BRANCO IS THE HERO FOR MARK
MARK COOPER admitted he breathed a huge sigh of relief after his Swindon side held off a second-half onslaught to earn a narrow victory over Port Vale.
The Robins took the lead in the eighth minute when Brazilian Raphael Rossi Branco headed home a Harry Toffolo corner, capitalising on some amateur defending from Vale.
Michael O’Connor’s dipping freekick clipped the bar on 52 minutes as Vale pressed hard for an equaliser.
Substitute Louis Dodds put a lastgasp chance wide as Swindon hung on for a terrific away win against a Port Vale side who had won four of their last five matches. It left Cooper a relieved man. He said:“It was end-to-end, wasn’t it? We started really well.We could’ve put the game beyond them, but we were a little bit sloppy on the final pass or in front of goal.
“We had five versus two at one time and Ben Gladwin has done about eight Cruyff turns in the box and fallen over.
“At half-time, I said to the boys ‘how do you feel?’ and they were absolutely cream-crackered.
“They kept turning the ball over and turned it into a basketball match.
“But we’ve kept a clean sheet and come to one of the form teams in the league and got a 1-0 win.
“It’s a difficult place, with the biggest pitch in the world. I’m sure it’s square.
“I felt the three boys at the back and the goalkeeper defended really well.”
Deploying an interesting but effective 3-6-1 formation, the Robins dominated the opening half as Vale struggled to cope with Swindon’s width.
Vale goalkeeper Chris Neal pushed Massimo Luongo’s shot on to the post, following good work from John Swift, as Swindon continued to create chances.
Wes Foderingham was forced into a smart save from Ben Williamson on the half-hour mark and another from Dodds after the interval, with Vale continuing to knock at the door.
Deep in injury time, Michael Smith smashed a shot against the post for Swindon before Dodds pulled his chance of glory wide at the other end in the dying seconds.
Vale manager Rob Page said: “I’m bitterly disappointed to concede the goal in the manner we did.
“It’s a set-piece and there’s a misunderstanding and it’s hit one of their players and gone in.
“We changed it after 20 minutes as we were getting outnumbered in the middle of the park.
“I think we’ve had 14 or 15 chances in the second half.
“Sometimes you don’t get your just rewards and I felt we could’ve got something out of the game. “They’ve given me absolutely everything and more today.
“If we keep giving that work rate and effort, then we will win more than we lose.”
ONLY WAY IS UP: Swindon’s Brazilian defender Raphael Rossi Branco enjoys his winner
MY BALL: Swindon keeper Wes Foderingham gathers
STAR MAN WES FODER