Lock-out delights Johnson

Date published: 03 February 2014

ATHLETIC’S centre-back pairing may have been “chucked together”, in the words of Lee Johnson, but the two full debutants combined to shut out a Swindon side gunning for the play-offs.

James Wilson, brought in on deadline day until the end of the season having negotiated a release from his contract at Bristol City, only met his new team-mates the night before the game.

But the 24-year-old Wales international combined very well with veteran Adam Lockwood to form such an effective barrier that goalkeeper Mark Oxley only had one real save to make.

“I like the way we were really organised,” said Johnson, after a result which means Athletic have taken six points from a run of three tricky matches against Peterborough, Wolves and Swindon.

“We were very rarely threatened. Oxley was organising well and that was an important part of it.

“It is a good combination. James Wilson is wiry and very quick and sweeps up well and you have got Locky who is aggressive and wins the first ball.

“Locky was never quick, anyway. He is getting better and better and we see that in training, where we have had to quicken his feet up a bit just to get use to this level again.

“But you are talking about a former captain of Doncaster. He knows the game.”

Jonathan Grounds settled the contest with a low drive as the ball broke to him in the 73rd minute at the County Ground.

Athletic were fully deserving of the victory, in trying circumstances given the poor conditions and the loss of centre-back James Tarkowski to Brentford the day before.

Johnson added: “We were excellent. We played the conditions better than they did, amid a howling wind and on a pitch that was boggy. In the first half we were against the wind totally, but for 20 minutes they didn’t get near our box.”

Charlie MacDonald, who was ill with flu-like symptoms at the team hotel, was told to go home to rest on the morning of the game. In on the bench came new signing Jon Stead, who only completed a loan move from Huddersfield the night before. Johnson’s former Bristol City team-mate had an impact, too.

“He was the number one target and I am delighted to have got him. He is here for a month, initially, but all going well I think we will get him for three months and hopefully he can score a few goals.”