Match report posted by Richard (view the full thread on the forum )
A ragged second half performance by Swindon resulted in Wembley defeat this afternoon - two goals at the very start and very end of the second period securing the Johnstone's Paint Trophy for Chesterfield in front of almost 50,000 fans.
Di Canio made just one change from the midweek victory over Torquay, and I thought it was a controversial one - bringing in loanee Jay McEveley at left back in place of Alessandro Cibocchi for his Town debut.
It was a shaky start to the game from Swindon - the occasion seemingly getting to the players in the first twenty minutes or so - the ball getting pinged round all over the place, inaccurate passes or long balls the order of the day. I thought we looked particularly nervous at the back - not least in the first talking point of the game on nine minutes.
Chesterfield had already had a couple of openings - a Jack Lester header that went straight at Foderingham, and a through ball to Bowery from which the striker contrived to completely miss his shot, allowing Devera to block. The resulting corner was initially headed away, but was hooked back in - and as Town arms went into the air to claim offside, defender Simon Ford hit a bouncing shot onto the bar, Lester reacting first to turn the ball in. The linesman’s flag was up as soon as Ford played the ball, but I hadn’t noticed at that point - the Chesterfield supporters obviously hadn’t either, as some continued to celebrate even after Wes Foderingham had thumped the ball back into play. Moments later, the Town defence allowed a long throw to bounce right in the middle of the penalty area, and Risser failed to clear away with his head, forcing Foderingham to come out to divert the ball away - when we finally did clear, Risser nearly slipped to let a Chesterfield attacker in... it hadn’t been a particularly good opening ten minutes.
When we did get the ball down and play, we really did look the better of the two sides - there was one particular spell which had some of the Town fans starting to shout “Olé!”, as the Spireites couldn’t get near us. The remainder of the half was our best spell of the game by far, and though we were by no means in total ascendancy, we had by far the most of the possession, and we created three good opportunities to have taken the lead.
The first came to Lee Holmes on 19 minutes - a ball forward to Connell was chested down to Benson, who fed the Town wide man on the left, Holmes’ first touch was to cut inside, and from the edge of the area, his curled effort went just high and wide - a decent attempt.
On 25 minutes, Chesterfield’s Alex Mendy had a long range effort that was close but didn’t trouble Foderingham - three minutes later, Swindon came as close to scoring as they would do all afternoon. After Connell made a nuisance of himself on the edge of the area, Simon Ferry moved in to pick the ball up, he found Holmes again on the left side, and again Holmes cut inside, this time from a wider position in the area. He struck a shot across goal - a Chesterfield defender almost diverted it in, but keeper Lee managed to get a hand to it - the ball bouncing agonisingly out of the reach of Paul Benson, and just as agonisingly wide. Forcing corner after corner, it felt like this was the time we could take the lead.
With five minutes of the half remaining, arguably our best opening of the day came and went. A superb high diagonal pass from Ferry found Holmes on the wing, his deep cross was headed back across the face of goal by Benson, finding Connell on the edge of the six yard box in space. He probably had time to bring it down, but with the ball slightly behind him, the Town front man went for the spectacular - attempting a scissored volley that went well wide.
Whatever di Canio said at half-time went quickly out of the window though - Swindon conceding an awful goal before many fans had returned to their seats after the break. Straight from the kick-off, we failed to press the ball up front, allowing Chesterfield to pass the ball from defence through midfield and into attack - when a ball was played in behind Risser for Bowery to run on to. Though Foderingham saved the initial shot with his legs, the Chesterfield striker got to the ball before Risser - whacking it into the air, initially it looked it may have gone harmlessly away from goal, but Alex Mendy kept it in, performing a Cruijff turn on Ritchie before smashing a low ball into the danger area. By this time, Risser was stood on the near post, and in his attempt to stop the cross reaching Bowery on the far post, he diverted the ball into the net past his own keeper - the first ever Namibian to play at Wembley becoming the first ever Namibian and the first ever Swindon player to score an own goal at the National Stadium.
