City dropped two points at home this evening in one of those games which looked like it might go one way on paper, but ended up completely different to what people expected.
It was a game where once again, we beat ourselves at times, but that lesser teams might have ended up losing. We didn’t lose, which is a positive to take from an evening where I imagine, social media will be awash with negatives.
Despite the concerns around Adam Jackson, Anthony Scully and Jorge Grant, all three were included in a starting XI which saw two changes. Tayo Edun dropped to the bench with Cohen Bramall selected, whilst Regan Poole and TJ Eyoma also swapped. That meant Brennan Johnson continued in midfield alongside Conor McGrandles, with James Jones on the bench. There was also some positive injury news, as Theo Archibald was once again amongst the subs.
If the Imps were hoping for a good start, they got anything but. It took just two minutes for the visitors to take the lead, a ball from the attacking left was dummied as it came across, and Jordon Garrick finished with ease from 12 yards. It was the worst possible start for the Imps, who looked to bounce back immediately as with the 2-1 win over Wigan at the weekend.
In a frenetic opening exchange, City managed two shots on goal. Conor McGrandles registered the first with five minutes gone, driving forward and firing straight at the keeper from 20-yards out. Two minutes later it was Brennan Johnson breaking through the middle, but his pass to Rogers saw the Manchester City man forced wide, and his shot was weak.
It should have been 2-0 to the visitors before the ten-minute mark had passed, a free kick from deep in the attacking half nodded just wide at the back post. It was a warning for the Imps to tighten up at the back, but it was a warning not heeded, although the game did settle down a little. There was a booking for McGrandles and another for Matty Palmer, neither of which could be argued against. McGrandles miscontrolled a ball and ended up taking out former Imp Jack Payne, whilst Palmer cynical tripped Hopper as our striker surged forward.
On 20 minutes another unforced error almost cost us a goal. Jorge Grant looked to flick the ball back towards his defence but instead found Brett Pitman in space. Luckily, the once-deadly striker couldn’t capitalise after making a poor decision with his pick of options.
Scott Twine, something of a long-range specialist, flashed on effort straight at Palmer from 25-yards out on 20 minutes, as Swindon threatened to grab a second. It was Twine again going close on 23 minutes, a mistake by Jackson seeing him given an opportunity, but he shot over the bar.
Against the run of play, City levelled on 25 minutes. Good play by Bramall down the left saw the ball pulled back to Rogers, and he lofted a delicious delivery over the top for Johnson. The on-loan forward burst clear and was cynically tripped for a clear penalty. Grant made no mistake from 12-yards to make it 1-1.
For a spell after the goal, City looked likely to press on and win the game. A corner a minute later found Montsma at the back stick, and he nodded the ball back to Jackson, whose shot was blocked and sent over for another corner. That delivery came to nothing.
Bizarrely, the Imps best chance came from a drop ball on 35 minutes. After striking Declan Bourne, the ball was dropped for Grant who quickly lifted it over the defence for Scully. He went through on keeper Wollacott but scooped his effort over the bar.
That short spell of Imps positivity quickly evaporated as mistakes once again cost the Imps. On 36 minutes, City were carved open from the attacking right, and Pitman found himself free in the area, only to lift his shot onto the bar when it seemed easier to score.
City almost took the lead on 40 minutes through Morgan Rogers, he curled an effort at goal from 20-yards out which the keeper palmed away, but Scully couldn’t do anything positive with the rebound, despite reacting quickest.
Just before half time, Swindon were back in the lead in frustrating circumstances. Bramall beat Garrick for pace heading back to goal and laid the ball off the Palmer, but the stopper made a hash of his control and simply flicked the ball up to the Swindon attackers, leaving Brett Pitman with an easy finish. It was a demoralising incident for everyone concerned, players, staff and fans, to see Swindon back in the lead through our own doing, but it was 100% in line with the core themes of the first half.