Happy New Year! Argyle kick off the new decade with a match on 1st January against table-topping Swindon Town. Ahead of kick off, we once more spoke to Richard of the Loathed Strangers Podcast. He took part in our Opposition View ahead of the two sides’ clash in October, and we spoke again to get a perspective on the fixture from the other side of the Westcountry.
First of all, how have things been at Swindon since we last spoke?
Since the 1-1 draw with Argyle at the County Ground, Town have played 11 League Two fixtures and won nine of them which is pretty ruddy great, right?
We’ve been playing some really good stuff and Eoin Doyle’s goalscoring exploits have grabbed national attention and rightly so.
This isn’t a false position but Town have a tricky run of fixtures coming up.
High-flying in the league at the moment, do you think Swindon can go all the way and win promotion this year?
Yes, but it’s with a big fat ‘however’ attached. Swindon have a really tricky month ahead with games against Argyle (a), Bradford (h), Crewe (h), Newport (a), Port Vale (h), Colchester (a) and Exeter (h).
If Town negotiate their way through that then promotion is on. I will happily take 1st (obviously), 2nd, 3rd or Play-Off glory (preferably not the stress of the latter).
You mentioned Lloyd Isgrove last time, but who else would you say has been key to the strong first half of the season?
Isgrove has spent most of the period since we last talked out injured! He’s being reintroduced slowly but surely.
Eoin Doyle gets the plaudits; he’s scored in a club record equalling 11 consecutive games (15 goals in total) which has been incredible but the work of the players around him have made this possible.
Town get accusations of being a ‘one-man-team’, and I understand why people would think that, but that simply hasn’t been the case. Goalkeeper Stevi Benda has been great, the returning Paul Caddis and Rob Hunt with centre backs Baudry and Fryers have done the business but our midfield remains the key. The performances of Anthony Grant and Jordan Lyden have been essential in the recent winning streak.
Richie Wellens continues to go from strength to strength in his first full season as Swindon boss. What are your general thoughts on him?
I’ve been a fan since he arrived and it continues with more justification. He’s straight talking and practices what he preaches. He tries to set-up his side to play sensible yet attractive football and he’s turned us, at the time of writing, into contenders. This is all we really ask for beyond the obvious agenda of ‘GET US PROMOTED’.
I imagine there are similarities between Wellens and Ryan Lowe as they were fighting it out for the same players during the summer!
Wellens deserves success at Swindon and I really hope he gets it. Promotion in any way equates to success in my book.
What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?
I think we will start:
That doesn’t look too bad to be fair but Grant being forced to play as a makeshift centre-back will make a lot of difference to how Town will try and dictate play the midfield. Grant is the engine room, puller of strings and all the other clichés that mean he’s good at what he does but I think it’ll be a case of ‘needs must’ (see below).
And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?
BIG TIME. During the Port Vale game, we lost three players and we already have a centre-back problem as we are technically down to our 6th and 7th choice (which is perhaps unfair on Zakuani as he has loads of experience). As mentioned, I expect Anthony Grant to fill in alongside him.
Swindon Town CBs 2019-2020:
1st Choice: Dion Conroy © – Injured
2nd Choice: Mathieu Baudry – Injured
3rd Choice: Zeki Fryers – Injured (he is a LB who has covered brilliantly at CB)
4th Choice: Tom Broadbent – Injured
5th Choice: Dan Ballard – Injured in August and sent back to Arsenal
6th Choice: Gabriel Zakuani – FIT!
7th Choice: Taylor Curran – FIT! 3 injury-time appearances to his name
8th Choice: Joe Romanski – on loan at Melksham Town
Also out are Ellis Iandolo and Keshi Anderson. The latter scoring a hat-trick against Cambridge United recently. Also, the EFL wouldn’t let Town register Dion Donohue until the January transfer window opens.
What have you made of Plymouth Argyle’s season so far?
I predicted that Plymouth would win L2 this season and I still think they’re in for a more than realistic shot. Argyle are finding form at the right time, scraping victories late on is not a bad trait and if those games in hand go your way then you are right back in title contention.
What are your predictions for the rest of the League Two season?
Exeter have been remarkably consistent but I expect Plymouth and Bradford to be the two clubs to really push Swindon and the Grecians. Cheltenham are wobbling now. Colchester continue to lurk, as do Forest Green. The play-offs will be an absolute nightmare.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?
A dominant 3-1 victory for Plymouth Argyle; our centre-back pairing just isn’t strong enough.