pundits expected us to be. I know I say this every week but tomorrow’s result will help define whether we can challenge for the play-offs or mid-table anonymity.

Last Time We Met

We played Swindon under both of their managers that they had last season. The first game took place under our first decent run under Mark Robins when we travelled down south to take on the team then known as ‘Paolo di Canio’s Swindon Town’. After racing ahead to a 2 goal lead with a convincing first half display against one of the early season pace-setters in League One we conceded 2 in a typically Coventry capitulation.

We then played them in March at the Ricoh Arena in what was former Coventry player Kevin MacDonald’s first game in charge of Swindon. We were under the caretakership of Lee Carsley and were in that stage of the season where we were gift wrapping sides points at the Ricoh. Carsley tried to be clever and set up as if we were the away side and we took the lead within the opening minute of the game, however once again Swindon rallied to score 2 late goals which this time saw them take a vital 3 points which eventually took them to last season’s play-offs.

How Are They Doing?

In the summer Swindon were in turmoil, suffering from the largesse of the Paolo di Canio regime. They saw an exodus of the core of the side that finished 5th last season down to financial fair play restrictions. It was revealed players such as Adam Rooney were on £8k a week contracts which was simply unsustainable for any club in League One and they had to get rid of as many as soon as possible. Initially Kevin MacDonald, who led them into the playoffs last term, was happy to oversee the overhaul but their policy of signing either non-league players or Spurs reserve team became tiresome to the ex-Villa number two and he left just days before the start of the season. Mark Cooper, ex-Peterborough and Kettering manager, stepped up to the reigns in a caretaker capacity but early season results and performances saw the man who once had a reputation as being a ‘hoof-ball’ merchant got his chance to be a league manager again.

Mark Cooper was a surprising choice not only due to his disastrous reign at Peterborough in 2009-10 but because Cooper’s identity jarred massively with the resources he had at his disposal. Over the summer the playing staff at Swindon went from experienced pros in their late 20s to players in their early 20s playing their first full season in league football. To put a manager with the reputation of Cooper in charge of what looked to be a progressively focused playing squad looked to be a disaster waiting to happen.

But here we sit in late December with Swindon sitting in 9th 8th position in the league. Their playing style sounds direct in that it centres around a lone striker bringing midfielders into play but with some of the gems they have unearthed it has been surprisingly good on the eye. Their midfield in particular is jam-packed with a cavalcade of youngsters who like to have a bright future.

Alex Pritchard has arguably been the star act amongst a talented set of midfielders. Like a number of Swindon players, Pritchard is on loan from Spurs, but had had a decent spell last season at Peterborough in the Championship so it was a surprise to see him end up in the third tier. Pritchard, playing largely out on the left, has proven his pedigree this season with his ability to pick a killer through pass as well as several wonderful direct free-kicks. In addition to Prtichard, Yaser Kasim (ex-Spurs) and Massimo Luongo (ex-Spurs) have shown themselves to be two of the past passing central midfielders in the league and it will be an interesting match-up between those two and Fleck and Thomas.

In attack their marquee signing of the summer Nile Ranger has been a class above many League One defences this season but has been frozen out of the first-team due to attitude problems in recent months. In his stead Dany N’Guessan has chipped in with a decent amount of goals alongside Nicky Ajose (on loan from Peterborough) but this is an area where Swindon are currently lacking a little bit of star quality.

Finally Wes Foderingham in goal has once again this season proven his quality as one of the best keepers outside of the top two tiers of English football. He’s apparently going to be subject to some intense bidding over the January transfer window but unfortunately for us he’ll be available for selection tomorrow.

Prediction

This is one of the toughest away games of the season as I see it. Swindon have recovered from a summer of turmoil and are looking like play-off candidates. Their form may not be as good as it has been this season but neither has ours. This game will be a test of the true quality of this Coventry side although several players are out of form for us if a few can step up to the plate then it shows the mental strength of the team as well as Pressley’s motivational abilities and tactical nous.

This is a real test and with are performance levels a little iffy at the moment I’m anticipating a 2-1 loss.

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