STFC match report: Swindon Town 1-4 Manchester City

By Alfie Howlett - 9 January 2022

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It was a proud evening for Swindon as they gave an excellent account of themselves against the Premier League champions at the County Ground. It was a monumental occasion for Swindon as it marked going from the brink of oblivion in the summer to testing themselves against ten full international players in the space of just 6 months. With there being just the 72 places between the 2 teams and the game being shown in 181 different countries around the world it was all set up to be a special evening at SN1 infront of a capacity crowd.

Manchester City would come to Wiltshire without manager Pep Guardiola after he and 7 other Manchester City players tested positive for Covid-19. Nonetheless the starting eleven fielded by the Cityzens resembled a normal Premier League eleven. It was a star-studded side which was undoubtedly much stronger than expected. Swindon were also weakened after arguably the player of the season Jack Payne was ruled out through injury. Welsh international Jonny Williams was only fit enough for a place on the Town bench.

City kicked off the game infront of a raucous atmosphere as they immediately flexed their muscles with a Cole Palmer effort needing heading over by skipper Dion Conroy. 5 minutes later Joao Cancelo picked out Bernardo Silva inside the box with a perfect ball but the Portuguese international fired his shot over Ward's crossbar. Despite City seeing all of the ball Swindon were doing a good job tucking into a compact shape with 8 men behind the ball. And after winning a couple of loose balls in midfield Swindon found themselves on their first attack of the evening with the ball at the feet of Ellis Iandolo. The left back beat Kyle Walker and then whipped a decent delivery towards the back post which just evaded Harry McKirdy. You could see Swindon growing into the game as every tackle and block lifted their confidence that little bit more. However their early resistance was broken 14 minutes in thanks to a touch of Premier League class by Cole Palmer. 1 on 1 with Iandolo on the right wing Palmer executed an excellent drop of the shoulder to make his way into the box where he picked out the movement of Bernardo Silva who tapped in from close range to give City the lead.

3 minutes later Bernardo had another chance after intercepting Odimayo's backwards header, but this time the false 9 saw his effort go over. At the halfway mark of the first half Lewis Ward saved Kevin De Bruyne's tame effort after City forced a Town mistake after playing out from the back. And just 5 minutes later City punished Swindon to make it 2-0 as they capitalised on yet another error. Ward played the short ball to Louis Reed who with his back to play lost out to a brilliant Man City press leaving Kevin De Bruyne to slot the ball through to Jesus to finish from close range. Some might argue it was naive from Swindon to play this way against one of the best sides in Europe. But I thoroughly disagree. It made me proud as a Swindon fan that Swindon stuck to their principals and philosophy regardless of the opposition. Because that is their style and that is their most effective style. A Zack Steffan mistake just past the half hour mark saw Harry Mckirdy try his luck from range but his shot was comfortably caught by the American. The next 15 minutes was dominated by Manchester City as they looked to finish the game off within 45 minutes. However Swindon defended resolutely with a stinging Joao Cancelo effort the closest the sky blues got to extending the lead. The half time whistle blew with Swindon going in having given an admirable first half display.

The second half saw more of the same with a stubborn Swindon refusing to lie down. But once again a touch of Premier League class from Ilkay Gundogan saw City tie things up just shy of the hour mark. A free kick from around 25 yards out saw the German expertly wrap his foot around the ball curling it into the bottom corner past the helpless Swindon wall to make it 3-0. With Swindon seeking to limit the damage Gabriel Jesus won a cheap penalty minutes later after being tripped inside the box. After winning the penalty the Brazilian put the ball on the spot looking for his second of the evening. However his stuttering run up didn't fool Lewis Ward who saved the poor penalty for what was the biggest cheer of the night so far. From that point on the the atmosphere inside the County Ground went from eletric to deafening. And through the noise came Swindon's star man Kaine Kesler Hayden. The highly rated right back rose to this occasion. Not feared by facing some of the best players in the world he continued to try his tricks and make his opposition seem average. And with 66 on the clock the youngster brilliantly won the ball deep inside his own half and played a superb ball to Tyreece Simpson. Simpson whom had been giving everything all night controlled the ball excellently and took it into the box where he was brought down. But there would be no penalty for Town as he was told to get up. However Swindon's moment would come and when it did it blew the roof off.

Coming up to just ten minutes to go Swindon found themselves on the counter attack with Jonny Williams on the ball. To his left was Simpson and on his right was the inform McKirdy. Williams off loaded a delicate ball to McKirdy just outside the box on the right where his brilliant first touch allowed him to fire past Steffan in the City goal to spark pandemonium at the County Ground. McKirdy looked overjoyed as he celebrated in the corner with his trademark celebration as the scenes resembled that of a winning goal. But to me it was a winning goal. From losing a preseason friendly to Weymouth to scoring against the champions in the space of 6 months. It was a reward for the long journey we've all been on.

Minutes later Cole Palmer marked his sparkling performance with a fine strike to restore Manchester City's 3 goal lead. Which allowed City to make changes and take off their star men. This reflected how well Swindon had done as they had forced Manchester City to keep their best players on the pitch for 85 minutes. In stoppage time a venomous Rodri effort from range was tipped on to the woodwork by Lewis Ward. With seconds to go the County Ground came together as chants of stand up if you love Swindon greeted the full time whistle. It was Manchester City's game but it was Swindon and Harry McKirdy's night.

I was really proud of every player in red last night. Every single player did themselves justice against a formidable City team. A team that's been winning Premier League contests by 5 or more goals consistently this season. So for Swindon to keep them to 4 and even score 1 themselves is a remarkable effort. And the fashion they did it was a real advert for the club with the eyes of the world watching. Next up for Town is bump back down to reality as they travel to inform Mansfield on Tuesday night. 

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