Swindon Town 1, Crawley Town 1
Matt Tubbs scored his fourth goal in three games to earn Reds a deserved point at the County Ground, their first in three league visits to Swindon.
Tubbs swept home a cross from Gary Dicker with 11 minutes to go to cancel out Nathan Byrne’s fortunate opener for Swindon just after the break.
Crawley were on top for long spells and Jamie Proctor had two strong penalty claims turned down while Gary Dicker was denied his first goal by Cameron Belford’s save in the second half.
John Gregory made just one enforced change to the side that beat Walsall 2-1 on Saturday as Jamie Proctor came in for the suspended Billy Clarke in attack.
Injury-hit Swindon made five alterations to the team beaten 2-0 at leaders Orient on Saturday with ex-Reds’ loanee Nathan Byrne lining up at left back.
Reds had a chance in the second minute after some lazy defending by the hosts. The ball broke to Andy Drury 25 yards out but his side-footer was a yard wide of the upright. Swindon responded through Byrne who spun past Mark Connolly but his low shot was never troubling Paul Jones.
Proctor nearly made a dream return to the side on six minutes when he made space on the edge of the box for a powerful drive which keeper Cameron Belford tipped over for a corner. On 14 minutes Proctor’s appeals that he was pushed in the penalty area as he tried to get on the end of Mike Jones’ cross were waved away by referee Rushton.
Space opened up again for Proctor on 22 minutes, but he couldn’t get his shot away while little had been seen of the Swindon strike force in the first quarter of the contest.
Mr Rushton booked Drury in the 27th minute for a late challenge on Nathan Thompson as he went for a 50-50 ball in midfield. Drury was also hurt and five minutes later he came off and Sullay Kaikai came on to make his debut for the club.
Proctor had another penalty claim waved away by the referee when he turned inside Darren Ward and appeared to be tripped. It looked a very good shout and Mr Rushton was surrounded by Crawley players but gave nothing.
Jones was called into action on 37 minutes when Reds failed to clear their lines and Dany N’Guessan let fly from the edge of the box forcing the keeper to tip the ball over for a corner. Moments later Michael Smith flicked on Thompson’s diagonal ball but N’Guessan could only stab his shot straight into Jones’s midriff. It was the best chance of the first 45 minutes.
In truth the first half had struggled to ignite but at the break Reds looked as if they had a measure of control.
Reds had a chance two minutes into the second period when Proctor’s pass gave Jones time to line up a drive which flew just wide of the left-hand post.
Instead the home side broke the deadlock on 48 minutes when Jack Barthram’s cross found BYRNE at the near post and he turned his close-range shot past the helpless Jones, although the final touch appeared to come off the unfortunate Joe Walsh.
Reds had it all to do on a ground where their two previous league visits had ended in 3-0 defeats but they forced a succession of corners as Kaikai began to make an impression. On 55 minutes he moved up front to partner Matt Tubbs as Dannie Bulman came on for Proctor.
Swindon broke on 58 and nearly added to their lead when N’Guessan burst into the box but shot wide of the near post when Byrne was unmarked on the penalty spot. Gary Dicker was then booked for a blatant shirt-tug on Yasir Kasim but on 63 minutes he should have got Reds level when he met Jones’ cross from the left at the far post with a firm header which he could only direct at keeper Cameron Belford.
With a third of the contest left the game had begun to get stretched but Reds were doing most of the pressing at this stage and Kaikai was inches away from equalising on 65 minutes when he curled a free kick fractionally wide of the left-hand post. The Crystal Palace loanee’s cross from the line was then cut out by a defender with Matt Tubbs waiting to pounce.
Swindon were content to soak up pressure and hit on the break and they nearly doubled their lead when N’Guessan powered into the box but Jones produced a one-handed save. Reds immediately went up the other end and equalised on 78 minutes when Gary Dickers’s diagonal ball from the right was perfectly placed for TUBBS to run onto and smash past the helpless Belford from six yards.
It was no more than the visitors had deserved and the point lifts them up a place to 18th in the table ahead of Saturday’s home game against Peterborough United.