SWINDON Town ended Bristol City’s unbeaten start to the League One season with a meaty performance at the County Ground.
Helped by Wade Elliott’s first-minute sending-off, following a confrontation with Jack Stephens, Town played a game of chess with their 10-man hosts, moving the opposition defence around like pawns til, at last, they found a way to break the deadlock.
That game in the 78th minute, thanks to Michael Smith’s twinkletoes and tidy finish, and the Robins ended up hanging on for victory. But hang on they did. This was special for Swindon – in an assortment of ways.
A feisty local derby began with a bang. Within 60 seconds of kick-off, City captain Elliott had clashed with Stephens in midfield, the Swindon player going to ground holding his face. Drysdale, aided by his linesman, pulled out the red card. City were down to 10.
Drysdale was more lenient to Scott Wagstaff and Aaron Wilbraham, whose late challenges on Jordan Turnbull and Nathan Thompson might have been more harshly dealt with by other referees, as the first half, though engaging, meandered along with very little by way on goalmouth action.
Nathan Byrne, who simply couldn’t get past Joe Bryan no matter what he tried, curled an effort wide, Ben Gladwin’s fizzing cross flashed past the despairing lunges of Michael Smith and Raphael Branco and Wes Foderingham in the Town goal didn’t have to make a first-half save.
Bryan clipped the outside of the post with a 25-yard effort five minutes into the second half but soon Swindon established a foundation from which to heap pressure on the City goal.
Turnbull drove a powerful attempt at Fielding in the 53rd minute and, 60 seconds later, Smith turned neatly in the box to fire at goal, only for a City leg to divert the ball for a corner. Just after the hour Aden Flint came within inches of putting through his own net when Toffolo crossed from the left, while with 19 minutes remaining Byrne leathered a 25-yard drive, which bounced off the crossbar and away to safety.
Fielding had to leap to his left to keep out Stephens’ angled effort from the edge of the box and Gladwin drove over from range. It was one-way traffic and, eventually, City would be breached.
That moment came in the 78th minute. Byrne’s tidy footwork on the edge of the area allowed him the time and space to pick out Smith and the big Geordie showed tremendous ability on the ball to wriggle out of three challenges and pick his corner.
Byrne could have doubled the advantage late on but toe-poked at Fielding when he galloped through on goal, while Wilbraham missed a gilt-edged chance to level for the hosts. It was their only real sight of goal.
The win was Swindon’s.