Swindon Town ground out a 1-0 win against Macclesfield Town on a frustrating afternoon at The County Ground. Paul Benson scored the goal that gave the Town all three points and Matt Ritchie missed a late penalty after the visitors saw their captain red-carded, writes Tom Otrebski.
Paolo Di Canio made two changes from last weekend's win at Rotherham: Alessandro Cibocchi replaced Callum Kennedy at left full-back and Alan Connell was restored alongside Paul Benson in attack, replacing Billy Bodin. Both Kennedy and Bodin dropped to the bench alongside midweek signing Luke Rooney.
In a first-half dominated by the Town, clear-cut chances were few and far between for either side. Perhaps the best opportunity for the home side to break the deadlock came shortly after the 15 minute mark. A fluid passing moving started in midfield saw the ball move through Matt Ritchie and Connell, with the latter cutting the ball back for the advancing Simon Ferry on the edge of the area. The midfielder glided past the opposition goalkeeper and, with the goal at his mercy, elected to try and square the ball for the lurking Benson but only managed to hit the covering defender.
Just before the break, Ritchie's curling effort from the edge of the area flew narrowly over the angle of bar and post.
Early in the second half Rooney made his long-anticipated debut for Swindon and within five minutes was already mirroring the familiar cut-in and shot from the wing popularised by Ritchie on the opposite flank.
As time ticked on, the level of frustration began to build around the County Ground and came to head just after the hour mark. Aden Flint, ushering a routine ball out of play, was shoved in the back by the Macclesfield player who was chasing the ball forward. To the disbelief of nearly everyone in the ground, the referee elected to play on and the ball was worked across the edge of the area to the waiting Matt Hamshaw. Thankfully for the Town, the Macclesfield man blazed over from twelve yards. In the immediate aftermath, Di Canio's protests on the touchline ended with him being sent to the stands.
Frustrated, and roared on by the home support, Swindon went on the offensive and Flint was unlucky to see his back-post header cleared off the line by a combination of goalkeeper and defender on the line.
With 77 minutes on the clock, the Town finally made the all important breakthrough. Rooney, who had been very impressive since coming on, picked the ball up on the left hand side in a deep position. The former Gillingham man swung an inch perfect cross onto the head of Benson, who had beaten the goalkeeper to the ball and he diverted the cross into the back of the empty net.
With the relief visible around the ground, there was time for yet more drama before the final whistle. With four minutes to go, Flint and Macclesfield defender Nat Brown challenged for the ball from a corner and ended up in a heap on the pitch. In the few moments of confusion that ensued, the referee consulted with his linesman who took the decision to send off the Macclesfield captain and award the Town a penalty.
However, Ritchie, who took the resultant spot-kick, managed to blaze over from 12 yards. Rooney could have added to the lead in injury time. After a clever run into the box and a series of step-overs he managed to fashion a shooting opportunity but couldn't quite manage to hit the target.
With this win, Swindon's winning momentum in League 2 continues to gather pace. Next week sees a break from league action with a trip to Championship side Leicester City in the FA Cup.