Blues Visit Relegated Swindon Aiming to Finally End Goal Drought
Friday, 30th Apr 2021 14:03
Town travel to Swindon for the first of three meaningless end-of-season games aiming to end their goal drought as it moves towards a club record.
The Blues, whose play-off push ground to a halt during April and who dropped to 12th following the midweek games, have now gone 619 minutes, more than six matches and in excess of 10 hours, without a goal.
If they fail to score against the Robins - who have conceded 84 times this season, more than anyone else in League One by eight goals - and then in the opening five minutes at Shrewsbury on Tuesday, they’ll surpass the club record 714 minutes from the 1994/95 Premier League relegation campaign.
Town, who are without a win in six, are still looking for their first away win under Paul Cook having lost five and drawn three on their travels since the change of manager. The Blues last won away at the start of March with Cook watching from the stands and Matt Gill and Bryan Klug in caretaker charge in the dugout.
Swindon were relegated last weekend when they were thrashed 5-0 away by the MK Dons. The Robins have won just once in their last seven - a 3-1 victory over Portsmouth in their last home game - losing the other six.
Overall in League One this season Swindon, who are 23rd in the table, have won eight, drawn one and lost 13 at the County Ground.
Given that Swindon’s fate was confirmed last week, Town manager Cook was asked when he expected from them on Saturday.
“I’ve got no interest in other clubs, I’ve got absolutely no interest in Swindon Town,” he said.
“My job is totally focused now on Ipswich Town, the future, the changes the going forward, the recruitment of players etc.
“I don’t want to be sitting here next year speaking about other teams. I just want to be sitting here next year speaking about the changes we’ve made at the club, the help that we’ve been given by the new ownership and what a much more progressive club we look then.
“At the minute there’s a lot of work ahead for us so other clubs do not interest me in any shape or form.”
What does he expect from the current squad in the remaining three games? “We’ll see what we’ll see. This team, this group of lads cannot hurt me or our supporters anymore.
“The pain is done. That pain is ingrained, so imagine we went away and won 3-0 on Saturday, would that change everyone’s mind? Not a prayer. Absolutely not a prayer, so what will be will be.”
Quizzed on Town’s goal drought and whether it will end at Swindon, Cook joked: “If we do score I’ll run round the pitch with my top off, so you can tell our fans watching on iFollow, get right on the dugout and have a look at the celebrations!
“It’s been too painful for too long now, too painful for too long. We’ve got to make our supporters happy and proud again and that’s not something we’ll do overnight, that’s for sure.”
Cook seems certain to stick with Dai Cornell in goal with the Welshman having been Town’s man of the match in the 0-0 draw with AFC Wimbledon last week.
At the back, Kane Vincent-Young will be at right-back with Myles Kenlock perhaps coming in at left-back with Stephen Ward appearing unlikely to be offered terms for next season.
Mark McGuinness and Luke Woolfenden could continue at the centre of the defence but with skipper Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala both available.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell and Flynn Downes will probably keep their places with Teddy Bishop ahead of them. Armando Dobra could well start in place of Keanan Bennetts on the right with Gwion Edwards on the left.
Cook said at his press conference that James Norwood is back after his hamstring injury and the former Tranmere man seems likely to return to the lone striker’s role.
Josh Harrop could be among the subs having served his three-match ban for his red card in the away game at AFC Wimbledon.
Swindon caretaker-manager Tommy Wright has been frustrated by the way his side’s form has swung one way and then dramatically the other.
“Football is funny – we beat Portsmouth and then get absolutely hammered against MK, the players can come back again, I’m sure.” he told the Swindon Advertiser. “It’s that consistency of play that’s been a problem for us.
“People say you want players who get a seven out of 10 every week, and you can rely on them. But we’ve got some players who get a seven and then a two! It’s crazy.
“Sometimes you’ll think we’ve cracked it when we win a couple on the bounce, but some of the performances recently have been very, very poor.
“Wimbledon and MK Dons, the performances were gutless, I think would be a good enough word for it.”
Historically, Town have won 27 games between the sides (24 in the league), Swindon 15 (14) with eight (seven) having been draws.
In January at Portman Road, Norwood and Alan Judge were on target for the Blues but two goals from Diallang Jaiyesimi and a stunner from Scott Twine saw Swindon to a 3-2 victory.
Jaiyesimi gave the visitors the lead on 16 before sub Norwood levelled for the Blues in the 62nd minute, but Twine smashed home a brilliant 30-yard strike on 67 to restore the Robins’ lead and Jaiyesimi made it 3-1 with a cross which found its way into the net seven minutes later.
Judge gave the Robins a fright with Town’s second in the 87th minute but the Blues were unable to find a third goal.
Town and Swindon last faced one another at the County Ground in the Blues’ 1999/00 promotion season from what was then the First Division (now Championship) in which the Robins were relegated to the third tier having finished 13 points from safety at the bottom of the table.
In a game shown live on Sky Sports, the Blues won 4-1 with David Johnson and Richard Naylor scoring twice each after Giuliano Grazioli have given the home side the lead.
Town central defender Woolfenden spent 2018/19 on loan at Swindon making 36 starts and scoring two goals.
Robins striker Brett Pitman was with the Blues between June 2015 and July 2017, scoring 15 goals in 42 starts and 28 sub appearances. The 33-year-old moved to the County Ground in September last year having left Portsmouth at the end of last season.
Swindon full-back Zeki Fryers spent a brief spell on loan with the Blues from Crystal Palace towards the end of the 2014/15 season making two starts and one sub appearance.
Ex-Town manager Paul Jewell is the director of football at Swindon, whose chairman is former Norwich striker Lee Power. Jewell was in charge at Portman Road between January 2011 and October 2012.
Saturday’s referee is Kevin Johnson from Weston-super-Mare, who has shown 78 yellow cards and five red in 26 games so far this season.
Johnson’s last Town match was the 1-0 defeat at Lincoln in October in which he controversially awarded the Imps a second-half spot-kick after Toto Nsiala was adjudged to have felled Brennan Johnson, son of former Blue David, which was converted by Jorge Grant.
Blues boss Paul Lambert was sent off for remonstrating with the official after the final whistle, Jon Nolan having already been dismissed for a wild lunge in injury time. Lambert was handed a one-game touchline ban and a £1,000 fine as a result. In addition to the red cards, Teddy Bishop and two Imps were yellow-carded.
Prior to that, Johnson was coincidentally in charge of the 1-1 FA Cup first round draw with the Imps at Portman Road last season in which he booked Downes, Dobra and one of the visitors.
His only Town game prior to that was the 5-0 victory at Bolton in August 2019 in which he booked Edwards and one home player and also awarded the Blues a penalty - for handball - which Norwood converted.
Squad from: Cornell, Holy, Vincent-Young, Chambers, Ward, Nsiala, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Dozzell, Skuse, Nydam, Bishop, Downes, Harrop, Edwards, Bennetts, Sears, Dobra, Norwood, Jackson, Parrott, Hawkins, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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