SWINDON TOWN - 1 - (Austin '54)
WALSALL - 1 (Jones '44)
Swindon missed the chance to capitalise on slip-ups from teams around them as they were held 1-1 at home by Walsall. After Steve Jones swept home the opener on the stroke of half-time, Charlie Austin grabbed a second-half equaliser to rescue a point for the home side, writes Tom Otrebski
Danny Wilson named an unchanged side from Monday's draw with Exeter, with Frank Nouble taking his place on the bench alongside Vincent Pericard. Charlie Austin and Billy Paynter remained as Town's attack force despite going two games without registering a goal. Swindon legend Sam Parkin was on the bench for the visitors, while Jamie Vincent captained the Saddlers on his first return to The County Ground.
From the kick-off, there was a very nervous air around the County Ground: Dominating posession for most of the opening 45 minutes and creating chance after chance, Swindon could not convert any of them into a goal, echoing the pattern of previous fixtures against Colchester and Exeter.
Charlie Austin, Danny Ward and even full-back Stephen Darby had chances that were either well saved, put wide or, in Darby's case, mis-controlling the ball when well placed
For all their command of the football there was always a hint that the visitors had something up their sleeves and, on the stroke of half-time they took the lead. Scott Cuthbert took his eye off a pass from David Lucas and allowed Alex Nicholl's to snaffle the ball before rolling it across to the lurking Steve Jones. The front-man made no mistake and swept the ball home from 12 yards to hand Walsall the lead at the break.
Whatever was lacking in the first half seemed to make a brief appearance at the start of the second as just ten minutes into the half Charlie Austin pulled the Town level.
A corner from the right was missed by everyone and came all the way across to Scott Cuthbert. The defender prodded the loose ball goalwards where Austin was on hand to force the ball over from no more than two yards.
Much like the first half, there was a sense that for all Town's possession and chances the visitors were certainly not out of the game at any point.
Similar slips to the one that led to Walsall's goal seemed to haunt the back four whenever they were in possession and they were lucky that Alex Nicholls's radar was slightly askew as he snatched a shot wide after being put through on goal following a mistake by Gordon Greer.
At the other end, JP McGovern was superbly denied by Gilmartin in the Walsall goal. After hitting a free-kick narrowly wide, a corner was cleared to McGovern who unleashed a rasping volley from the edge of the area.
In the final quarter of the game, Danny Wilson threw on both Frank Nouble and Vincent Pericard in search of that elusive winner. It was the same old story though as chance after chance came and went.
The final whistle was greeted with a smattering of applause from the disgruntled crowd: With other teams around them slipping up, there was a real chance to put the pressure on. With only three fixtures left, it's going to be a thrilling (if a little nervous) end to the season.
Swindon Town: David Lucas; Stephen Darby, Gordon Greer (Capt.), Scott Cuthbert, Alan Sheehan; Jon-Paul McGovern, Simon Ferry (Timlin '58), Jonathan Douglas, Danny Ward (Pericard '84); Charlie Austin (Nouble '70), Billy Paynter
Substitutes: Phil Smith (GK), Lecsinel Jean-Francois, Vincent Pericard, Frank Nouble, Craig Easton, Michael Timlin, Kevin Amankwaah
Walsall:Rene Gilmartin; Jamie Vincent (Capt.), Clayton McDonald, Darryl Westlake, Richard Taundry; Emmaneulle Jones, Matt Richards, Steve Jones, Julian Gray; Troy Deeney, Alex Nicholls
Substitutes: Clayton Ince (GK), Rhys Weston, Netan Sansara, Sam Parkin, Mark Bradley, Josh O'Keefe, Peter Till, Alex Nicholls
Referee: S D Cook
Attendance: 8, 467 (196 from Walsall)