All the headline-grabbing events at Swindon last week took place in the tunnel as Paolo Di Canio, the manager, ended up in an altercation with one of his own players. Yesterday the action was confined to the pitch as Di Canio's team overcame the previously unbeaten leaders of League Two in a ridiculously incident-packed game.
There were five goals, innumerable fouls and near misses, two red cards, an inspired substitution and astonishing energy levels. Di Canio said in the week that his team were better than their poor results so far had suggested and saw yesterday's televised match as the chance to prove it, but Swindon did not so much measure themselves against Rotherham as drag them into a collective delirium.
Di Canio conducted it all from the technical area that is now his stage, gesticulating, pointing, imploring, and was rewarded with a stirring performance as his side twice came from behind to win for the first time since the first match of the season. The defending was disorganised, but the attacking play was thrilling. Substitute Alan Connell scored the second and third goals on his first League appearance after joining Swindon from Grimsby in July, including an equaliser with his first touch after taking the field.
Whatever the technical shortcomings, the spirit evident in Di Canio's team made it plain that the players back the manager rather than Leon Clarke, the forward at the centre of Tuesday's events, who is expected to leave the club on loan. "I'm lying if I say we can forget [the incident] in one second but the next day we spoke about it for maybe five minutes then concentrated on this game," Di Canio said. "I felt the group was more of a unit afterwards and I thought we would have a different atmosphere against Rotherham even if we lost."
That looked a possibility as Alex Revell twice headed Rotherham in front on his debut after joining the club from Leyton Orient. His first came when Swindon left him unmarked after failing to clear a routine free-kick, but Swindon's spirit earned them their fortune when a volley by the outstanding Matt Ritchie from Phil Caddis's corner kick on the left was turned into his own net for the equaliser by Tom Newey.
That luck appeared to have deserted Swindon when Lukas Magera's shot on the turn rebounded from the far post three minutes before Revell nodded his second from Danny Schofield's floated free-kick. But Schofield was sent off soon after for a second yellow card, and Swindon levelled almost immediately, Connell coming off the bench to head home Mehdi Kerrouche's corner. With nine minutes left, Connell headed in again from Ritchie's cross from the right, and there was still time for Alberto Comazzi, the Swindon central defender, to receive a soft second yellow card for a foul that barely deserved the name, and the Rotherham players to have a frank exchange of views with Di Canio and his bench over the slow return of a ball that had gone out of play. Swindon, though, held on.
Swindon Town (4-4-2): Lanzano; Caddis, Flint, Comazzi, Kennedy; Ritchie, Ferry (Abdulla 58), McCormack, De Vita (Cibocchi 75); Magera (Connell 69), Kerrouche.
Rotherham United (4-4-2): Logan; Raynes, Cresswell, Newey; Bradley (Taylor, 80) Schofield, Harrison, Evans (Williams 62); Revell, Grabban (Tonge, 75).
Referee Carl Boyeson.
Man of the match Ritchie (Swindon).
Match rating 8/10.