TOWN FLIER: Keeping Ranger on the straight and narrow is crucial
I’D HAZARD a guess that the best Christmas present any Swindon Town fan could have would be Nile Ranger – with his head screwed on.
The controversial striker with the self-styled ‘gangsta’ profile arrived at the County Ground this season carrying a phenomenal amount of baggage, not least the burden of an impending rape case on his shoulders.
After starting the season in scintillating fashion on the pitch he has reverted to type, going AWOL from training and being dropped from the team as a consequence.
But he was restored to the starting line-up for the first time in weeks as Swindon entertained Coventry on Saturday.
For much of the 90 minutes, the healthy 1,200 plus travelling support were in good voice.
Many Coventry fans now boycott their ‘home’ games at Northampton Town’s Sixfields stadium having been booted out of the Ricoh Arena, preferring to watch their heroes in away matches only.
The catalyst for Swindon’s comeback after going a goal down was Ranger.
Swindon are a proper team – and a match for anyone – when he plays. The ball sticks when it gets to him, he has the power and pace to shrug off defenders, and does good defensive work at set pieces in the Town box.
Crucially, his headers led to both Swindon goals in the 2-1 win, and he was unlucky not to score himself when denied by Joe Murphy's best save of the match.
A back-to-top-form Yasser Kasim struck the sweetest volley for the first goal and Miles Storey showed hitherto unseen strength to outmuscle a defender before dinking the ball coolly over Murphy for the winner. Credit, too, goes to Wes Foderingham for the vital save which stopped the visitors going 2-0 up in the second half.
Coventry boss Steve Pressley was shell-shocked that his impressive side could leave with nothing but Swindon have to be congratulated for showing great character and class.
Coventry, of course, have a controversial target man of their own – Leon Clarke, whose brief tenure at Swindon on loan ended after an altercation with then-manager Paolo Di Canio in the tunnel.
It seems Clarke still has a beef with the Wiltshire club rather than just its combustible ex-manager. After scoring Coventry’s opener, Clarke ran 60 yards to pose provocatively in front of Swindon fans.
Whip your shirt off after scoring and you automatically get a booking. Deliberately try to incite opposition fans as Clarke did and there is no censure whatsoever. Funny old game.