The season has been of mixed emotions on and off the field. An indifferent start to the season saw a 3-0 home win on the opening day, followed by 4 successive defeats in the league leaving Swindon 4th bottom on the 27th August. Many fans were calling for Paolo to be sacked and with the ensuing public bust-up with Leon Clarke numerous Robin’s fans doubted Paolo’s temperament and managerial skills.
Following on from August’s events, September could be seen as a success with four wins from six and a jump in ten places in the table. October started brightly and finished without defeat. This was the start of 1 defeat in 22 matches in all competitions.
A turning point in the Robins season was in the 93rd minute at Northampton. With Swindon trailing 1-0 at the break, a smart turn by Alan Connell made the score 1-1 but with Oliver Risser being sent off for violent conduct Swindon might have let their heads drop. A great run by McCormack followed by a cross from De Vita set up a vitally important second goal for the Robins. Ensued mass hysteria from the fans and from Paolo himself. Running the half the length of the field to celebrate will live long in the memory of those fans that where at Sixfields that afternoon.
The greatest achievement in this run was the 2-1 home win against Premier League side Wigan Athletic. Goals from Alan Connell and Paul Benson gave Swindon a deserved 2-1 win to set up a tie in the fourth round for the first time since 1996.
With a fourth round exit from the FA Cup at Leicester, Swindon’s only hope of going to Wembley was in the Football League Trophy. With a 2-1 victory against Southend earlier in December, the tie was set for a two legged affair with fellow league two opponents Barnet. After a 1-1 draw, the stage was set at the County Ground for what was a memorable night. An Alan Connell header found its way to the back of the net to seal a 2-1 aggregate victory and secure a return to Wembley to face Chesterfield.
Swindon climbed the table throughout February and after coming from behind to beat Shrewsbury 2-1 at the County Ground, Swindon where top of League 2. With the ensuing victories over Accrington and Burton, the Robins had secured 10 league victories in a row and opened up a 4 point gap over Cheltenham.
March will be much remembered for the losses to Oxford and losing at Wembley for the second time in 24 months. Swindon struggle recently to get ‘over the finishing line’ has been well documented. Two defeats in a row has seen some doubt over the strength of the team when key players are missing but undoubtedly this season has had more highs than could have been anticipated.
A year ago Swindon Town’s relegation had been confirmed, and with uncertainty over which manager would start the season, many were worried about the direction Swindon Town Football Club were heading. Paolo has transformed the club and team and will be remembered for playing football with style, passion and grace in a league where free-flowing football is rare. Planning for next season is vital, along with strengthening the squad and developing the players already on-board.
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