By Patrick Gleeson
League One new boys Swindon Town secured their spot in the second round of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night, after strolling past Brighton and Hove Albion at The County Ground.
Before the game, the cameras focused on Town manager Paolo Di Canio and Seagulls boss Gus Poyet, as two of the greatest players ever to grace The Premiership went head to head in a battle of tactics. However, despite all the flair that was on show from the fiery Italian and the opinionated man from Uruguay, it was reserved scouse lad Alan Navarro who stole the spotlight.
In a slow start to the game, Brighton enjoyed most of the possession and tried to force the hosts to fall out of formation. This didn’t happen, however, as a well organised Swindon side refused to budge, settling in to the game by moving the ball quickly and stylishly around a Brighton side predominately known for their Tiki-Taka football.
Poyet’s men were reduced to shooting from distance, first from Manchester City lonee Wayne Bridge who let fly from outside the Swindon box, cutting across the ball to see his effort narrowly wide of the post. Debutant Bruno also tried his luck, with a thunderous drive from all of 30 yards which stung the hands of Town keeper Wes Foderingham.
Swindon’s only real chance of the half was when Matt Richie’s pin-point cross met the head of former Charlton target man Paul Benson, who failed to hit the target, heading over the bar. Di Canio expressed his disappointment with the lack of chances by hammering his fists against his dug out and ‘expressing his opinions’ to any body that would listen.
The Seagulls came flying out of the blocks after the break, with a trademark run from Vicente ending in a ferocious shot that whistled over the bar. However, there seemed to be a turning point in the game when referee Andy D’Urso failed to award Swindon a free kick inside the Brighton half, moments before penalising them at the other end. 5,000 home fans suddenly woke up and let their voices be heard, encouraging their team and letting the referee know what they thought of him.
Soon after, the deadlock was broken after Andy William’s impressive run was ended by a foul just outside the Brighton 18-yard box. A routine straight from the training ground which was taken by Navarro, left the Brighton defence in a mess and Paul Benson found the ball at his feet with the striker all too happy to poke the ball into Tomasz Kuszczak’s goal to give Swindon the lead.
Almost immediately after the ball hit the net, Poyet made his first change replacing Ryan Harley with Inigo Calderon. Swindon took control of the game and looked comfortable on the ball, making it hard to distinguish who were the newly promoted League One players and who finished 10th in The Championship last season.
Matt Richie did well to make himself some space, cutting in on his favoured left foot and fizzing a shot into the side netting, which was greeted by cheers as half the ground thought the ball and squeezed in between Kuszczak and his post. Just seconds later at the other end, Craig Noone did what he does best by running down the touchline making defenders looks silly with his mix of pace and trickery, this time his ball picking out a lurking Vicente who was quick to turn and prod the ball towards goalkeeper Foderingham, who pulled off a magnificent save to keep Town ahead.
Paolo Di Canio has challenged new boy Alan Navarro to score at least 7 or 8 goals this year and his response couldn’t have been better as he put Swindon 2-0 up with a beautifully controlled shot into the top corner, assisted by an Andy Williams cross.
Just months previous, Navarro occupied a central midfield role for Brighton. However after his contract expired, he was deemed not good enough by Gus Poyet who let him leave the club. They say ‘one man’s loss is another man’s gain’ and this certainly proved to be the case.
Swindon were cruising.
Again Poyet made a change, bringing on young Norwegian striker Torbjorn Agdestein in place of midfielder Gary Dicker but it was too little too late as Swindon continued to attack and look for a decisive third goal. Good saves from Kuszczak and a dodgy clearance from Lewis Dunk kept the score at 2-0 but Brighton could not weather the storm and Alan Navarro stepped up to put his new side 3-0 up with a deflected shot which looped over a helpless keeper.
Shouts of ‘we want four!’ rang from the stands but the fans’ wish was not met as the final whistle blew to end a miserable night for the seaside club. Di Canio and Poyet greeted each other with a hug after the game but only one of the managers will be happy with the performance of their team.
As the new league season kicks off this Saturday, Swindon will be hoping they show the same level of performance against League One opponents Hartlepool United. Brighton travel to Yorkshire to face Steve Bruce’s Hull and you can expect fireworks from Gus Poyet if he doesn’t see a drastic improvement from his troops.