Improving County Defeated
Tuesday 19th January '10/7:45pm
A much-improved performance from a gelling County side wasn't enough to see off an impressive Swindon Town team who climbed to 5th in the League One table.
A second-half penalty from the much-hated Billy Paynter condemned the Hatters to our 12th consecutive defeat, but a massive upturn in the performances on the pitch pleased the County faithful.
All five new signings took their place in the side, in the shape of defender Danny Swailes, midfielders Dave Perkins and Richie Partridge, and strikers Jemal Johnson and Jabo Ibehre.
Partridge was particularly impressive in the first quarter of the match, continually beating his man on the right-hand side and getting dangerous crosses into the box.
Ibehre could have opened his County account barely a minute into the game. A long ball from keeper Owain fon Williams found it's way to Jabo who nicely controlled the ball on his knee, before taking one touch too many as a sight to goal opened up for him, and the chance was gone.
Town consistently looked good on the break, quick and incisive, pouncing on any loose balls (unless Perkins was on the scene!) and breaking. A good team unit rather than a number of good individual players. Under Danny Wilson, they've won four of their last five and are in the process of cementing their play-off place.
Perkins got the fans on their feet again as he broke down the left-wing, twisting and turning inside his man but Jamal Johnson couldn't get on the end of it.
Despite the good early signs for the Hatters and the subsequent geeing-up of the Cheadle End, constantly chanting 'Gary Ablett's Blue 'n' White Army', the first-half saw no real chances. The new strike force of JJ and Ibehre both saw snap-shots clung onto by keeper David Lucas.
The ball was in the Swindon net 5 minutes into the second half but the consistently poor officials ruled it out for off-side. It was definitely tight, and judging by JJ's fuming reaction (and the look of silent relief on the Town fans faces!) it was probably just onside.
Swindon got more of a foot-hold on the tie in the second half, the County players probably not as motivated now they were attacking the stand away from the vibrant Cheadle End.
Ibehre again showed good control as he beat two men but blazed his effort over.
At the other end, Charlie Austin - sought after by a host of clubs this transfer window - saw his shot at a narrow-angle clawed at by the presumably bored fon Williams.
The real chance for County to take the lead came a few minutes before Swindon inevitably went and scored, with the referee - having a mare of a game - turning down Johnson's appeals for hand-ball. The ball bobbled back to Mullins who strode forward before slipping a neat ball through for Jabo to run onto. Ibehre shot on the turn but Lucas was equal to it.
And as I said, it was sod's law that Town went and struck first barely minutes later.
Defender Kevin Amankwaah, impressive throughout as he attacked, played a nice one-two with Billy Paynter and burst into the box. Missing for most of the match, Danny Pilkington finally got involved but unfortunately his first real part to play was to haul back Amankwaah. Referee and linesman both awarded the penalty, and I have to say it was probably one of the only decisions they got right all night. Made a meal of it, but it was a penalty.
Paynter confidently blasted the ball into the top right-hand corner from 12 yards, before adding to his lovable image by strutting over to the Cheadle End and waving his hands to his ear.
Again, the wind was knocked out of the County side and the game was gone. JJ had a chance in the last minute to slide the ball home but again the linesman's flag stood in his way.
12 in a row. The way I see it - Gary Ablett couldn't really have done more. You can moan about his tactical decisions, leaving Pilks and Vincent on for so long, but who've we really got on the bench? The equally as raw Danny Rowe or the lightweight Greg Tansey. You pick.
The team will gel and we'll start picking up some points. Just give them a chance first!