SWINDON TOWN - 0
BRISTOL ROVERS - 4 (Kuffour '25; Heffernan '40; Lines '45; Hughes '61)
Swindon Town were thumped 4-0 at home by local rivals Bristol Rovers, surrendering a 13-match unbeaten run in the process. Three first half-goals effectively killed the game before the break as the Town produced an uncharacteristically lethargic performance in front of their own supporters, writes Tom Otrebski.
Kevin Amankwaah recovered from a hamstring strain to re-claim the right-back jersey, allowing Scott Cuthbert will return to centre back alongside Gordon Greer. Vincent Pericard, Matt Ritchie and Craig Easton were all hoping to get a chance from the bench having impressed in the 3-0 mid-week reserve win against AFC Bournemouth
On a wave of expectation,Town started brightly and were so close to taking the lead when Alan Sheehan curled a free-kick around the wall and watched as the ball clipped the inside of the post and rolled along the goal-line before being cleared.
From that moment onwards, Town never really threatened the visitors' goal and, after the midway point in the first half, Rovers took the lead with a well-taken goal. The curse of the ex-player struck again as former Town striker Jo Kuffour sprang the offside trap and raced through on goal before calmly curling the ball over the stranded David Lucas.
Town's best chance came when Danny Ward's shot was spilled at the feet of Charlie Austin but the usually clinical youngster watched as his shot was brilliantly blocked by a last-ditch challenge, enough to take the ball the wrong side of the post.
Shortly before half-time, John Trollope's men doubled their lead when some more sloppy set-piece defending allowed journeyman striker Paul Heffernan to stab home from 8 yards.
As the clock ticked over the 45 minute mark, things got even worse for the Town. A silly free-kick given away on the edge of the area handed Chris Lines the opportunity to shoot at goal. Unfortunately for the Town, he took it with both hands, curling the ball over the wall and past the sprawling Lucas to cap a nightmare first 45 for the home side.
After the break things never really got going for Danny Wilson's men and they conceded a fourth goal just short of the hour mark. Jo Kuffour again led the Town defence a merry dance and his cross-shot came all the way across goal to the unmarked Jeff Hughes who had the simplest of tasks to tap in from two yards.
You could have forgiven the fans for whom that fourth goal was their cue to leave: Town's lack of creativity, bite and energy all over the pitch would have tested even the most ardent and forgiving of Swindon supporters.
Even with their four-goal advantage, Rovers still looked the more likely to score. One particular passage of play seemed to sum up the Town's day: Scott Cuthbert's slip allowed in Heffernan on the left. Lucas managed to push the ball away but as it was cleared to Billy Paynter, his beautifully weighted pass found Danny Ward on the left. As Paynter steamed into the box to meet the cross, a mix-up between him and strike partner Vincent Pericard ended with the ball bobbling harmlessly wide.
If that wasn't enough, then the home supporters were given further cause to think it wasn't going to be their day as first Billy Paynter's thumping header hit the cross-bar before bouncing the wrong side of the line, followed by a stunning save from Mikkel Andersen in the Rovers goal to deny JP McGovern's vicious, goal-bound strike.
Defeat in the local derby aside, Danny Wilson will have his work cut out to pick up his troops as they enter a crucial month in the play-off run-in. With trips to the likes of Southampton and MK Dons still to come, this was the worst possible start to Swindon's make-or-break "month from hell".
Swindon Town: David Lucas; Kevin Amankwaah, Scott Cuthbert, Gordon Greer (Capt.), Alan Sheehan; Jon-Paul McGovern, Simon Ferry (Ritchie '64), Jonathan Douglas, Danny Ward; Charlie Austin (Pericard '55), Billy Paynter
Substitutes: Phil Smith (GK), Sean Morrison, Matt Ritchie, Craig Easton, Lecsinel Jean-Francois, Michael Timlin, Vincent Pericard
Bristol Rovers: Mikkel Andersen; Byron Anthony, Danny Coles, Steve Elliott, Daniel Jones; Jeff Hughes, Stuart Campbell (Capt.), Chris Lines, Dominic Blizzard; Paul Heffernan, Jo Kuffour
Substitutes: Rhys Evans (GK), Carl Regan, Mark Wright, Andy Williams, Charlie Reece, Ben Swallow, Elliot Richards
Referee: K Johnson
Attendance: 10, 341 (1,432 away supporters)