Firstly, if you’re reading this, you’re a much stronger human being than me, as I certainly don’t want to be reliving our playoff campaign.
After such a long, memorable, entertaining ten months, the 21/22 campaign ended in penalty heartbreak.
Looking at both games, there wasn’t much between the two sides, as Swindon was the better team at the County Ground, and should’ve taken a bigger lead to Vale Park, with Payne and Davison having huge chances to put the tie to bed.
But looking at Thursday night, the home side dominated the contest and missed some huge chances themselves. Sadly, the attacking threat from Harry McKirdy, Josh Davison, and Louie Barry we had enjoyed this season was non-existent, as they looked off the pace for most of the game.
The backline showed how much they’ve improved over the last couple of months, with top performances from Mathieu Baudry and Dion Conroy at the heart of the defence, with Egbo and Iandolo also impressing.
When the referee blew his whistle in the 120th minute, I was surprisingly confident about the upcoming shootout.
With Lewis Ward showing his talents at saving spot-kicks throughout the season and having some cool heads throughout the squad, I saw us as favourites.
And I was proved right, with Lewis Ward pulling off two good saves and experienced pros Jack Payne and Ben Gladwin scoring their pens, then it was down to McKirdy to give Town a huge advantage, but his spot-kick sailed over the bar.
In hindsight, Harry wasn’t the right person to take one of the first five penalties, as the occasion was possibly too big for him, plus all the hate he was receiving from the Vale fans.
When you have a maverick character like McKirdy in your team, you take the good with the bad, and we’ve experienced more good than bad this season, with his incredible goal haul, and the pure joy his performances have brought fans this season.
After Louis Reed put away his spot-kick and Vale scored their fifth, it was down to Josh Davison to write his name in Swindon Town history, but his penalty was similar to his 120 minutes on the pitch, and we entered sudden death, which resulted in Port Vale winning the tie 6-5 on penalties.
After the dust has settled and a clear picture emerges, it’s blindingly obvious, what a remarkable season we’ve all enjoyed as Town fans, and the fantastic job Ben Garner, Ben Chorley, Scott Marshall, Scott Lindsey, and everyone at Swindon Town has done.
We all know the situation last summer, and how bleak it looked at times, when a handful of professionals, and our youth team lined up against Melksham Town in our first pre-season friendly, not one Town fan would’ve imagined we would be a single penalty away from a Playoff Final the following May.
Over the coming week, please keep your eyes peeled on social media as I will write two-season reviews, one looking at each player, and the next handing out some awards for the season.
No doubt about it, this hurts, and it hurts no less than any other playoff defeat, but I also feel far more optimistic for the future of our football club than at any time, I hope you feel the same, and next season we won’t need the playoffs to achieve promotion back to League One.