Di Canio sets title challenge

PA Sport
Paolo Di Canio
Paolo Di Canio

Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio challenged his players to claim the League Two title after the Robins secured automatic promotion despite a 3-1 defeat at Gillingham.

Danny Kedwell's header and two Chris Whelpdale goals, the second from the penalty spot, earned the Gills a vital three points in their fight for a play-off spot while Alan McCormack scored Swindon's reply.

The defeat failed to stop the Robins bouncing back to League One at the first time of asking though as rivals Torquay lost at AFC Wimbledon.

With Shrewsbury only managing a draw, Di Canio's side are four points clear at the top with two games left. Victory at home to Port Vale next weekend would secure the title and Di Canio, who criticised his players for losing their focus after back-to-back defeats, wants no more slip-ups.

"We have to focus on the title now," said the Italian. "The last two performances are due to a long season, but I am happy for the players and the fans because after 10 months we can celebrate promotion.

"Only one team can be called the champions, and I want to be called the champions because I am a greedy man. We have this in our hands. We are four points clear so we need to win on Saturday. I will do everything I can in the week to help them keep their focus.

"It's fair enough for the players to celebrate as they travel back and raise a glass, I will do the same with some red wine. But not to get drunk, I don't see why they should go out until four o'clock in the morning and get drunk.

"They have a privilege to be professional players, to give satisfaction to themselves, their families and the supporters. They will have to behave better. We've done something special this season, even if not unique, something special. As a manager I can only be happy to go up at the first attempt."

Gillingham are now four points off a play-off place with two games remaining and manager Andy Hessenthaler insists his side will continue to fight for promotion.

"All we can do is go to Northampton and win there, and it might go down to the last game of the season where we'll need to win and again. Results might have to go our way if we're to sneak in there," he said. "We're five points behind Cheltenham, they've got to lose both of theirs and we've got to win both of ours. Anything could happen."

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