Chelsea. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Shipperley 19, Stein 44, Wise 89
THE LAST time Glenn Hoddle took a coach from London to Swindon, he got a different kind of reception. Supporters went out to the bridges over the M4 to wave at him and his Swindon side, returning from last season's First Division play- offs, proud new owners of a place in the FA Premiership. Three weeks later, Hoddle left to manage Chelsea. Yesterday, some of those supporters were waiting for him at the players' entrance, in another mood altogether.
Ninety minutes before kick- off, the Chelsea team bus squeezed through the thick crowd behind the stand, marshalled by a group of anxious- looking policemen. Hoddle stepped off and ducked through the cordon in an explosion of boos and cries of 'Judas'. Some other shouts were indecipherable but none of them seemed to be Happy New Year.
Nothing personal, of course. Hoddle, football's Mr Clean, is an unlikely person to inspire vocal wrath. But gratitude is shortlived; Swindon are slumped at the foot of the league and Hoddle is blamed for dumping them in it. Still, it must be some consolation to Swindon supporters that Hoddle's Chelsea have hardly gone off like a firework this season. Their victory over Newcastle in midweek was their firstin 12 games. Before the game, they were only four points and three places north of Swindon, and the three points Chelsea won here were their first ones gained away from home this season.
Last year, Hoddle earned a reputation as a man who could make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. This season it has often looked as if he was working with inferior parts of the sow. Hoddle sat this game out, still tending an ankle injury. His arrival on the bench after 39 minutes was greeted by renewed booing. But by that point, his side were 1-0 up.
After nine minutes we had had two goals, but neither of them counted. Gavin Peacock turned to slam the ball in from 18 yards and celebrated for a good 10 seconds before he noticed the linesman's offside flag. Seconds later, at the other end, Andy Mutch shot in from a yard offside.
Finally, after 18 minutes, a legal goal. Mark Stein, chasing Dennis Wise's cross, won a corner. Wise took it, Eddie Newton's attempt was parried by Swindon's goalkeeper Nicky Hammond (looking vulnerable already as a replacement for Fraser Digby, who dislocated a shoulder this week) and Neil Shipperley sidefooted in for his fourth goal of the season.
Chelsea's second came two minutes before half-time. Hammond fell over stopping a Wise shot. Wise then fought with a pack of defenders, most of them on their backsides, and finally Stein arrived to slip the ball through a gap. It was his third goal in successive games. It was also the first time Chelsea have managed to score more than once in a League game since 25 August.
A reluctance to challenge and a crippling hesitancy characterised Swindon's second half. After 61 minutes Frank Sinclair appeared to shove Keith Scott in the penalty area, but the referee, Keith Hackett, allowed play to go on. Dmitri Kharin picked the ball off Scott's toes and Terry Fenwick thundered a volley into the net from 25 yards for disallowed goal number three. Otherwise the defence which kept out Beardsley and Cole held tight, at least until a bizarre final minute.
First, Wise rose unmarked to head home Craig Burley's deep cross. Then, straight from the kick-off, Paul Bodin set off down the wing and angled in a low cross which Mutch smacked in from close range. And before the referee could blow for time, Stein had missed another open goal.
After the game, Hoddle was asked if he minded sticking it to his old side. 'I hope they go on and get every point they deserve. We've played against sides with less quality.' And as for the barracking, 'I expected worse, to be honest'. And then he made it to the bus unmolested.