SWINDON Town were dumped out of the League Cup in the first round for the eighth season in succession following a 2-0 defeat to League Two rivals Walsall on Tuesday night.
A threadbare Town squad battled away commendably for the majority of the contest but eventually buckled when Harrison Minturn was sent off for a foul as last man and Danny Johnson netted a spot-kick with 10 minutes remaining.
Timmy Abraham struck less than two minutes later to seal the result and end Swindon’s run of four wins in a row against Walsall while continuing Town’s barren run – in terms of goalscoring – to start the campaign.
Scott Lindsey made 10 changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Salford City at the weekend. Tyrese Shade was the only player to keep his place, while Swindon's substitute bench resembled a nursery with three 16-year-old's, a 17, 18, and 19-year-old, and the senior member being Sol Brynn at the grand old age of 20.
Town’s much-changed side began brightly at the Poundland Bescot Stadium and survived the opening 10 minutes without too much concern.
The first chance of the game came the visitors’ way too. Tomi Adeloye picked up the ball around halfway and swatted his marker away onto the floor before finding Jonny Williams on the left. The captain stuttered and slipped in former Sadlers man Tyrese Shade on the left, and he hit a wicked first-time effort with his right that Owen Evans did really well to tip over.
A cagey and relatively low-tempo affair continued until a strong chance for Walsall punctuated the first half midway through. Ronan Darcy lost possession around the halfway line, and the hosts sprung on Town.
Brother of AS Roma striker Tammy, Timmy Abraham was played through inside Harrison Minturn, but the young Town defender managed to put Abraham off just as he was about to shoot, causing the ball to dribble harmlessly wide of Lewis Ward's left-hand post.
As half-time approached, Walsall’s Flynn Clarke missed a brilliant opportunity to open the scoring when his poor touch let him down with just Ward to beat.
The final talking point of the first 45 was arguably the best chance of the game up to that point. Walsall’s Douglas James-Taylor headed over from six yards out following a great cross in from the left by Liam Bennett, and the two teams went in level.
The Saddlers claimed the first two opportunities of the second half as well, but neither managed to cause Ward much concern. First, Tom Knowles headed well over from close range before Jack Earing lashed a powerful effort a couple of yards over the bar.
Midway through the second half, the tempo of the game picked up slightly as changes were made by both teams.
In the 64th minute, Town were almost caught out after losing possession high up and seeing Knowles take over. He drove away from George Cowmeadow and Ricky Aguiar, but as he closed in on the edge of the box, his legs started to wobble, and the eventual shot was pulled well wide.
Town’s much-changed XI had performed admirably up until the final 10 minutes, but the 80th marked an unfortunate collapse.
Ward shanked his attempted pass towards Shade, and Minturn absolutely cleaned out substitute Ronan Maher when through on goal. The linesman initially flagged for offside, but after a brief period of consultation between referee and linesman, the man in the middle pointed to the spot and sent off Minturn.
Substitute Danny Johnson stepped up and calmly passed his penalty down the middle as Ward dived away to his left.
A difficult situation became even tougher barely two minutes later as Walsall added a second. Shade gave the ball away inside his own half, and Walsall dived on it 30 yards out. Johnson was slipped in and tested Ward down low, but the goalkeeper - who had endured a difficult 10 minutes previously – fumbled the ball out to Abraham who had the simple job of tapping into the net from close range.
Lindsey’s men were unable to fashion any further chances in a surprising eight minutes of added time, and they must now turn their attention to a League Two trip to Carlisle United on Saturday.
WFC starting XI: Evans, White, Daniels, Monthe, Knowles, James-Taylor, Earing, Clarke, Hutchinson, Abraham, Bennett.
SUBS: Pryzbek, Kinsella, Williams, Comley, Maher, Clarke, Johnson.
STFC starting XI: Ward, Clayton, Harries, Minturn, Aguiar, Shade, Williams, Darcy, Cowmeadow, Parsons, Adeloye.
SUBS: Brynn, Dworzak, Hart, Dabre, Fox, Kanu, Massey.