FLIC SPORTS’ Editor Andrew Steele-Davis reflects on Swindon Town’s crazy 7-6 aggregate success over Sheffield United on Monday evening, a result that was enough to book the Robins’ place in the League One Play-Off Final at Wembley later this month.
“If we would have kept playing it could have been 10-10.
“I just think it’s Swindon – it’s not meant to be easy so we kind of accept that.”
Those were the sentiments of Swindon Town Boss Mark Cooper in the wake of his side’s truly remarkable 5-5 draw with Sheffield United on Monday evening, words that perfectly sum up the madness of what we all witnessed.
I have been following Swindon since I was a little boy in short trousers (the 2002/03 season to be precise) and I have never known them to do things the easy way.
And Town once again refused to change a habit of a lifetime last night.
It’s taken me until now to pluck up the courage to put my thoughts down on paper.
Where do you start?
Whilst the prospect of a trip to Wembley hasn’t properly sunk in yet, I’ve done enough reflecting on last night to come to the conclusion that I will never, ever witness or cover a match that remarkable again.
It was more like a Basketball game at times with both teams going at it hammer and tongue, with goals flying in at a rate of knots and the art of defending being firmly tossed out of the window.
Alan Hansen would have had a fit.
It certainly tells you a lot about the game when journalists are asking each other what the score is in the press box – it was just that kind of night.
But that’s why we all love and support Swindon Town – they have a habit of producing nights and moments that will, quite frankly, live with us for ever.
I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of us would have walked around in a daze today, not quite believing that the events of the night before actually happened.
You do get used to the strange, the barmy and the downright ridiculous being a Swindon Town fan, but Monday night was just something else, words don’t do it justice.
It was a game that had everything, brilliant goals, slap-stick and comical defending, superb saves, never-say-die attitudes, commitment, desire – everything that is great about the play-offs.
I’m sure many of us arrived home last night feeling considerably older thanks to the nail-biting and nerve-wracking experience that we were just put through, I certainly discovered more grey hairs this morning.
It was pure torture at times and I will openly admit that, when Che Adams drilled in United’s fifth, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – I, like everyone else inside The County Ground, had gone through every emotion possible.
But, it was a night that also reminded us just how breathtaking this Town side are when they are pouring forward.
After weeks of lackluster and uninspiring displays, the class of 2014/15 turned it on when it really mattered over two-legs against a very good Sheffield United outfit, and boy was the outcome spectacular.
The way Swindon went about slicing through the United defence like a hot knife through butter last night was mouthwatering, The Blades’ vastly experienced backline simply failed to cope with Nathan Byrne’s trickery and direct running, Michael Smith’s work-rate and desire and Ben Gladwin’s general brilliance.
And, just how good has Gladwin been of late? Seven goals in his last eight outings has made the former Marlow man Town’s key player heading into the Play-Off Final at Wembley – whilst there are plenty of clubs higher up English football’s food chain that are now keeping taps on the midfielder.
Massimo Luongo and Yaser Kasim have also shown over the two-legged semi-final that they have rediscovered their form, and the pair will be crucial in attempting to cut off Preston’s supply line to their impressive array of attacking options.
One final note before I slump off to my bed and attempt to let everything sink in, I want to put on record just how proud I was last night to be connected with this football club.
How proud I am to both support this club and be able to cover it day in and day out.
Considering that many were tipping Swindon for a long battle with relegation back in the summer, what a very young group of players have gone on to achieve this term is nothing short of incredible.
Whatever happens at Wembley on May 24th, win or lose, agony or ecstasy, heartbreak or pure jubilation – it’s been a campaign to remember and one that we should all be proud of.
Credit should also go to Sheffield United for the way they refused to lay down and roll over last night, I’m sure they will bounce back and be a real force in League One next season.
But, the final word must go to you, the Town fans who made The County Ground an absolutely magical place to be last night.
From start to finish you helped push your team over the line.
All in all, it was an utterly bonkers but unforgettable night.
One that will live long in the memory.
Now it’s time for some sleep.