Rovers are defeated at the Mem.
Rovers were condemned to a second straight home defeat as Ben Garner’s Swindon Town side ran out 3-1 victors at a sodden Memorial Stadium. Second-half strikes from Payne, McKirdy and a Ben Gladwin penalty ensured that Rovers could not make former boss Garner’s return an unhappy one.
A bone-crunching tackle from Antony Evans reverberated around the Memorial Stadium after just two minutes, setting the tone for a bright start from Rovers in the incessant rain.
The wet pitch made for some early sloppy passing, slips and mistakes from both sets of players.
Rovers took a grip of the game and were rewarded for some one-touch passing in the 16th minute as Harry Anderson finished off a flowing move with a fine, right-footed shot past Wollacott, from Evans’ delicious through ball. The wing-back became Rovers’ ninth different goalscorer this season.
Swindon looked to respond and grew in to the game, with the wily Payne pulling all the strings.
A well-worked routine off the training ground saw Crinchlow’s effort deflected wide, before Town saw their first shot on target after 21 minutes from Payne, gathered well by Belshaw in the centre of his goal.
The Gas ‘keeper was called upon again to beat away a cross-cum-shot from Kesler-Hayden, inevitably assisted by Payne.
Belshaw was at it again in the 34th minute, producing his finest save of a busy half, denying Gilbert after the Robins striker burst through one-on-one.
Rovers regained a foothold in the game and threatened late in the half with some crosses fired into the Swindon box, but the visitors held firm in front of their 700-strong travelling fanbase - Wollacott claiming under his crossbar as the half-time whistle blew.
The rain eased up slightly as the second half began, with Rovers attacking the home end. Belshaw was called into action early to repel a cheeky back-heeled effort from Swindon left-back Iandola. Swindon began to dominate possession and levelled through Payne in the 56th minute, with Rovers failing to clear a near-post cross.
Further Swindon domination forced Barton into action in the 62nd minute as Aaron Collins and Harvey Saunders replaced Evans and Glenn Whelan. The game then became stretched, with both sides looking to strike it lucky with some hopeful long-range passing.
More Town pressure saw a McKirdy strike deflected behind for a corner. There was a delay in proceedings before it could be taken though, as Connor Taylor lay stricken near his own goal. The centre-half could not continue and was replaced by Hoole as Rovers looked to regroup and look for what would be their first back-to-back wins since December.
Hoole was straight in the action as his header from Coutts’ right-wing cross was gathered by Wollacott. In a surprising move, the influential Payne was replaced by Welsh international Jonny Williams in the 74th minute. Rovers then made a fourth change - Taylor was a concussion substitution - with Pitman being replaced by Westbrooke.
Alfie Kilgour was shown a yellow card as Swindon upped the ante, looking to find a winner. They so nearly did, but were again thwarted by Belshaw, who produced a stunning save in the top left-corner of his goal from a Gladwin header. Kilgour was then shown a red card for a second yellow after he handled McKirdy’s goal-bound volley in the 84th minute; Gladwin netting the resulting penalty past a despairing Belshaw to put Town 2-1 up.
McKirdy then wrapped up the points in the 87th minute after a mistake from Belshaw, the otherwise-impressive ‘keeper spilling a cross from the right, allowing the Swindon substitute the easiest of finishes.
Rovers face Carlise United next Saturday at the Mem (3pm KO).
Bristol Rovers: Belshaw; Kilgour, Taylor, (Hoole 68) Harries, Brown, Anderson; Coutts (c), Evans (Saunders 62), Whelan (Collins 62), Finley; Pitman (Westbrooke 78).
Subs: Ward, Westbrooke, Collins, Anderton, Saunders, Spence, Hoole.
Swindon Town: Wollacott; Odimayo, Iandola (Hunt 88), Conroy (c), Crinchlow, Gladwin, Simpson (Mitchell-Lawson 70), Payne, Gilbert (McKirdy 64), Kesler-Hayden.
Subs: Ward, Baudry, McKirdy, Mitchell-Lawson, Williams, Hunt, East.
ATTENDANCE: 7,625 (700 away)