SWINDON Town responded to their FA Cup stuffing at Stockport County by drawing 1-1 at home to Tranmere Rovers in League Two on Saturday.
A first half which saw the visitors enjoy the better of the chances ended all square as Josh Hawkes’ opener was cancelled out by Jacob Wakeling’s first goal in nine appearances.
Wakeling could have won it inside the final 10 minutes, only for the linesman’s flag to deny him after a brilliantly-taken finish.
Tranmere also missed a gilt-edged opportunity in stoppage time, and both sides had to make do with a point as the visitors had Jordan Turnbull sent off in the dying embers. Swindon moved up to fifth as a result.
In the final game before international call-ups head off to the World Cup, there was no Jonny Williams in the Swindon squad as Scott Lindsey made three changes to the side which was stuffed at Stockport County in the FA Cup last weekend.
Louis Reed and Mathieu Baudry dropped to the bench, and the trio were replaced by Ben Gladwin and Frazer Blake-Tracy – who returned to the fold – and Cian Harries, who was handed his first league start since the opening day.
Former Swindon defender Turnbull started for Micky Mellon's side in the heart of defence.
Town began in a 5-3-2 formation with Blake-Tracy, Harries, and Ciaran Brennan in the heart of defence, but the change in shape appeared to harm the hosts’ rhythm as Lindsey’s men began slowly.
Tranmere generated the first shot on target in the ninth minute after Kane Hemmings allowed the ball to run past him down the left edge of the box. He cut back past Brennan and lashed a right-footed shot straight at Sol Brynn, who was positioned correctly at the near post.
But moments later, the visitors found a way past Brynn. A mistake by Khan saw the midfielder dispossessed deep inside his own half, and the ball was immediately fired through for Hawkes. He kept his cool one-on-one and whipped the ball into the bottom left corner with his right.
As Rovers continued to create the better chances, only a brave and perfectly-timed block from Harries prevented Elliot Nevitt from doubling the lead midway through the first half.
Despite not creating an awful lot before the break, Swindon hauled themselves level with 15 minutes to play. Just as the fans were starting to really get behind the team, the players responded by stepping it up a level on the pitch. Remeao Hutton drove at Ethan Bristow down the right before smashing a low cross for Wakeling to bundle in at the far post and end his eight-game goal drought.
With the final chance of the first half – 10 minutes from the whistle – Swindon missed a glorious opportunity to go in front. Gladwin's excellent free-kick swung back towards the on-rushing crowd, and somehow Blake-Tracy missed it completely when well placed at the far post.
The start of the second half featured a half-chance for either side – Hemmings blasted past Brennan before lashing over with his left. Up the other end, Darcy crashed a shot towards goal that Dynel Simeu bravely turned away.
Shortly before the hour mark, Khan crashed a shot just wide of the right post from 25 yards following tidy work from Gladwin out wide, keeping the ball under pressure from two white shirts.
The game remained finely-balanced as time ticked on, and inside the final 10 minutes, Swindon thought they had won it. Hutton whipped in an inch-perfect ball from the right which Wakeling took down before excellently drilling into the corner. Unfortunately for the jubilant home crowd, Wakeling was adjudged to be offside.
Tranmere goalkeeper Doohan then prevented what would have been a superbly-taken Louis Reed free-kick with three minutes to go, leaping up to his right to claw the ball out of the top corner for which it was destined.
Inside four minutes of added time, Rovers should have won it. The visitors broke down the right, and Josh Dacres-Cogley crossed in towards an unmarked Hemmings. The ball was slightly behind the striker, who couldn't make a clean contact, and Brynn gratefully gathered.
Despite a barrage of late pressure, Swindon were unable to find a winner. Meanwhile, Turnbull was sent off in the dying seconds following a dangerously high-boot on Blake-Tracy.
STFC starting XI: Brynn, Hutton, Iandolo, Gladwin, Darcy, Jephcott, Blake-Tracy, Khan, Wakeling, Harries, Brennan.
STFC substitutes: Copland, Lavinier, Reed, Baudry, Adeloye, Aguiar, Roberts.
TRFC starting XI: Doohan, Dacres-Cogley, Bristow, O'Connor, Merrie, Morris, Hemmings (c), Hawkes, Turnbull, Nevitt, Simeu.
TRFC substitutes: Hewelt, Davies, Nolan, Hughes, Jameson, Byrne, Burton.
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 9,425 (317)