Swindon Town returned to winning ways in League One and leap-frogged their opponents with a hard-fought West Country derby win over Bristol Rovers.
After a first half devoid of any real quality, Swindon turned on the style in the second and ran out more comfortable winners than the scoreline suggests.
The first half started with the Pirates pressing, pushing their hosts back and forcing mistakes. This pattern continued throughout the first 20 minutes, exacerbated by plenty of players slipping on the watered surface.
Swindon certainly looked nervous in front of the Sky cameras and an edgy home crowd that became increasingly frustrated with their team’s lack of possession, sloppy passing and needless fouls.
The game came to life half way through the first period. A turn and shot by David Ball that forced a corner lifted the crowd and, soon after, the first decent cross from the left saw the young striker rise between taller adversaries to head powerfully against the crossbar.
Within two minutes, however, Rovers had created a chance of their own, with Jeff Hughes getting time to turn and curl a sublime left-footed shot against the far upright.
As the crowd became more involved, both sides tried to build on their close shaves, but this only resulted in a return to the midfield war of attrition. Then, just as the crowd expected the mercy of the half-time whistle, so the breakthrough arrived.
Having won a free kick the defenders were still getting forward when Vincent Pericard looked to have lost the ball. Somehow winning it back, the ball was fed out to Michael Rose, whose second inviting cross of the game was headed down by Sean Morrison; the ball bounced up and past Mike Green in the Rovers goal right into the top corner.
A lucky break, perhaps, but Swindon built on that at the start of the second half. Following an early scare, when first John Akinde and then Will Hoskins should have equalised, Swindon battered Rovers for the next 15 minutes with some incisive passing and quality crosses that caused plenty of indecision and confusion in the Bristol back line.
The reward arrived ten minutes into that spell after some great teamwork down the left once again. Man of the match Matt Ritchie, whose effort and quality eventually rubbed off on his teammates, was released down the left by Simon Ferry.
Joined by Rose, Ritchie received the ball back via a back-heel and passed it back to Ferry. The young Scot cut into the box and delivered an exquisite chipped cross that Pericard could not miss.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.