Luongo Swindon's hero and villain

Sunday 5th May 2013 13:24

Massimo Luongo: Scored and conceded penalty against Brentford

Massimo Luongo: Scored and conceded penalty against Brentford

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Swindon FanZoner Christopher Panks thinks Massimo Luongo played a key role in his side's draw with Brentford in the first leg of the play-offs.

Among the many cliches spouted in the run up to Swindon's play-off clash with Brentford, the most accurate was "it'll be a tight game, perhaps just an individual display of class or a catastrophic mistake will make the difference."

At full time it wasn't one or other, but both and each enacted by one man - Massimo Luongo.

The central midfielder on loan from Tottenham had broken the deadlock in an edgy encounter with an exquisitely placed low curling shot from 20 yards out. 20 minutes later following a period of extended pressure where the bees swarmed forward in search of an equaliser, it was Luongo again who made the impact, this time tripping Harry Forrester to concede a penalty.

One week on from the heartbreaking injury time penalty miss that would, if converted, have ensured Brentford's place in the Championship, without need for this fixture, another spot kick seconds from the final whistle, could dramatically change the face of the tie. With undisputed crossbar champion Marcello Trotta still on the bench, captain Kevin O'Conner, who manager Uwe Rösler had instructed to take the penalty last week, stepped up and made no mistake. Oh how things could have been so different at Griffin Park a week ago.

While disappointing to concede so late on and lose the advantage that the performance had warranted, there is much for Swindon fans to be positive about. Firstly, away goals don't count so that means that the Robins will travel to Griffin Park on Monday with the game all-square. Going into a match knowing that a draw is good enough, particularly away from home is a dangerous mindset to be in. Nobody can be in any doubt of what is required - a win. Though some will say it's 1-1 'at half time' the late equaliser has reframed the game - it's now a straight tie. 90 minutes, winner takes all.

Secondly, despite being far from their best, Swindon controlled the game for long spells, created more than their opponents and rendered the danger posed in Brentford's attacking line inert. Darren Ward and Aden Flint, Swindon's centre back pairing, dealt with the palpable threat embodied by Clayton Donaldson, who has 22 goals to his name this term, and Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose agreed move to Swindon was blocked by the Football League before joining Brentford, with ease.

In blustery conditions, that will not have endeared many to the quality of football in League One, quality was at a premium and the ball spent most of its time airborne or on Brentford keeper Simon Moore's six yard line waiting to be kicked. Joe Devera and Luongo will need to make fewer mistakes on Monday as right back Devera's distribution was at best careless, at worst casual. Luongo was caught in possession in the middle of the park a few times, on one occasion leading to a one-on-one opportunity which was drilled wide by Adam Forshaw. I fear that it will be more difficult to create chances away from home and as a result, Swindon's strikers will need to be more clinical than they proved at the County Ground.

Swindon now require a win at Griffin Park and these are not easy to come by. For all the positives of Swindon's performance on Saturday, Brentford's home record, on paper at least, tips the tie in their favour. Only three sides have taken three points from West London this term - Doncaster in the final day chaos last week, Tranmere, as they topped the league in January which was the first defeat since August at the hands of fellow playoff contenders Yeovil. Only 17 league points of the 69 available have been dropped at home by Rösler's side, amounting to 14 wins from 23. Even a near full-strength Chelsea side needed the late intervention of Fernando Torres to steal a draw when they visited in the FA cup fourth round.

Most betting men would term this a 'home banker', but these ties can also become 'coupon busters'. Stranger things have happened. Like travelling to Stoke and winning 4-3.

For Swindon it's simple. To book a place at Wembley for the third time in as many seasons, Kevin McDonald's men will need to succeed in a task they've been unable to complete three times this season, defeating Brentford. Failure to do so will, at best, require a penalty shootout to separate the sides.

By Christopher Panks, FanZone's Swindon blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @Christopher_EP - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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