TOWN FLIER: Are the play-offs back in sight for resilient Town?
Swindon striker Michael Smith sends the Preston keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot. Picture: Terry Parker
ONLY a couple of weeks ago The County Ground was enveloped in a mist of doom and gloom, thanks to seven league games without a win, writes Andrew Steele-Davis.
A last-gasp winner by MK Dons and a lesson in football courtesy of a star-studded Wolves side inflicted two straight home defeats on Town.
However, fast forward to Tuesday night and Town sit just four points behind the last play-off placed team Peterborough, who are showing signs of ‘choking’ on the run-in.
A battling 0-0 draw at local rivals Bristol City, despite having to play for 35 minutes with 10 men, and back-to-back wins over flying Preston and struggling Tranmere, have thrust Town back into the promotion race.
They were excellent against Preston, a side who boasted the second best away record in the league and were unbeaten in 12 before their visit to SN1.
Preston did edge the first half, a half of few chances, with Joe Garner’s low header and Miles Storey’s first-time effort the only clear-cut opportunities of note.
Swindon, driven by the superb Ben Gladwin, a man who was plying his trade in non league only a few months ago, flew out of the traps in the second half, peppering the Preston goal and forcing Declan Rudd into a string of fine saves.
And Town notched the winner with 55 minutes played. Gladwin embarked on a lung-busting run which was clumsily brought to an end by Neil Kilkenny.
Michael Smith stepped up to convert a spot-kick which oozed calmness and composure – his sixth goal for Town.
Buoyed by that superb win, Town travelled to a chilly Prenton Park looking to record consecutive victories for the first time since November.
And they got off to the perfect start, Alex Smith crashing in a stunning pile-driver off the underside of the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.
That goal seemed to galvanize the home team however, and they came back strongly with Max Power scoring a stunning strike of his own to haul Tranmere level just minutes later.
Despite being put under constant pressure, and having to repel wave after wave of Tranmere attacks, Town dug in and notched the winner which carried a good deal of luck with it.
Miles Storey’s cross-cum-shot somehow managed to sneak in to give Town a 2-1 lead, an advantage they protected with grit and determination.
We might have to check those holiday plans in May . . .