by Connor O’Reilly
Well, that was, fun? I think that’s the right word to describe that game. I’m not sure. Over the last two seasons, the U’s had been treated to 1st round Carabao Cup ties against Brentford (which we all remember fondly) and Birmingham (agonizingly behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic). This year? Swindon Town at home. The way the footballing gods look at us. The last time the two teams had locked horns was on Boxing Day 2019 where Keshi Andersen singlehandedly tore apart Calderwood’s lifeless U’s 4-0. Ah good memories. These days the tables have been turned. We all know what happened with Cambridge last season, and Swindon had gone the wrong way, finishing 23rd and going straight back down. The last few weeks have been quite turbulent for the Robins with off the pitch issues completely overshadowing the attempt of a preseason, in which they only won 1 out of 5 and had two games postponed for various reasons. Swindon finally got a new owner in Clem Morfuni and things look to be promising for the Wiltshire outfit, starting Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Scunthorpe.
I know a majority of you reading this don’t really care about how Swindon are doing but you try writing about the game. It was dead. Felt like a preseason friendly with both teams sniffing the goal but not really going for it. Like seeing the last biscuit on a plate but not wanting to be the one to go for it. United didn’t really surprise anyone with the starting line-up making 7 changes from the Oxford game, with the only interesting introduction to the squad being Ben Worman making his first competitive start and playing the full 90 minutes. The first half came and went in a snap, with both teams looking lethargic and half asleep in the relatively warm air. United came out the second half the stronger team and tested Lewis Ward in the Swindon goal, with the Robins trying to win it on the counter and giving Dimitar Mitov some work to do in the U’s goal. Trevor Kettle spent the game doing Trevor Kettle kinda things, giving free kicks as and when he pleased. Swindon had injury issues with some players going down injured in the second half which is relatively understandable given the disrupted preseason schedule, meaning the game had a stop go kinda feel about it. Bonner brought on Taylor for the injured Okedina (hopefully he won’t be out for long, but he did allegedly look in considerable pain leaving the pitch), Digby for Jones and Ironside for Knibbs, which gave the U’s another option going forward. But alas, even with 5 minutes added on, the game ended in an unsurprising stalemate, and we went to penalties.
Captain Dunk won the toss and led the U’s to face the Newmarket Road End, where the penalties would be taken. Swindon had the first penalty, with Jack Payne striking his kick low and into Dimi who dived the right way. That got the loudest cheer of the night so far. Up stepped Joe Ironside who sent his penalty the same way as he did on Saturday and put United 1-0 up in the tie. Next up was Harry McKirdy who was serenaded by the NRE with chants of “Shit Jack Grealish” before sending his penalty to the bottom left corner, only for it to be brilliantly saved by Mitov again. Sam Smith (no not that one, the other one) stepped up and sent it straight down the middle. 2-0 United. Louis Reed came to the spot with a crucial penalty and drilled it under Mitov to the bottom left corner. Lifeline. George Williams of all people stepped up and then sent a beautiful penalty into the top left corner. What is it with penalties being sent that way? Rob Hunt had the audacious task of keeping Swindon in the tie and decided to impersonate George Williams in the worst way possible by sending it high into the NRE and ensuring the U’s had won the tie.
On the scale of the performance, I think it was just about deserved. The U’s didn’t create much but did what was needed to move on. Fringe players given a chance to impress and a potential Premier League away day in the next round, you cannot complain whatsoever. I say this fully knowing we will get Newport (A) in the next round. It’s just how it is
Man of the Match: Again, it has to be Dimitar Mitov who saved United a few times, and also made sensational saves in the penalty shootout. George Williams and Ben Worman also deserve a lot of credit. George looks like a brilliant addition to this team, and yes, he doesn’t do what Halliday or Knoyle did for us, but he provides stability in defence and a calm head. And U’s Academy product Ben Worman really impressed during the 90 minutes, you can clearly see the influence that Wes has had on him in training. He gets gametime and he can turn into a tidy player.
Soundtrack of the Match: Primal Scream – Movin On Up
United: Mitov, Williams, Okedina (Taylor), Jones (Digby), Iredale, Worman, Weir, May, Dunk, Knibbs (Ironside), Smith
Check out the latest episode of the UTAS Podcast here: https://undertheabbeystand.com/2021/08/09/new-episode-take-a-walk-on-the-ironside/