Swindon Link STFC columnist Alfie Howlett reports on Swindon's recent victory against Port Vale.
Harry McKirdy came back to haunt his former side with a prolithic brace as he gave Swindon a crucial advantage in their play off semi final.
Two goals either side of the break meant that Swindon already had one foot in the final. However that foot was taken away when James Wilson scored late on to half the deficit and set up a captivating return leg on Thursday night.
After winning four on the spin, Swindon came into the contest the form side in the play-offs. It was quite the opposite for the visitors Port Vale, with the Valiants winning just one of their last four. Nonetheless Vale had already made good memories at the County Ground this season after a 2-1 victory in September.
Swindon named an unchanged eleven as the County Ground got ready to host play-off football for the first time in 7 years.
Port Vale started the game with an aggressive intent as they attempted to disrupt Swindon from getting into their flow. It certainly worked with neither side able to throw down the gauntlet in the first 20 minutes.
On 23 minutes Jack Payne cut on to his left foot after receiving the ball on the by-line. However, Payne's effort from a tight angle was beaten away by Stone. On 26 minutes Swindon took the lead from the most unlikely of routes. A corner.
Jonny Williams near post cross was met by the movement of Harry McKirdy as he headed the ball past Stone into the bottom corner.
From there, Town naturally sat back after taking the lead. But it would come with little consequence with Swindon in fact coming closest to scoring the next goal. Mandela Egbo found Jack Payne after winning a loose ball, Payne then shifted on to his left foot and fired an effort straight at Aidan Stone from 18 yards.
The hosts would have one more sight of goal before the interval. In stoppage time Josh Davison with his back to goal found Jonny Williams 30 yards out. The Welshman hit the ball first time with his fierce strike resulting in Stone tipping the ball over with his fingertips. It meant that Swindon would go in at half time with a dream one goal lead.
The second half made for a more tense affair with a lack of quality from both sides. Just past the hour mark Ellis Iandolo flashed a ball across the face of goal only for Harry McKirdy to be centre meters away from converting.
Two minutes later, Lewis Ward was on hand to save an effort from Jamie Proctor. From the resulting goal kick Swindon would double their lead. Jack Payne picked up the second ball from Ward's kick. And after a neat one two with McKirdy he found himself with an opportunity to shoot inside the box. The shot was saved. But only as far as Harry McKirdy who finished emphatically with a volly into the net. It just had to be him.
Moments later Josh Davison had a glorious opportunity to make it 3-0 after going through one on one with Stone only to sky his finish. And that miss was made to look potentially costly when James Wilson pulled a goal back for Vale seven minutes from time.
Jamie Proctor's deflected effort found it's way to Wilson at the back post who tucked home from close range. Port Vale would have one final attempt to equalise in injury time. A Malvind Benning free kick found the head of Wilson who found Ward at his near post.
Full time: Swindon Town 2-1 Port Vale.