Football: Swindon defuse tension

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Swindon Town. . . . .2

Newcastle United. . .1

A BANNER unfurled among the Swindon supporters at the kick- off summed up the mood. 'A board without ambition' it read in reference to the selling of David Kerslake this week. The directors may have read it, the home players, if they saw it, ignored it.

Ambition? Swindon bristled with it yesterday. They were without their creative heart, Glenn Hoddle and Mike Hazard, their top scorer, Craig Maskell, and went a goal down but clawed their way to their seventh win in eight League matches. Newcastle, 11 points ahead of them, are probably out of range but the second First Division promotion spot, at present occupied by West Ham, is now just two wins away.

This was a match of thumping tackles and rising tempers. No one could describe it as elegant but it was dramatic. Five players were booked, at least two could have been dismissed and there was even a pitch invasion if an isolated raid by an irate Newcastle fan can be described as such. Fortunately the one idiot was not aped by his companions and the visiting centre-back Steve Howey escorted the miscreant to the waiting

stewards.

Feelings ran high on the pitch, just as they had off it. Swindon's decision to sell Kerslake to Leeds for pounds 500,000 infuriated the supporters as much as it disappointed the player-manager Hoddle. 'It's just like last year,' one supporter said beforehand. 'We were going well and sold Fitzroy Simpson and Duncan Shearer. Other clubs spend to get success. We sell all our best players.' The whiff of revolt was hardly helped by Swindon's opponents yesterday. Newcastle, pounds 6m in debt when Kevin Keegan became manager 13 months ago, have since spent pounds 6m and have profited by becoming the runaway leaders in the First Division. To see a successful Newcastle team that could afford to leave their latest signings, Andy Cole and Mark Robinson, on the bench seemed to openly mock the home club's financial plight.

Swindon are only pounds 2.5m in the red but they lack the earnings potential of the Geordies and the bank manager appears to have drawn a line. 'It's frustrating,' Swindon's assistant manager, John Gorman, said, 'but we understand the club's position and unless someone comes in and allows us to get into more debt there's nothing can be done.' Hoddle did not mention Kerslake's departure in his programme notes, and the silence was deafening.

It was with some relief then that Swindon managed to defuse some of the tension with yesterday's win. Newcastle, whose Premier League ambitions could yet be undone by the gulf of misunderstanding that opened in the space between the back four and the goalkeeper, Pavel Srnicek, started the scoring in the 42nd minute.

Scott Sellars played an immaculate pass into the area and David Kelly thumped the ball past Fraser Digby.

At that point you would not have given Swindon much chance of victory, but forsaking their prettier passing, they thumped the ball forward to spectacular effect and scored twice in four minutes.

First Steve White was brought down by Howey and Paul Bodin converted the penalty in the 51st minute and then Colin Calderwood hooked the ball into the net following a melee in the Newcastle area instigated by Bodin's corner.

It was fitting for a match that threatened to boil over that the second Swindon goal should be met with a hail of Newcastle protest. Keegan said there had been a handball en route to the corner, adding that he had been surprised at some of the tackles from the home team. 'Some of the challenges were the sort that could end careers,' he said.

Newcastle launched a furious assault on the Swindon goal but their line held out. 'It was a wonderful way to end the week for us,' Hoddle said. 'The supporters have been disgruntled, I'm disgruntled. It's a minor miracle that we keep on winning.'

Swindon Town: F Digby; N Summerbee, P Bodin, A Viveash, C Calderwood, S Taylor, P Hunt (B Marwood, 77 min), R MacLaren, D Mitchell, M Ling, S White. Sub not used: S Close. Manager: G Hoddle.

Newcastle United: P Srnicek; B Venison, J Beresford, L O'Brien (A Cole, 63 min), K Scott, S Howey, R Lee, P Bracewell, D Kelly, L Clark, S Sellars. Sub not used: M Robinson. Manager: K Keegan.

Referee: G Poll (Berkhamsted).

Goals: Kelly (0-1, 43 min); Bodin (1-1, pen 51 min); Calderwood (2-1, 55 min).

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