Thirty-four years in that misty-eyed dreamland known as the Liverpool Boot Room is no way to equip yourself for the hell-hole reality called the Second Division. For Roy Evans, returning to permanent management three years after being sacked at Liverpool, yesterday was a painful lesson of what lies ahead as 10-man Swindon hung on to claim an undeserved point against Barry Fry's Peterborough.
Anfield it ain't, and although Evans' title, director of football, is grand, he has discovered after just 10 days in charge that there is little football to be director of. He and his henchman, Neil Ruddock, Swindon's player-coach, and an ally of Evans at Liverpool, need to quickly find a game plan if Swindon's season is not to be like the last a year-long struggle to avoid relegation.
It had not been the greatest start to Ruddock's reign when he discovered that out of 90-odd pairs of shorts at the club none were his size. Suffice to say that a pair were hastily assembled so that the burly centre-half would not have an embarrassing afternoon. That a local tent-maker had been seen at the County Ground rests unconfirmed.
That Ruddock chose to break in his new shorts on the bench was wise, seeing as he had not played since last season when with Crystal Palace. In contrast, Fry would have loved to have had the luxury of leaving someone of Ruddock's pedigree on the sideline. Peterborough were missing eight first-teamers, yet it was Posh who edged a dour first half that had home spectators staring at their season tickets wondering what on earth they had done.
There was little to be excited about before Swindon were awarded a penalty, against the run of play, in the 33rd minute French striker Eric Sabin's mazy run having been crudely halted by David Oldfield. But Keith O'Halloran's spot-kick was an early contender for worst of the season, dribbling pathetically past Tyler's right-hand post.
If it was possible, the second half was even worse. The players must have been just as frustrated as the fans and the match descended into violence. Giuliano Grazioli, the former Peterborough player, had a moment of madness, clattering into Marc Joseph on 62 minutes. The red card was the least he could have expected. Tom Williams returned the compliment for Peterborough four minutes later for a yellow. But Swindon moved ahead in the cynical tackle stakes a minute later when Andrew Gurney was cautioned after a stupid challenge on Howard Forington.
A relieved Evans said afterwards: "The old pressure went up now and again sitting on the touchline. It's a new world in the Second Division on the first day. But it's nice to be back.'' But nobody really believed him.
Swindon Town 0 Peterborough United 0
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