SWINDON TOWN may be without a manager, but they still possess one of the best squads in League One – a fact they underlined in some style at Prenton Park last night as Tranmere Rovers’ slide down the table continued.
Ronnie Moore’s depleted team – ravaged by injury and suspension problems – fell to a fourth defeat on the spin and now occupy the final play-off spot in the division, having spent so much of the season at the summit.
The new leaders are manager-less Swindon, who climbed from sixth to first on the back of last night’s victory. Paolo Di Canio quit as Robins boss on Monday – unhappy with issues relating to a proposed takeover of the club – but caretaker manager Fabrizio Piccareta ensured there was a seamless transition and Swindon were deserving of the three points last night.
A nervy opening 45 minutes from the home side produced a catalogue of chances for Swindon – none of which were taken.
Striker James Collins tested home keeper Owain Fon Williams twice in the early stages. The Welshman dived low to his left to keep out a sixth-minute effort from Collins before saving with his legs from the same player soon after.
The visitors continued to play a more fluid brand of football and they came within inches of taking the lead in the 22nd minute. A long-range drive by Tommy Miller was deflected into the path of Miles Storey, who poked the ball narrowly wide from eight yards under pressure from Fon Williams.
The Rovers keeper collided with defender Donervorn Daniels a minute later, leaving both players in a tangle on the ground while the loose ball fell to the feet of Collins. The Swindon striker had the whole goal to aim at, but Ash Taylor had positioned himself on the line and his presence was enough to force Collins into scuffing the ball wide.
The rest of the half followed a similar pattern, Swindon moving the ball effectively while Tranmere’s threat as an attacking force was limited.
The game’s next chance fell to the ever dangerous Collins. But Fon Williams pulled off a fine reflex save to deny the former Shrewsbury Town forward after he turned inside on his left foot and let fly from 12 yards.
Having spent so much of the first period on the back foot, the hosts ended it with a couple of near misses, Cole Stockton blasting over a volley from long range before directing a header wide from a Max Power cross.
Swindon’s first-half display will surely have impressed the watching Mike Newell, who has been linked to the vacant manager’s position at the County Ground and was among the Prenton Park crowd last night.
The visitors started the second period at lightning speed – and it was too much for Rovers. The overworked Fon Williams had already made a point-blank save to deny Andy Williams before Collins finally grabbed the goal he had been threatening to score all evening.