Match report posted by Richard (view the full thread on the forum )
Swindon moved eight points clear at the top of League Two after a hard fought victory over fellow promotion contenders Cheltenham at the County Ground - holding onto the three points despite the visiting side pressing strongly for an equaliser in the second half.
It was the Town who had the first real sight of goal, after fifteen minutes - a ball forward eluded Benson but was flicked on a Cheltenham defender, and though the ball came over his head, Bodin managed to get the ball down and was in behind the defence. Visiting keeper Jack Butland closed him down quickly and managed to block Bodin’s attempted flick over him - Butland was in no man’s land though when the ball rebounded out to Matt Ritchie, but his low effort was superbly diverted out for a corner via a saving boot of defender Steve Elliott.
The resulting corner dropped dangerously in the area but we couldn’t get a finishing touch - the ball moved out to the Town’s left side, where Cheltenham almost got themselves into trouble - after a couple of near interceptions, the ball was launched forward for Jermaine McGlashan to run onto for a dangerous break - Alan McCormack managed to get across and turn the forward back towards his own goal, but McGlashan fell to the floor, and the referee gave a free-kick, then followed up by rather harshly booking McCormack.
The first real flashpoint of the game though came on the half hour. Cheltenham played the ball forward to Darryl Duffy just inside the Town’s penalty area - with his back to goal, Oliver Risser got close to him, Duffy backed in, and both him and Risser ended up in a heap on the floor. When the referee blew his whistle, he was running at pace so you just knew he was going to point to the spot - it seemed a very harsh penalty award, if anything I thought Risser might get the decision for having been backed into. Duffy stepped up himself to take the kick, but his low strike was far too close to Foderingham - the Town stopper diving to his right to palm it away. Duffy took his frustration out on Joe Devera shortly afterwards, clattering the Town defender with a late challenge, and again the ref ran towards the incident with purpose - immediately showing a yellow card.
Within five minutes, Swindon took the lead. A misunderstanding during a Cheltenham attack had Duffy moaning at his own players - in the meantime, Foderingham picked the ball up, and played it out to Luke Rooney on the left flank. Rooney moved forward fifty yards with the ball, before turning back and playing it to Cibocchi - the defender played a beautifully weighted cross into the centre, where Paul Benson was left unmarked to volley home from close range - there was a huge roar in the CG as the ball hit the net.
Over this period, the game threatened to get out of the control of the referee - Cheltenham player McGlashan was denied an obvious free kick, Paul Benson also didn’t get one despite being held in a headlock in front of the DRS. Luke Rooney was brought down with a flying tackle that possibly warranted a booking, but nothing came.
In a half of few real chances, Rooney had the last attempt of the half - after robbing a defender of the ball, he cut inside, but could only shoot straight at Butland.
It was the away side who had the first opening of the second period - after Alessandro Cibocchi completely missed his interception on the halfway line, Jermaine McGlashan bore down on goal, but he shot straight at Foderingham when he should have gone across the keeper. At the other end, Paul Benson connected with a powerful volley that had Butland diving at full stretch to save. That was the last we would see of the Town as an attacking threat for a while - for the remainder of the game, the away side were in the ascendancy as they pushed forward for an equaliser.
Probably their best chance came on 54 minutes, when a cross into the area from the Town’s left side found Duffy on the back post - the ex-Bristol Rovers striker had a free header at goal from close range, but he failed to get a decent connection on it, and he could only direct his effort straight at Foderingham, when he surely would have scored if he’d gone either side. Minutes later, again it was Duffy who looked like he had got in behind defence - and with Risser struggling to match his pace, there was a moment when there appeared to be a danger that the Namibian was going to bring Duffy down for another penalty and a certain sending-off. Instead, Risser did well to recover and turn the forward away from goal - Duffy playing the ball into space in the area, but Cibocchi showed he wanted it more, charging down to hoof clear.
For all their pressure at this point, Cheltenham were creating very little in the way of clear openings - sub Jimmy Spencer struck a long range effort straight at Foderingham, Steve Elliott hit the wall with a tame free-kick after Cibocchi had fouled McGlashan, Spencer whacked another shot high and wide from distance. Paul Benson was perhaps lucky to escape a booking after bringing down McGlashan in a similar position to that where Cibocchi had earlier - the referee playing the advantage, only for the Cheltenham attack to break down.
Despite the pressure, we did create a couple of chances of our own with fifteen minutes remaining - first, a vicious shot from Rooney after a weaving run forcing an agile save from Butland; and then from the resulting corner came the Town’s chance of the half - after Ritchie played the ball short to Ferry, the Town midfielder crossed for debutant Jonathan Téhoué (who had been introduced shortly after half-time for Billy Bodin), but in a free central position, his header went woefully wide.
In the final ten minutes, the away side were pressing further for the equaliser - another cross to the back post this time found Marlon Pack, but the midfielder couldn’t bring it under his control to get a shot in - as Ritchie and Foderingham charged him down, the ball dropped in the area, only for Devera to smash clear. Moments later, a long ball forward went over the head of Risser and found Duffy on the edge of the box, had he controlled it he would have been in, instead his first touch took it too far away from him, allowing Foderingham to get down to smother, Duffy colliding with him as he gathered.
With just five minutes remaining, Swindon were guilty of allowing a long throw to bounce in the danger zone - the ball eventually finding Duffy with his back to goal on the edge of the six yard box, but his attempted overhead kick again went straight into Foderingham’s hands.
Though Cheltenham were pressing strongly, they were never quite able to create that clear cut chance to force the equaliser - in some ways, you could say their performance was like ours at Oxford last weekend - in the ascendancy but without any cutting edge. As the game moved into injury time, though I didn’t really ever feel we were having to cling on, our defenders were certainly having to work hard - Devera and Risser clashing heads with each other in clearing the ball for a corner. It was obviously reasonably serious - and with no subs left, Devera had to have his head bandaged (and would later need stitches) - quite understandably, the referee allowed both players to remain on the field of play. The Cheltenham fans (and their physio, who had treated Risser) were calling for both players to leave the pitch, which would have been ridiculous - but it did make me wonder what the official rule on this is, so I looked it up this evening... and found that players don’t have to leave the pitch ‘when players from the same team have collided and need immediate attention’. Thankfully, Foderingham got to it to punch away, and as the ball was cleared, the final whistle was blown.
Come the end of the game, it was a little strange that the usual stampede to the exits didn’t happen immediately - instead, everyone stayed on to applaud the team, and of course, wait for Paolo di Canio’s post match celebration... he didn’t disappoint, holding his scarf above his head and punching the air in jubilation. Twelve wins out of thirteen, our tenth straight home league win (thirteen in all competitions, fourteen if you include the JPT penalty shoot out win over Wimbledon), one goal conceded at home in the last twelve league matches, recent wins against five of the top six teams, an eight point gap at the top with goal difference almost twice as good as the next team... can’t really complain, can we? :)