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MATCH REPORT: Swindon Town 3-1 Rochdale
SWINDON TOWN continued their impressive opening day record with a dominant display at the County Ground as a demolition job in the first-half saw the Robins run out 3-1 winners to go top of League One on the opening day of the season. Total Sport Swindon’s Ryan Walker gives his match report from SN1.
First-half goals from Tyler Smith, Anthony Grant, and Matt Smith were the difference as Swindon put on an impressive opening-day display to take all three points as a consolation goal from Jimmy Keohane failed to influence the final result.
A new season with new expectations, new players for Richie Wellens to turn into playoff hopefuls, and unfortunately no fans to witness the action unfold due to the current climate.
Having lost a strike duo that scored 43 goals between them last season, Swindon fans could be forgiven for worrying where their goals would come from this season.
However, Tyler Smith’s 4th-minute goal went some way to calming those fears as the Swindon number nine smashed home from close-range to give his side the lead in the opening minutes.
Swindon’s fast start seemed to have stunned Rochdale, but the home side didn’t stop to look back as fluid attacking play between Jack Payne, Diallang Jaiyesimi and goalscorer Smith wreaked havoc amongst the visitors backline, with the final shot the only thing stopping Richie Wellens’ side running away with the game.
Rochdale tried to get into the game with striker Alex Newby showing his pace with runs in behind the Swindon defence early on, but the home sides high-pressing play cut off the passing lines and the visitors instead had to resort to ineffective long balls upfield.
Calm on the ball, Arsenal loanee Matt Smith appeared to have put a disappointing mid-week display behind him with his energy in midfield creating space for Swindon’s attackers to exploit as Rochdale struggled to create any sort of momentum with home side dominating proceedings.
Swindon maintained their pressure and were eventually rewarded with a second goal in the 32nd minute in the form of the unlikeliest of scorers, as Anthony Grant rose highest at the back-post to latch onto a Jaiyesimi cross and head past Bazunu to score his first goal for the club.
Deservedly in front, Swindon found themselves riding on a wave of confidence, whilst in contrast Rochdale couldn’t have cut a more frustrated figure as Swindon’s determined pressing in the opposition half restricted Brian Barry-Murphy’s side to playing in their own half.
With the majority of football being played in their own half, Rochdale’s attackers were starved of the ball as Swindon exerted their stranglehold on the game, and were eventually rewarded with a third goal on the stroke of half-time as Matt Smith added his name to the scoresheet.
Brilliant reading of the game from Smith saw the 19-year-old sprint from the halfway line to pounce on a poor pass from Rochdale keeper Bazunu and calmly slot the ball into the bottom left corner as more misery was heaped onto the visitors.
The half-time whistle blew moments later to the relief of Rochdale with Swindon impressively and deservedly in front.
More of the same was the rallying call from Swindon boss Richie Wellens as the sides emerged for the second half, but he could be forgiven for seeing his players take their foot off the gas slightly with their dominant display in the opening 45 minutes taking the sting out the game.
Jonny Smith created a half-chance for himself with a mazing run in the 53rd minute resulting in a shot that needed to be saved by Bazunu, but that was the height of Swindon’s second-half chances as the hosts settled with their three goal-lead.
Fabio Tavares and Ollie Rathbone momentarily threatened with shots from range in the latter stages of the half but neither could significantly test Kovar on what was a relatively uneventful day for Swindon’s defence.
Rochdale to their credit continued to push as the final whistle approached and some lackadaisical defending resulted in fullback Jimmy Keohane scoring a consolation goal in additional time after latching onto a Kwadwo Baah cross.
But it did little to influence the final scoreline as Swindon Town ran out 3-1 winners to go top of League One on the opening day of the season.