After the giddy excitement of last week’s news that we’re returning to the Ricoh Arena, we have had a week to contemplate the realities of actually getting back to Coventry. Some mild concerns over ticket prices and the closing of the North Stand for fixtures with less than 18,000 in attendance has been somewhat sobering as many prepare to get back into the habit of watching football.
A damp display against Milton Keynes has led some to fear that the team we currently have will be unable to take full advantage of the move back to the Ricoh. For all those out there who are worried, at least you will be able to be annoyed about the football for footballing reasons.
In reality we have had one of the toughest starts that we could possibly have had. To be on five points from four games is not bad progress for a side that is still learning to play together and in a new formation. The defence appears to be fairly solid however there is little cohesion in attack with Ryan Haynes offering the main attacking outlet.
The upcoming game against Swindon Town should surely be the last in this tough run of games to start the season, if we can remain unbeaten then we have a platform which we can build momentum from back at the Ricoh Arena.
The main piece of team news this week has been the progress of Mohamed Coulibaly and Simeon Jackson as they look to build their fitness levels. Jackson could possibly start against Swindon whilst Coulibaly’s pace and dribbling ability could make him a useful option from the bench, possibly in place of Danny Swanson at some point.
Jordan Clarke will now miss the game through illness which should now give Aaron Phillips the chance to demonstrate the ability and determination he showed when he came into the team last autumn.
Possible Line-Up: (5-3-2) Allsop; Phillips, Willis, Webster, Johnson, Haynes; O’Brien, Fleck, Swanson; Tudgay, McQuoid.
Last Time We Met
It was a pair of 2-1 wins for Swindon last season. The first game we could at least have been aggrieved about a defeat where we had outplayed Swindon on their own ground for large portions of the game, however two quick goals saw the home side take all three points. When we played at Sixfields a team featuring the likes of Dylan McGeouch, Nathan Delfouneso and David Prutton were deservedly beaten, albeit down to a late, late goal from the giant Michael Smith.
Overall we have a shocking recent record against Swindon, our last win came in the FA Cup in 2001 when Craig Bellamy and Mustapha Hadji scored the goals for a Coventry City side that were relegated from the top flight a few months later. Our last league win against the Swindon lot was in October 1964 in the old Second Division (the Championship) with a 3-2 scoreline at Highfield Road.
How Are They Doing?
Not only are they doing pretty well considering that they only made one permanent signing this summer after losing a raft of key loanees from last season, they’re doing pretty well by any team’s standards in this division. Despite a tough summer, Mark Cooper has admirably picked up from where he left off last season with a skeleton squad.
I would say that two of their key players are Michael Smith, a man who has scored every time he has played against us, each with a different club, and Nathan Thompson, a right-back who has been converted into a ball-playing centre-back (we’ve seen that happen before). However Smith is likely to miss the game after picking up an injury in the League Cup, Thompson will definitely be out after getting sent-off in a 4-2 extra-time loss to Brighton.
They are still a few players to watch out for, particularly in midfield. They have Massimo Luongo and Yaser Kasim who are both wonderful ball-playing midfielders capable of playing much higher than at League One level. Kasim is an Iraq international who looked like dropping out of professional football last summer until Swindon picked him up after impressing on trail, he is often referred to now as the ‘Iraqi Xavi’. Luongo has recently been called up to the Australia national side, he is one of the few players to remain from Swindon’s notable link-up with Tottenham. In addition Louis Thompson, brother of Nathan Thompson, has broken into the first-team this season and can play either as a winger or a central midfielder.
Their goalkeeper Wes Foderingham has been consistently impressive since being signed by Paolo di Canio in their League Two title winning campaign three years ago. Striker Andy Williams has returned from a disappointing loan spell with Yeovil and has scored twice in four league appearances this season. The pacey Nathan Byrne is another important player as a right wing-back.
With their squad currently wafer-thin don’t be surprised to see a couple of loan players immediately parachuted into their first-team. Anyway at the time of writing, the most likely line-up is below.
Possible Line-Up: (5-3-2) Foderingham; Byrne, Lelan, Branco, Turnbull, B Smith; Luongo, Kasim, Thompson; Williams Waldon.
Having endured a difficult summer mired by a battle over the ownership of the club, Swindon’s first 11 is strong but their squad overall is relatively weak. They are battling with a number of injuries and suspensions, this should be a big opportunity to take points from a team we will be battling for promotion with. Whilst we need to be wary of the threats that they can pose, I would like us to be on the front foot more often in this game.
The key battle will be for supremacy over the midfield area, Kasim and Luongo will want to keep the ball as much as they can, we need our three to disrupt their pattern of play. If we can do that then we should be able to expose what appears to be a very inexperienced back-line, Marcus Tudgay’s experience will be vital in achieving this.
Given that we have had a full week to prepare against this fixture and Swindon not only played extra-time in mid-week but are without a several key players, I am expecting us to win this game. Anything else would be almost be unacceptable and put us in a bad place ahead of the return game at the Ricoh Arena. Prediction: 2-0.