Swindon 0 Bristol Rovers 0: Toothless Town draw in derby

After the disappointment of the JPT final fans and players alike were desperate to see them get back to winning ways, but Bristol Rovers had other ideas with a stubborn defensive performance, writes Matt Davies.

Di Canio made two changes, Oliver Risser and Paul Benson both dropped to the bench making way for Ronan Murray and Aden Flint as he looks to put his Wembley blues behind him and get his automatic promotion push up and running with a local derby.

The home side made their intentions clear from the start when they were pressing the visitors from the off to get a strong foothold on the game. Swindon dominated for large parts of the first half but were unable to take advantage of their possession and momentum.

Town nearly found a goal early on when Ritchie burst down the right hand side before pulling it back to Connell who’s resulting shot was blocked before it fell towards an incoming Smith who blasted his strike straight at the keeper. A heated first half resulted in Matt Ritchie suffering a crunching tackle from Rovers centre back Bolger, causing an injury that hindered his performance throughout the game.

Town's new striker...

Swindon continued in ascendency and the best chance of the game fell to Alan Connell when he hit the underside of the bar and probably should have scored. The home side then won a corner as they continued in the hunt for a first half goal, Devera came close from the corner after he flicked the cross just over the bar.

Paolo’s frustration was clear to see as he erupted before punching and kicking the dugout glass. The half came to a close with Swindon the much better team, and should of gone into the tunnel with the lead.

Rovers made one change at the break bringing on Smith for Carayol as they stepped up the search for the game’s opening goal.

The second half started how the first had ended, Swindon were still on top but still hadn’t made the all important breakthrough.

Half chances were littered throughout the half; the first fell to Murray who beat the offside trap to try an audacious effort to head the ball over the considerable frame of the visiting goalkeeper. Connell’s second chance of the game came in when he was through on goal only to force another good save from a tight angle at the keepers near post that earned a corner which resulted in nothing. Ronan Murray was next to shoot from distance but his left footed strike was closer to hitting the corner flag than the target he intended, which summed up Swindon’s performance perfectly.

Bristol then played their way back into contention as Swindon looked like they had run out of ideas, this lead to the introduction of Luke Rooney for Matt Ritchie on the hour mark. Ritchie had made a good start to the game but failed to overcome the challenge from the first half and still wasn’t moving freely.

Town fans were becoming increasingly frustrated as they sensed that the game was slipping away, a feeling that was shared with Paolo as he made his second change of the half bringing on Benson for Connell also in the 60th minute; a decision some fans voiced their disappointment who considered Murray the obvious contender for the bench.

Swindon were becoming more agitated when a number of refereeing decisions failed to go their way, the feeling of injustice sparked a mini revival which saw Town regain control of the game and create another half chance for Benson, who collected the ball after some neat passing from impressive duo Ferry and Holmes, before snatching at a shot on the turn but his shot lacked any real conviction.

Rovers began to play on the counter and managed to flash a couple of balls across the penalty area but didn’t concern Swindon’s backline. As Swindon’s attacks began to fade Di Canio used his third and final substitution when Italian De Vita was thrown into the mix for Murray with just over 15 minutes left to make an impact, a move that was mirrored by the opponents dugout when the replaced Zebroski with Dorman.

Fellow substitute Luke Rooney was later fouled just outside the box, the cross came in and was immediately knocked up in the air before a looping effort landed on the roof of the net saving the goalkeepers blushes. The best chance of the second half came to Benson who met Holmes’ cross with his head but it was just wide. The last few minutes were frantic as both teams had an even chance of grabbing a late winner.

Rovers had a late corner which Town keeper Foderingham managed to collect. With three minutes left Swindon and Bristol were battling hard for the win with Swindon attacking but Rovers defending better.  The away side had the last shot on the Swindon goal when Dorman’s right footed effort fizzed just wide of the post.

Overall a draw was a fair result, neither team took the chances they had created. This isn’t the result that Swindon wanted but this isn’t a complete disaster – that some fans were proclaiming on forums and to BBC Wiltshire – either. After all it’s another point or more importantly another clean sheet. Town were weak in front of goal, they also lacked any real creation and conviction in the final third leading to a deserved 0-0 draw.

With a busy 8 days ahead with trips to Barnet and Morecambe followed by Northampton Town at the County Ground on Easter Monday, Town certainly could’ve done with a home victory before a high pressure run of games. However, with all nearest challengers except Torquay not gaining ground this weekend, the points are on the table and the 5 point cushion to 4th remains.

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