Meet Town's opposition: Ex-Town striker set for Portman Road return with reeling Robins
- Credit: Archant
Football writer Carl Marston casts his eye over lowly Swindon Town, who are this weekend's visitors to Portman Road to take on Ipswich Town...
Swindon Town's confidence is rock bottom, so Ipswich Town have a great chance to turn the knife and extend their remarkable run of results against the Wiltshire club this weekend.
The Robins suffered a desperate December, losing five of their six matches and mustering just one point, a miserable sequence of results which has seen them nosedive from lower mid-table to second from bottom in the League One table.
And although the two clubs have not met for more than 20 years, history is on Town's side as well - they have beaten Swindon in each of their last eight meetings.
Promoted as League Two champions last season, it has all gone wrong for Swindon during the first half of this term, particularly over the last few weeks.
Five of their last six outings have featured defeats, away at Crewe, Gillingham and Doncaster, and at home to Fleetwood and MK Dons, split by a last gasp point from a 2-2 home draw against Charlton, thanks to ex-Ipswich Town front-runner Brett Pitman's last-minute header.
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In all, the Robins have won just five league games, and only one on the road, at local rivals Oxford United at the end of November.
And that was a real turn-up for the books, John Sheridan's men trailing 1-0 at the Kassam Stadium until substitute Tom Broadbent netted an 84th minute equaliser, and leading scorer Tyler Smith diverted home an injury-time winner.
In fact, it is only an occasional liking for late goals that has kept Swindon off the bottom rung.
LACK OF A GOALSCORER
Although they have had 13 different goalscorers this season, Swindon have failed to unearth a reliable marksmen, with only three men having scored more than two league goals this term.
Tyler Smith, a loan arrival from Sheffield United, tops the charts with four league goals, while Brett Pitman, who spent two seasons at Portman Road (2015-17), has scored three since his switch from Portsmouth.
Pitman, who is now 32, was Town's leading scorer in the 2015-16 campaign (11 goals in all competitions) when Mick McCarthy's side finished seventh in the Championship.
Anthony Grant has also managed three league goals, from 19 matches. The 33-year-old midfielder was the club's player-of-the-season for the truncated 2019-20 campaign, which saw the Robins lift the League Two title.
Sheridan has been busy in the transfer market this week, looking to improve a poor defensive record that has seen 41 goals fly into their net in the first 20 games. Only bottom club Burton (50 from 20) have a worse goals against record.
Dominic Thompson, a 20-year-old defender who usually operates as a right-back, was signed on loan from Championship promotion hopefuls Brentford at the start of the week.
Former Arsenal Academy graduate Thompson has played nine games for the Bees this term, although five of these were in the Carabao Cup.
Mark Travers, a goalkeeper, arrived on loan from Bournemouth on Wednesday, in a deal until the end of the season. Travers is a Republic of Ireland international who moved to Dean Court from his native Ireland as a 17-year-old in 2016.
Travers is expected to make his Swindon debut at Portman Road this weekend.
Former first-team choice custodian Matej Kovar returned to his parent club Manchester United earlier in the week.
Kovar, a 20-year-old Czech Republic international, had made 20 appearances for the Robins this term and was expected to stay for the whole season, but has struggled for form and made a few costly errors.
Ipswich used to love playing Swindon, during the 1990s, and in fact have won the last eight meetings, squeezed between 1996 and 2000.
Their last clash ended in a 3-0 home win, in January, 2000, when Mick Stockwell bagged the opener and Richard Naylor weighed in with a brace during the promotion-winning season. Swindon were relegated as the bottom club, while George Burley's men rose into the Premier League via the play-offs.
Ipswich have banged home 13 goals in their last three meetings, including a 6-0 away win in April, 1999. Mark Venus smashed home a couple of penalties that day, with James Scowcroft, Jamie Clapham, Tony Mowbray and Fabien Wilnis also on target.
In all, Town have not lost to Swindon in 13 meetings, although the Wiltshire club have spent the last 21 years in the bottom two divisions.