Swindon Town must continue to be patient if they are to rediscover their form of the early part of the League Two season.

Wayne Hatswell said prior to Swindon’s trip to Harrogate Town that they needed to get back to outscoring teams as their form had tailed off after the start of the season.

This led me to think about why Swindon’s attack had become dulled as their defensive frailties were no longer being masked by the ability to score goals at the other end.

Town presently lead the league for goals scored from outside the box, 11, and prior to victory against Mansfield Town, they had only scored one goal that was not a strike from range or a set piece for six games in League Two. This sounds like a fairly major problem with the chance creation department, as scoring multiple goals from range every week is not the most reliable way of playing.

 “If you don’t shoot then you don’t score, I am all for that,” Michael Flynn said, “but it has to be at the right moments. If the ball is coming out of the air and you are trying a volley from 20 or 30 yards, then the percentage of them going in is very low.

“I would rather them play the percentage game and get the ball down, go out wide, create another attack if we need to go to the other side and get another cross in the box.

“Percentage-wise there are a lot more goals scored from crosses into the box and that is what we did for the last goal [against Mansfield].

“Tyrese [Shade] cut back and put one in and if you don’t do that then we end up with a one-all draw.”

Although I agree with Flynn that Swindon need to be more patient at times in their build-up play, the percentage of his team scoring actually from crosses does not necessarily align with the theory that they should be doing that more often.

This season, Swindon have scored 11 goals from outside the box from 103 attempts, a success rate of 10.6%, which reflects well on the quality of Dan Kemp and Jake Young’s ability from range. Whereas they have 11 goals from crosses, including set pieces, this season when they have crossed the ball 420 times, a success rate of just 2.6%.

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Looking at the data, during Town’s six-game winless run, the starkest thing about their attacking numbers is that the number of times they were crossing was going up. Across the season, in games Swindon have won they crossed an average of 18.25 times compared to 22.17 times when they have lost a game. Additionally, the two of the three games in which Swindon have crossed the most are two matches in which they have failed to score.

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The reason for this is the rather basic explanation that no Swindon player is particularly strong in the air. No Town player ranks in the top 40 midfielders and forwards in League Two for aerial duels won, with Charlie Austin winning the most, but his success rate is only around a third.

To put it in very simple terms, when Swindon cross the ball, the likelihood is that they won’t win the header and therefore they give the ball away, allowing them to be countered, which is a real weakness of the defence. Swindon need to be cleverer in the way they look to create chances, often slowing down and being sure not to rush in the final third.

Against Accrington Stanley, Swindon had their fewest crosses of the season, but they were able to score from one as Udoka Godwin-Malife and Remeao Hutton linked up to create enough space in behind for a low cross. That pair combined on a number of occasions against Mansfield and Accrington to find space beyond the defence.

A similar situation saw Dan Kemp able to cut the ball back for Jake Young and he was close to adding another goal. The build-up was more than just hitting and hoping, allowing real space to have been created in the middle.

If you compare this to the Harrogate game when Swindon were attempting to chase the game, Hutton and Williams Kokolo put in a combined 21 crosses and only found a red shirt with five of them.

Despite consistently getting bodies into the box when the ball was out wide, very few opportunities were being created. They were not keeping Harrogate guessing often enough by looking to create from different angles in the way they had done to such devastating effect at other points in the season.

It was a similar story during the Gillingham match, as shown in this example when Swindon were putting a ball into the box but they were against a set defence, and even though the cross was a good one and they won the header, Gillingham were in no danger.

Wiltshire Times: McEachran crosses from deepMcEachran crosses from deep (Image: IFollow)

Once again despite putting 34 crosses into the box, only eight of them found a Swindon player, and Town mustered just seven efforts on target total in the whole game. The Gillingham defenders knew what was coming.

Town’s attacking numbers might have looked alright from the match, but the defenders would have left the pitch feeling they had things under control. Town were rushing the ball in a way they hadn’t earlier in the season.

As the confidence has started to return with victories in the last two matches, the number of crosses has tumbled, with Kemp's new trequartista role letting him receive the ball in different areas without being heavily marked.

Young is free to engage with Kemp in the build-up, before getting into the penalty area to occupy the defenders and allow space outside the penalty area for Swindon, who are now playing with an extra man in midfield, to work in.

With Kemp, George McEachran, Hutton, and Kokolo, Town have players with the quality to make things happen at this level and they do not need to resort to hoying the ball into the box whenever possible.

Their greater success when crossing has come when there is the element of surprise, and the defence were not waiting for another round of the aerial bombardment to forwards not capable of making something of it.

Both Young and Austin are excellent at finding space in the penalty area, but that becomes much harder when they are not given the time to do so.

The same goes for shots from outside the box, of course, quick and varied attacks was how they scored five or more three times in their opening six matches. We have seen more of this in the last two as Town have looked more consistently dangerous, scoring six very different goals against Mansfield and Accrington Stanley, and they will need to continue that as the season progresses.

Even when the form was in a nosedive, the solution was not to panic and trust that they had the quality to create enough chances.