The First Round of football's oldest cup competition delivered one of Swindon's most embarrassing results in their proud 144 year history. Non League Aldershot left Town stunned and silenced as they raced into a 3 goal lead after just 10 minutes.
Another Aldershot goal prior to halftime saw a crescendo of boos before a mass exodus from the Swindon faithful. Somehow, matters only got worse as the visitor's raced into a incomprehensible 7 goal lead by the hour mark. A brace a piece from Charlie Austin and Dan Kemp restored some personal pride in a deeply dark day for the club.
Swindon entered the contest in search of their first win in 3 games. In order to achieve this feat Michael Flynn named a near full strength starting XI. Notably loanee Dan Kemp started, and wasn't cup tied, which indicated the midfielder shall remain a Town player for the season. Swindon's Non League visitor's, Aldershot, sat 7th in the National League.
Swindon made the worst possible start to preceedings as Aldershot opened the scoring with their first attack inside the opening minute. Josh Stokes picked up a loose ball in midfield before playing a low cross into the path of the unmarked Jack Barham who neatly tucked past Mahoney. Moments later, Barham would net his and Aldershot's second of the afternoon. After Mahoney ended up stuck in no man's land, Barham chipped the ball into the net from the tightest of angles by the byline. Swindon were left shell shocked and very quickly their afternoon turned into a nightmare as Aldershot scored their third. Jack Barham nudged Frazer Blake-Tracy off the ball to break into the box where he played it off to Tolaj who then layed it into the path of Stokes who comfortably slotted past Mahoney from point blank range. It was like a knife through butter, in what was proving to be a woeful defensive performance in the most jaw dropping opening 10 minutes ever witnessed at The County Ground.
Town could either sink or swim from here, and unfortunately they sunk deeper than the Titanic. Every player in red saw their legs turned to jelly as they struggled to deal with the shock of being embarrassed by a Non League outfit. It more than showed on the pitch as Swindon failed to string a sequence of passes together and lost every 50/50 duel. The closest that The Robins came to finding a route back into the contest came just past the half hour mark when Charlie Austin's low header from a corner was cleared on the line.
George McEachran was substituted before half time, but in all honesty it could've been any Town player who was scapegoated. With 43 minutes on the clock the Town back line committed yet another error as Aldershot found themselves bearing down on goal 2 V 1. Tolaj saw his low effort spilled on to the post where Minturn was on hand to clear the danger. This served as a poignant reminder for Swindon that they were just one goal away from curtains. And with one of the final kicks of the half, the curtain came down on Town's humiliating cup campaign. After bringing the ball down in the box, Laurent Tomaj's vicious low left footed strike ripped into the net and sealed Swindon's fate.
Unfortunately, whatever Michael Flynn said to his troops at half time had no effect. Because within minutes Aldershot began the second half in identical fashion to the first. Former Swindon player Cian Harries tucked away a penalty, conceded by Minturn, on 48 minutes. Three minutes later, Laurent Tolaj scored Aldershot's pick of the bunch when he smashed home a spectacular volley from range. Then just shy of the hour mark the Non League visitor's were in seven heaven as Barham completed his hat trick. The Aldershot number 22 broke unmarked into the box to head home and land Town with an unwanted record. The goal saw Swindon become the first Football League side to concede 7 times to a Non League outfit in the FA Cup's long history.
Dan Kemp bagged a quick fire brace through two well worked individual efforts. The first on 75 minutes saw him weave his way into a shooting position before unleashing a low effort into the bottom corner. The next goal 4 minutes later saw Town's number 10 glide across the pitch before finding the back of the net with a sizzling shot. Charlie Austin halved the deficit with a brace of his own in injury time. Both goals from the Town skipper were well taken close range headers from Remeao Hutton crosses.
Where do Swindon go from here? They'll begin with a trip to their bogey side Colchester United on Tuesday night. Before having the opportunity to put matters right in front of home support as they take on league leaders Stockport next Saturday. By which point I wouldn't be surprised if the wheels have well and truly come off Swindon's season.
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