Match report posted by Richard (view the full thread on the forum )
I left home early today to get to Swindon, in glorious, bright sunshine - failing to consult the weather forecast, after all, it's always good for the opening day of the season, isn't it? In case anyone was wondering, I was the idiot in the shorts and flip-flops!
There were no real surprises in Malpas' opening day lineup - Craig Easton will perhaps have been a little miffed to have missed out with Timlin and Nalis preferred as the midfield pairing, and the only other slight surprise was the inclusion of Yinka Casal at left back, after Malpas seemed to hint that he wouldn't be considered for today's game.
It didn't take long for the Town to get into their stride. From the off today, there was a definite reduction in the number of aimless long balls forward, and some great little one touch passes were being played. It was from one such good move that the Town took the lead in the fifth minute. The ball was worked from the right side, out to McNamee on the left, and he swung in a cross to the back post. At first, it seemed as though nobody would be able to reach it, but a Tranmere defender got to it - and rather than playing safe and conceding a corner, he only succeeded in presenting the ball to Cox, who played it back to McGovern on the edge of the area. JPM put in a perfect cross to the head of Billy Paynter, who managed to divert the ball into the net - the great start to the season. All we needed was Steve Vickers to bang in another one straightaway, and all would have been perfect!! Paynter and Cox put the Tranmere defence under all sorts of pressure all afternoon, and they completely failed to deal with it - numerous chances were created from their harrassment. A special mention goes to Tranmere keeper John Achterburg, who on at least three occasions made a hash of a clearance under pressure - so much so that in the second half he resorted to short passes out of his goal area rather than punting upfield.
The Town seemed pretty comfortable for the rest of the half - Nalis and Timlin both dominating the midfield, and McNamee showing off his skills on the left side. That said, there was always the worry that Tranmere might come back into it - and they nearly did midway through the first half, when a through ball found Ian Moore one-on-one with Brezovan. He looped the ball over the advancing keeper, probably too high, allowing Yinka Casal to get back to cover. The sensible option would have been to have headed the ball wide or over the bar - whether Casal was worried about heading it in or not, I don't know, but instead he contrived to head the ball backwards, away from goal, but into the path of a onrushing forward, Steve Jennings. Under pressure from Jack Smith, Jennings put the ball wide when he really should have done better - but he never should have been given the chance in the first place. Another Tranmere chance came shortly afterwards after some slack defending left a gaping hole in the defence - it seemed that both Aljofree and Smith tried to mark the same man - again, the shot went wide. Most of the play was still in the Tranmere half, and Swindon created a couple of half-chances themselves, but nothing really of note.
With just over five minutes to go in the first half though, Simon Cox doubled the Town's lead. A huge punt from Brezovan was flicked on by Paynter (he won balls in the air all afternoon), Cox outpaced the defence, and fired past the hesitant Achterburg. Considering the football that the Town had been playing, it was scored via the most direct route possible - maybe Malpas' promise to mix it up a bit is coming to fruition already?
Within minutes of the restart, McGovern extended the lead to three. This time, the ball was pinged out to McNamee, who made enough space to whip in a low cross to the front post, which was missed by Cox, only for it to fizz through to the unmarked McGovern on the back post. At this point, by view got obstructed and I didn't actually see the ball hit the net.... though I'm reliably informed that it didn't hit the net at all - instead a vain attempt was made by a Tranmere defender to clear off the line, but the officials were on cue to signal the goal.
The first fifty minutes of the game had been pretty impressive by the Town, but the third goal was the signal to take the foot off the gas, and the next fifteen minutes or so belonged to Tranmere. The Town got way too casual for my liking, and had Rovers scored earlier, I reckon we'd have had a fight on our hands to preserve the lead. Two things in particular stick out - Casal losing the ball thirty yards from goal on the Town's left side to let them in for an opportunity, and Cox nonchalantly playing the ball back when we were in a great four on three position, to make the game completely safe. To be fair to Cox, he also had another decent long range effort that just went wide with the keeper beaten.
Tranmere's goal came five minutes from the end of the game, when Tranmere sub Sonko found himself behind the defence in the area on the Town's left. Casal did well to charge down and block the shot, but the ball unluckily rebounded straight back to Sonko, who played in Savage on the back post for a simple tap-in.
A win was no more than the Town deserved today - we certainly eased up for the second half, but the victory was ensured on the first half performance alone. I'm a little concerned that we went to sleep a bit at the back sometimes - Tranmere had a couple of chances today that could have been converted. Of the new guys, Timlin and Nalis were superb in the middle - Timlin put his foot in far more often than I remember him doing last year, and if Nalis can last the season, then we have a great signing, with much needed experience (Ifil was one of those on the end of a Nalis b*ll*cking during the game today). I thought Casal looked nervous, and I expected more attacking link-up play with McNamee - hopefully he just needs a few games to settle in. I also thought Jack Smith looked rusty - Aljofree and Smith were the only players I can remember who resorted to the aimless ball forward today. Paynter and Cox caused problems all afternoon - Cox got the MOTM award - it was close between a few today, but personally I think I would have given it to Timlin for the amount of ground he covered.
So... a comfortable win, neat football, a much better looking ground (must get those away seats sorted out!), evidence of set pieces worked out on the training pitch, 5000 season tickets sold, no debt, a board that communicates with and is in touch with its fanbase and actually seems to care.... it all seems a million miles away from the last few years. The only real downside I thought was the atmosphere - considering the football we were playing, it was VERY quiet inside the CG today.... more to come in another thread.
Last word to Mr Fitton: "Old Trafford will always be Old Trafford, St. James' Park will always be St. James' Park, and the County Ground will always be the County Ground." Pure class.