Saturday was probably our most comfortable win of the season, with a 2-0 victory against now manager-less Swindon. Goals from Lee Gregory and Aiden O’Brien provided the comfort cushion required after 25 minutes, with the game never in doubt beyond that point. Having only had 1 shot in the dying stages of the game, it was a game to forget for Swindon and their traveling supporters, who seemed to have enough of their own torture in the last 8 games. Going into the game it was well documented that the visitors had suffered 12 injuries and hadn’t won a game in 7, losing 6 of those but it still felt like a banana skin for the home side. However it was far from that as from the start we were on top, constantly applying pressure to the Swindon back four, making it a day to forget for them. In reality, if we decided to take even half of the chances we created it should’ve been 5-0 at full time, barring this it was our best performance of the season beyond doubt.
The first was a beautifully worked goal on the break with the ever growing Aiden O’Brien, starting on the right of a four man midfield he raced down the line, having been given the ball from Williams in our defensive third, and managed to provide a delightful pass to the on rushing Lee Gregory who converted past the keeper with a guided finish. On another day the keeper would’ve done enough to prevent it going in, however it was a well deserved goal for Gregory who ran himself into the ground on Saturday. It was more of the same to come as down the right again a great move involving goal scorer Gregory eventually culminated in O’Brien hammering home from 18 yards. Having been sent down the right hand side Gregory managed to gather the ball, and beat the defender to tee up the on rushing Williams, however failing to get to the ball it eventually fell to O’Brien who’s shot was unstoppable for the Swindon keeper. Not the worst feeling in the world, being 2-0 and free flowing, to be honest I can’t remember the last game like it at The Den. At full time it felt like we had got our fortress home back, however the lasting doubt still lives in the mind as Swindon were the worst time I’ve seen this season.
Despite failing to join Gregory and O’Brien on the score sheet, special praise has to go to the performance of Steve Morison. He had chances throughout the game, and perhaps on another day would’ve walked away with the match ball, but the experienced front man led the line in superb fashion. Winning all of the aerial duels, constantly a threat on the last line, it was a complete performance but for scoring that elusive goal. Between Morison, Gregory and O’Brien there seems to be an understanding of movement and a game plan between the three, despite the formation officially classified as a 4-4-2 at times the three of them were unplayable in the final third. It feels like Harris is getting exactly what he would’ve wanted from resigning Morison, of course he is there to score goals and should be contributing more on that front. However on day one both Harris and Morison had eluded to the different role he would have to play as the experienced forward at the club, almost acting as a mentor for both O’Brien and Gregory you can see the improvement in both of their performances. Even during games Morison is constantly talking and guiding both throughout games and offering advice. He is equally the old Morison at times, and does like to blame others, but in this new role he seems keen to advise others and lead the team up top. With Craig now also performing well at the back, and with Jimmy in the middle when fit, Harris has his spine of core players he can rely on in games to be the leaders.
As always in a review we rate each player out of the starting XI, high ratings across the border shouldn’t be a surprise to some:
Archer – 6 – Lowest rating in the lineup, purely because he had nothing to do and barely got his gloves dirty, not that anyone would complain with that!
Edwards – 7 – Calming influence as always, with O’Brien in front had to play a more defensive role, but was superb with timing of his tackles and threw himself into aerial duels, not bad for a 36 year old.
Craig – 7 – Despite playing on the right side had a solid game and looked assured with Beevers, will be interesting to see how he does against a better attacking team in this position.
Beevers – 8 – Really enjoyable performance to watch from Beevers, obviously a threat going forward from set plays but dealt with his defensive duties well. Every single tackle was well timed and intercepted superbly, a worry that he only has months left on his contract which expires in the summer.
Martin – 8 – For a first league start Martin looked like he had been in the side all season, aside from a nervy first touch early on he had a great game, looking the part with Ferguson down the left.
O’Brien – 9 – A goal and an assist for O’Brien, as we know is key to how we play and is a superb ball carrier, he seems to only get better and better.
Saville – 9 – Ran the show in the middle with Williams, offered the short option for defence and was quick to set play along going forward, a great range of passing too. Have to question how long we can keep him on-board after his initial 28 day loan.
Williams – 8 – Was slightly worried on how he would play without Jimmy as he struggled early on this season without him. However with Saville he played great, throwing himself into tackles and not afraid to pickup the ball in tight areas under pressure.
Ferguson – 8 – Exactly what we’ve missed down the left hand side, a natural left footed winger! Great delivery of the ball and a partnership forming down the left with Martin behind, hope to see the same against Blackpool, as away to Peterborough he went missing.
Gregory – 9 – Ran himself into the ground and showed his usual great first touch, was refreshing to see him sticking to the middle and not wandering out wide as often, now let’s hope he can go on a run of goals.
Morison – 9 – As above the only missing part was a goal, another good performance from Morison, and hopefully one of those chances he gets will be converted on Tuesday night.
So a really positive review of the game this weekend, let’s hope for even better tomorrow night up at Blackpool. Let me know your thoughts of this post and your own match rating and MOTM for the game on the weekend.