So we’re well into 2019 now and I’m back from a little break over Christmas. After a great day out at Goodison Park, we now have our undivided attention focused on League Two, or should that be League One? The next obstacle in our path is a trip the County Ground, home of Swindon Town. Here are some things to look out for:
1) The Robins (All Swindon Town stats are League only)
So far this season, Swindon have been mid-table all over. In their 27 games, they’ve managed 9 wins, 9 draws, and 9 losses. Despite sitting in the top half as things stand, they could drop as low as 15th if teams below them win their games in hand. They had gone 5 games without a win until managing to win 2-1 at Moss Rose last time out.
Macclesfield will be glad to see the back of them. In their curtain-raiser in August, Swindon scored in 96th and 98th minutes to turn a 2-1 defeat into a victory. The suffering Macclesfield fans must have been having flashbacks on Saturday when Swindon once again came from behind to win, with the decisive goal again coming in stoppage time. Richie Wellens’ men have also scored late against MK Dons, Newport and Yeovil so it’s clear that, like us, they fancy themselves in the dying embers of games.
They’re not exactly watertight at the back though, in their home fixtures so far, they’ve conceded 19 goals in 13 games. They have managed to keep 3 clean sheets but all of those games have ended 0-0. I’m not expecting them to put us to the sword. They’ve failed to score in their last 2 at home and with League Two’s meanest travelling defence coming to town, the locals might be wondering if they’ll have something to celebrate any time soon.
2) A solid midfield
You don’t get the best away defence in the division without some protection in front and that’s been evident in our team selections. We often opt for a solid base booth in terms of selection and shape. Therefore, injuries and fitness permitting, I feel we might field a midfield trio of O’Connor, Frecklington and Pett. While this sacrifices the offensive running McCartan has provided, the hope is that, as well as increased solidity, the aforementioned trio can use their individual attacking talents more than they would in a system with an attacking midfielder. Pett can drop into pockets of space, Frecklington has a knack of timing late runs, and O’Connor has a good long range shot in his locker.
This trio has started of 9 occasions together already this season and I think we may see that hit double figures on Saturday, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Shay McCartan (although I hope Danny and Nicky are less in the dark than me on that issue).
3) A Cowley style away performance
We know how much the Cowleys love a gritty away win, they’re just as important as the thrashings as Tranmere found out in our National League title-winning campaign. Getting 3 points on the road does necessitate a different style though with teams generally more confident on their own turf and usually more inclined to attack. Away from Sincil Bank this season we’ve averaged 48% possession (3% lower than at home) and averaged 9.4 shots compared to 11.1. The less buccaneering nature of our away performances is even more clear in terms of shots compared to opponents. At home we’ve tallied 17 more efforts than visitors but, in away games, we’ve faced 57 more than we’ve taken.
Amazingly though, we’ve actually conceded more goals at home. What this demonstrates to me is that our away defensive shape is about frustrating the opposition and forcing them into speculative shots. Despite sitting deep, we still score regularly, only drawing a blank twice on the road. What this comes down to is efficiency. In away games so far, 9% of opposition shots have resulted in a goal, 21% of Lincoln’s have gone in. In the 17 games on the road so far, we’ve scored 29 and let in19. This system might be decent after all, eh?