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PREVIEW: Swindon Town v Carlisle United
SWINDON TOWN host Carlisle United in their first home league game of the season, as Richie Wellens' side look to build-on their opening day win at Scunthorpe United last Saturday. Total Sport Swindon's Rajan Hothi previews the upcoming fixture at the County Ground.
A humiliating 4-0 loss in Wellens' first game in charge against Carlisle last season, alongside a 2-1 loss at Brunton Park in a crucial play-off clash, saw Carlisle claim all six points against Swindon last season.
STFC have found it hard to get the better of their Cumbrian opponents recently, with the Robins winning just one of their last five meetings - that win coming on the opening day of the 17/18 campaign as Town ran out 2-1 winners. Swindon does however edge the head to head record between the two sides, winning 14, losing 12 and tiring 20 games.
If Town are to avenge the heavy loss they suffered to their opponents at the County Ground last season, they will need to keep young striker Harry McKirdy quiet. The 22-year-old was on loan at play-off finalists Newport County last season but following his release from Aston Villa, was snapped up by Carlisle in the summer transfer window.
After impressing in pre-season, McKirdy scored the Cumbrians opener against Crawley last weekend and he will be eager to continue his good start to the season on Saturday.
While Carlisle will no doubt be keeping an eye on Lloyd Isgrove, who has so far impressed Swindon fans with his blistering pace and his array of skill moves. An impressive pre-season, which saw him notch a goal against Manchester United Under-23's, was built-on last Saturday as his expertly judged first touch and pace saw him assist Jerry Yates to break the deadlock.
Injuries have seen his progress halted in previous seasons, but if Isgrove can stay fit with Swindon the winger will no doubt cause problems for League Two defenders.
Steven Pressley's side had the worst defence in the top half last season, conceding an alarming 62 goals and they will need to be at their best to deal with the pace of Swindon’s attackers.
A blunt attack saw the Robins struggle for goals last season, managing only 59 goals in the entirety of the league last term, with Wellens about the need to change this if Swindon are to target promotion.
Two goals and a clean sheet on the opening day is encouraging, but if Town can put in another impressive attacking display for the expecting home crowd at SN1, improvement will be noticeable for Town fans and Wellens.
Zeki Fryers and Rob Hunt are likely to be the starting full-backs and they will have a big job on their hands to deal with the pace of Nathan Thomas and Jack Bridge who will both be a handful on the wings. The pair caused Crawley's defence trouble in their last game and they will be keen to do the same against Swindon on Saturday.
Richie Wellens will want to improve on the poor home form that has held back Town in the last couple of seasons, and he's stressed the importance of making the County Ground a fortress this season if his side is to challenge for promotion.
The Swindon manager will be desperate to give the home fans something to shout about and get behind, and a win against Carlisle would go a long way to cementing a feel-good factor around the club.