Phil Smith was Swindon's penalty shoot-out hero as he saved three spot kicks to send the Town into the Area Semi-final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at the expense of AFC Wimbledon.
The match itself had finished 1-1 after a stunning Oliver Risser strike had given Town the lead before Rashid Yussuff equalised for the visitors, writes Tom Otrebski. Paolo Di Canio made six changes to the starting eleven after the weekend's success at Port Vale. Phil Smith, Joe Devera, Oliver Risser, Alan Connell, Mehdi Kerrouche and Raffaele De Vita were all restored to side with Alan McCormack, Lander Gabilondo and Lukas Magera all dropping to the bench. Also among the substitutes were Callum Kennedy and Etienne Esajas.
In a goalless first forty-five, chances were scarce during the opening half hour. After Ritchie's early effort was simple enough for the visitors' Seb Brown to collect, there was little action of note until the last ten minutes of the half. Connell had shouts of a penalty waved away by referee Andy D'Urso before the striker's header was so close to giving the hosts the lead. A teasing cross in to the near post from the left flank was reached first by Connell whose movement across his marker enabled him to flick the ball goalwards. As The County Ground readied itself to celebrate the opener, goalkeeper Brown flung out an instinctive left-hand to paw the ball away from the net and to safety.
At the other end, the visitors had certainly not come to Wiltshire to make up the numbers and perhaps should have gone ahead just before the break when striker Jack Midson was presented with a wonderful opportunity to shoot but saw his shot well saved and held by Phil Smith. Town began the second half on the front foot with both Kerrouche and Ritchie volleying wide during the opening exchanges. Just short of the hour mark, Ritchie was replaced by Esajas who wasted no time in making his presence felt. His first effort from around 20 yards was well held by the goalkeeper. Moments later a flowing move ended with a rasping shot being turned behind by Brown.
Swindon took the lead with another contender for goal of the season. The returning Risser opened the scoring from fully 30 yards when he unleashed a lightening bolt of a shot on the half-volley that simply rocketed past the goalkeeper and almost ripped the net out the ground as it flew into the top corner. Town then set about dominating their opponents. Pressure from Connell chasing a lost cause caused a misunderstanding between defender and goalkeeper but the Town striker could only find the side netting with his effort from a narrow angle. Esajas, not wanting to be outdone by Risser, had his own effort from a long way out only to see it thunder back off the crossbar with the goalkeeper beaten. In the ensuing scramble De Vita could not keep his own spectacular effort down. Somewhat inevitably, the missed chances came back to haunt the home side when Wimbledon equalised with a little over ten minutes to play. Rashid Yussuff had the simplest of tasks to tap in at the far post after a cross from the right had come all the way across the goal and over Smith.
As the game drew to its conclusion, Max Porter could have won it for the visitors but could only fire wide when well placed. With no further chances, the game finished as a tie and went to penalties.
With the spot kicks taken in front of the empty Smart of Swindon Stand, Smith saved the first two efforts from the visitors as Connell, Risser and Esajas all scored with their respective penalties. It was left for Smith to keep out Chris Bush's spot kick to cue scenes of celebration among the home support. In a week where cup ties take priority for the Town, their winning momentum rolls over to the weekend where they face Huddersfield in the first round of the FA Cup.