Second-half goals from Neill Collins and Billy Sharp secured the victory which lifted Sheffield United to second in the League One table at the County Ground this afternoon.
Collins claimed his second of the season after meeting Louis Reed’s corner before Sharp netted for the second time in as many games as Swindon Town were punished on the counter-attack.
Lawrence Vigouroux, the home team’s goalkeeper, appeared to be distracted when Collins’ header found its way into the back of the net. Sharp’s effort came on the counter-attack as Swindon pushed for an equaliser. They unravelled after that with substitute Martyn Woolford denied by a smart reaction save during the closing stages.
Predictably, the match lacked the drama of May’s play-off meeting between these two teams when Swindon raced into an early 3-0 lead before United pegged them back to 5-5. But there was still incident aplenty. And some hefty challenges too.
The hosts, despite missing four influential figures through injury, were the first to show with Nathan Byrne shooting straight at Mark Howard following Fabien Robert’s ghosting run across the box. He could, indeed should, have done better. Likewise, at the other end, Chris Basham when he failed to make a clean connection after meeting Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s cross.
Although Swindon continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack, United began to impose themselves on proceedings as the contest unfolded. Twice, in the 22nd and 23rd minutes, they came agonisingly close to taking the lead. First Louis Reed, having recovered from Yaser Kasim’s late tackle, drew a fine save from Lawrence Vigouroux before, moments later, Conor Sammon saw a snap-shot thunder against the underside of the Chilean’s crossbar.
Byrne and Robert continued to look the most likely Swindon players to unlock United’s rearguard and, soon after the interval, the latter glanced a header wide after flinging himself at his colleague’s centre.
Che Adams’s wonderful start to the season culminated in a call-up to the England under-20 squad earlier this week but the youngster struggled to impose himself here and was withdrawn, for Woolford, on the hour mark.
Vigouroux got himself into a horrible mess after failing to immediate clear the ball under pressure from Sammon but, somehow, managed to escape the centre-forward’s clutches as United pressed. Campbell-Ryce surged beyond his marker in the 67th minute but could not pick the correct cross. Swindon, however, only half cleared the ball and, on the rebound, Reed saw a shot blocked.
Woolford’s first contribution was deliver a peach of a cross into Swindon’s penalty area which Sharp, in similar fashion to Robert, glanced wide. But, with 20 minutes remaining, United’s persistence paid-off when Collins’ header found its way into the back of the net.
Sharp doubled their lead four minutes later with a low finish beyond the advancing Vigouroux who, when the summer signing from Leeds hunted down Reed’s looping pass, escaped with a caution after darting out of his area and barging into the United man. Woolford nearly stretched the vistors’ lead still further but his shot was parried away to safety.
Swindon Town: Vigouroux, Robert, Williams, Turnbull, Traore, Kasim, Smith (Storey 67), Byrne, Stewart, Rodgers, Rossi-Branco. Not used: Belford, Brophy, Randall, Marshall, Barry, Iandolo.
Sheffield United: Howard, Freeman, Basham, Sharp, Collins, Sammon (Higdon 90), McEveley, Campbell-Ryce (Alcock 88), Reed, Adams (Woolford 60), Edgar. Not used: Long, McNulty, McFadzean, McGahey.
Referee: Christopher Sarginson (Staffordshire).