Football: Swindon show their steel

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Swindon Town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

THE constant craving and depth of a club's support can invariably be gauged by the number of fanzines feeding the desire. The likes of Liverpool and Leeds boast four apiece. Until very recently Swindon did not even have one.

The changing nature of this Wiltshire town - from working- class railway centre to silicon chips with everything - partly explains average attendances of under 10,000 at the County Ground. 'If we don't get big crowds now with Glenn Hoddle as manager and the quality of football we are playing,' the stopper, Adrian Viveash, said, 'it doesn't bode well.'

Many who follow Swindon's fortunes account for the absenteeism by reiterating the widely held belief that the board, in the words of one banner on Saturday, 'lacks ambition' and that the club are going nowhere. The contrast with Newcastle - who brought 6,000 fans and pounds 3m-worth of new signings - was obvious.

When David Kerslake was sold to Leeds last week to cover a fifth of the club's pounds 2.5m debt supporters felt anger and deja vu. Last year, the departure of Duncan Shearer had effectively stymied Town's promotion chances.

The Evening Advertiser carried a centre-spread awash with irate letters, one summing up the mood of discontent by claiming Kerslake was 'the latest sacrificial lamb on the altar of short-sightedness'. Lou Macari, the former Swindon manager, wrote that players he brought in were sold for a total of pounds 4.5m. Others wondered where those millions had gone and if Hoddle, their most prized asset, might also pack his bags.

A place in the Premier League is a growing possibility - via the play-offs, or if West Ham falter, automatically. 'When we play them here (on 1 May) it could be between us and them as to who goes up,' said Viveash, who came in for the injured Hoddle as Swindon's efficient sweeper system replaced style with steel. The hard- earned victory over the leaders carried Swindon above Portsmouth into third, six points behind the Hammers.

Viveash, with some hefty tackles, showed the muscular edge to his home town club's promotion challenge. 'The whole team battled,' he added. 'But it was a dogfight towards the end.' The contest was more Hawks and Eagles than Robins and Magpies: five bookings, wayward elbows and even heated words between Hoddle and Kevin Keegan on the touchline.

Keegan's team took the lead in typical fashion - a thumping volley from David Kelly - before Swindon piled on the pressure after the break. Within 10 minutes of the restart Hoddle's side went ahead: Steve White collapsed in a sea of black and white shirts for a penalty impressively driven in by the excellent Paul Bodin. Then, after the mother of all goalmouth melees, Colin Calderwood rammed in the winner.

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

Swindon Town: Digby; Summerbee, Bodin, Viveash, Calderwood, Taylor, Hunt (Marwood, 77), MacLaren, Mitchell, Ling, White. Substitute not used: Close.

Newcastle United: Srnicek; Venison, Beresford, O'Brien (Cole, 63), Scott, Howey, Lee, Bracewell, Kelly, Clark, Sellars. Substitute not used: Robinson.

Referee: G Poll (Berkhamsted).