And for whatever reason, after the goal we seemed to go to pieces. Back came the indecisive play and the misplaced passes. Chesterfield pressed us all over the pitch, and having successfully nullified the threat of Ritchie on one flank, they did the same to Lee Holmes in the second half, doubling up on both wingers, cancelling out our main attacking threats. And though he usually gets his tactics spot on, this is one area where I really thought di Canio got it wrong today - so much of our threat usually comes from our wing play - especially Caddis and Ritchie on the right side, more recently via Rooney or Holmes and Cibocchi or Kennedy on the left. With Caddis unavailable, we’ve seen that Joe Devera doesn’t get forward enough to provide the support to Ritchie that he needs, especially when he’s being double-marked like he was today - only once did Devera get ahead of him, and that ended with a poor cross into the side netting. We needed some attacking force on the other flank to compensate - but though Holmes did have some success in the first half, when he received the same treatment as Ritchie in the second, he too had no support - Jay McEveley got forward perhaps even less than Devera does. I personally was of the opinion that McEveley shouldn’t have started today anyway - firstly because Cibocchi and Kennedy have both contributed to a very good season and deserved to play (I should imagine both are mightily peeved that a loan player has come in and taken their starting position for such a game), and secondly because it gave us two loanees on the left flank who have only known each other for a few days. Di Canio tried to rectify the situation by changing to a 3-4-3 - withdrawing Risser at the back to be replaced by Ronan Murray - if anything, I thought this exacerbated the problem as now we had no full backs to support the wingers at all. I’ve heard a lot of people slating Ritchie for his performance, I just thought we allowed him to become completely isolated.
The second half was incredibly frustrating to watch - in some ways, it reminded me of the Oxford game a few weeks ago, having lots of possession, but very little penetrative threat at all. One promising move ended with a Ritchie shot that went high and wide, another good break ended with an overhit cross from Murray. Things were obviously not going to plan - di Canio looked a concerned man in his technical area, rather strangely spending most of the half on one knee, appearing to look for some sort of divine intervention.
With three at the back, we were always going to be susceptible on the break, and so it proved on 72 minutes, when a nothing ball forward was flicked on, Alan McCormack slipped and all of a sudden Chesterfield were through. Sub Westcarr had already fired one shot wide from a decent position earlier in the half, but this time he was one-on-one with Foderingham - it was a rabbit-in-the-headlights moment as he dragged a woeful shot wide. I thought back to Charlie Austin. Could this be a turning point?
Four minutes later, we really should have been on level terms. Picking the ball up on the flank in some space, Holmes made a diagonal run towards goal, slipping in Murray who had run into space across him. Holmes continued his run into the area, and the Town striker laid it back into his path - in acres of space, Holmes really needed to put his foot through it, instead he opted for placement with the side of his foot... only he didn’t get the required accuracy, and the ball went weakly into the arms of Tommy Lee. I think it was at that point that I decided it really wasn’t going to be our day - we just were not creating enough openings.
As the game approached its climax, a Ritchie cross was diverted away, and Cibocchi (who by now had come on in place of McEveley) won a free-kick wide on the left side - Holmes whipped the ball in, and it was Cibocchi who met the ball with a superb header, but Lee was equal to it with a flying dive to tip over the bar. The resulting corner was headed away, before Ritchie played an aimless ball out for a goal-kick, which just sort of summed up the second half - the final ball completely lacking.
As we committed men forward for the equaliser in the last throes of injury time, Connell lost out on a header in the middle of the park, and a Bostock challenge was thumped forward by a Chesterfield midfield player - catching all of our outfield players in the Spireites half. Craig Westcarr was also in his own half when he began his run, but with his momentum going forward and the Town defence turning, he easily outpaced them to the ball, for his second one-on-one chance of the half - this time he made no mistake, slotting the ball past Foderingham to cue wild celebrations in the blue half of Wembley, and mass departure in the red half. It annoyed me a bit that so many could leave without acknowledging the players during such a good season - daytrippers I guess.
A decent first half performance, and a disappointing second - Chesterfield had a game plan and stuck to it well, frustrating us all over the pitch and hitting us on the break. It’s not quite the same level of disappointment as the play-off final was, but it would have been great to have tasted a Wembley victory. There will be no double - hopefully our success this season will come in the form of the League Two title.