ALL eyes will be on the County Ground this evening as Swindon Town duke it out with Peterborough United for a spot in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final and a chance of glory at Wembley.
Level after a first-leg draw, a win on the night will be enough for the Robins to begin preparations for a March 30 final in the capital.
Much of the town will have no excuse for not keeping at least one eye on tonight’s proceedings, with 4,500 tickets sold up to yesterday afternoon and live coverage on Sky Sports 1 to boot.
Town fans will be aware of the recent heartache attached with Wembley visits, following defeats to Millwall and Chesterfield in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
Many are keen to sample the home of football again, but if only to set the record straight and taste victory, though Peterborough must first be dispatched.
Shaun Moffatt, 59, said: “It’s going to be a very tight match between two well-matched teams at the moment. They have a good manager and we’ve got a half-decent manager.
“If we get through, Wembley is a fantastic opportunity, especially for the young kids. It’s a real family occasion.”
Pete Trudgian, 65, said: “I want them to go through to Wembley because I have three grandchildren, all five years of age, and it will be a good opportunity to take them along. That stadium is a fantastic place for kids that little.
“The Manchester Uniteds of this world get these opportunities every week. It’s the norm to them. To us people supporting a struggling team, this is massive.”
The aforementioned Chesterfield defeat of 2012 was in the final of the tonight’s competition, and the East Midlands outfit are again a potential opponent at Wembley, should Swindon win through.
The opportunity for revenge over the Spireites at the scene of their defeat is a huge incentive for supporters.
Ryan Wright, 19, said: “I think we can win it. We have a much better squad than the last time we played Chesterfield.
“Going to Wembley would be massive for us. After our last two recent defeats I hope it would be third-time lucky, especially if it’s against Chesterfield again.”
David Bennett, 42, who has supported Swindon for more than 30 years, said: “I have memories of Wembley as a kid and matches like this bring it all back to me. I was at the Millwall and Chesterfield matches – this could be the chance to get sweet revenge.
“We have a really good chance of beating Peterborough. No-one thought we get a draw in the first leg.”
Alan Drayson, 38, said: “Last time it was the other way around against Chesterfield, with them in League One and us in League Two. Let’s hope it will be our turn to win as the higher team this time.
“I prefer the old Wembley, and our results at the new one don’t help me change my mind. But it really is amazing to see everyone in Swindon shirts at such a big stadium. This type of thing brings the town together behind one cause.”
MANAGER IN RALLY CRY.
SWINDON Town manager Mark Cooper is hoping a boisterous crowd with pack out the County Ground and cheer his side on to Wembley when Peterborough United visit for the second leg of their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy area final next week.
In the first leg of the tie at London Road last week a meagre home support of around 3,000 turned out to see Town come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2, thanks to Nile Ranger’s strike and a Shaun Brisley own goal.
Cooper would love to see Swindon treble those numbers on Monday night, with a place in the competition’s final – which is scheduled for Sunday, March 30 – at stake.
The Robins go into the game looking to secure their third Wembley visit in less than four years and the Swindon boss has stressed that vocal support from the people of the town could make the difference.
“On the whole our home performances have been really good so I’m sure they’ll come out and try to cheer us on to Wembley,” he said.
“It would be brilliant as long as they get behind us. If we have 10,000 there and they don’t say anything it will be even harder. If we get 10,000 fans behind us it will be a lot easier.”
Going into the match level on aggregate, many fans and pundits are backing Town to safely negotiate passage into the final, especially seeing as Swindon saw off Peterborough 2-1 in a League One clash in SN1 last month.
However, after Posh beat high-flying Leyton Orient on Saturday, Cooper has emphasised that Darren Ferguson’s men aren’t going to roll over on the night.
“Everyone is thinking it’s going to be easy because we’ve gone and got a draw at Peterborough but it never works like that,” he said. “It’s going to be a mammoth game and a really big test for us.”
PUBS ARE GEARING UP FOR A GOOD NIGHT.
PUBS will look to benefit ahead of tonight’s match with live television coverage on Sky Sports and an increase in the fans likely to be meeting before the trek to the County Ground.
The Merlin in Drove Road has always proved a popular haunt for Town supporters pre-match, but with the match live on the box, landlord Nigel Turrell is expecting a particularly busy night.
“We do get some of them off to the game, but those who want to stay and watch it in the warm will stay here,” he said.
“It’s better than a normal Monday night easily. If there was a Premier League match on, this would top that because it’s the local side playing. The fans want to come out for the atmosphere. Whether it’s for the pre-match or watching the game itself, people want to come out and be amongst it.
“Business picks up big time whenever Swindon are on TV.
“We do our best to get the right atmosphere for fans in here. We will have the volume up high, overload the place with staff, and try to keep everyone happy watching the match.”
Nigel has also said a trip to Wembley would have a positive impact on business.
The club itself has already approached the pub about accommodating matchday travel to the capital.
“Everyone wants to get to Wembley. We are already being asked if we can provide space for fans’ coaches on the morning of the game, if they make it. It’s a day out for people, isn’t it? It’s good to see fans coming together and heading off to London together. How often do you get to go to Wembley? It’s a special occasion.”