REPORT | Swindon 0-0 Southend
SOUTHEND UNITED had to settle with a point against Swindon Town as the Blues drew 0-0 at the County Ground.
In a game of few chances for both sides the game took 75 minutes to really spark into life.
Before that Ted Smith was needed to stop a low strike in the area from Raphael Rossi-Branco and Marc Antoine-Fortune forced a comfortable save out of Lawrence Vigouroux.
Vigouroux produced a superb double-save in the second half, first stopping Jason Demetriou's low shot before getting his feet to Zavon Hines' rebound, but the Swindon 'keeper could do nothing about Hines' effort that struck the face of post.
Jon Obika came close with a curled effort over the bar which left Smith motionless, but it was Jermaine Hylton, who was introduced by the Robins late on, who created the home side’s best openings.
Firstly the midfielder forced a smart low save from Smith after getting on the end of a long ball from the back, hitting the rebound into the side netting, before flashing a shot just wide of goal late on as both sides had to share the points.
It was a second draw in three days for the Blues who maintain their unbeaten league run, extending it to 13 matches, but saw them drop outside the play-off places and into seventh.
Swindon would have been glad to see the back of 2016 as they picked up just one point from a possible 12 in December and boss Luke Williams made four changes to the side that lost 3-2 at MK Dons last Friday.
Southend extended their unbeaten league run to 12 matches with a 1-1 draw at home to Charlton Athletic on New Year’s Eve, but they almost fell behind early on at the County Ground as Raphael Rossi-Branco’s shot inside the area had to be saved by the feet of Ted Smith.
Marc-Antoine Fortune signed a contract extension with the Blues in the hours following the Charlton game and he had Southend’s first chance on goal with a left-footed shot that was comfortably saved by Lawrence Vigouroux.
Phil Brown’s side were looking for their first league win at Swindon since 2008 and, in a game of few chances, almost fell behind when some neat build-up play from the Robins resulted in Branco crossing for Jon Obika who headed over from close range.
Jason Demetriou flashed a shot from the edge of the area just wide of Vigouroux’s near-post and Anthony Wordsworth came within a whisker of putting the Blues in front when Fortune’s cross was prodded just wide with Simon Cox unable to divert the ball on target.
After an uninspiring first half the second half began with Obika forcing Smith into action with a low strike and with less than 10 minutes after the interval Nile Ranger was brought on against one of his former clubs, replacing Fortune.
Despite the change, the home side looked the more likely to score and they came close when John Goddard’s cross-come-shot had to be hacked away by Michael Timlin before a Robbins player could sweep home.
Demetriou forced a fine save from Vigouroux who sprung to his right to tip away the midfielder’s free kick that looked destined for the top corner and the Cypriot went close again minutes later when the ball landed to him from a corner but he dragged his shot wide.
Zavon Hines was brought on to make his Southend debut after signing for the Blues last month to replace Jermaine McGlashan but his introduction failed to provide the spark the game so desperately needed.
By far the game’s best chance fell to Swindon’s captain, Obika who was found in acres of space on the right of the penalty box. Cutting inside onto his left the striker curled the ball just over the crossbar with Smith left motionless.
The game had finally come to life with quarter of an hour left to play and Vigouroux was on hand to make a superb double-save, firstly prevent Demetriou before stopping Hines from scoring a debut goal on the rebound.
Hines then almost capped off a sweeping Southend move by hitting the post before Jermaine Hylton was brought to almost immediate effect as he twice went close in the dying moments of the game.
Chasing down a long ball, Hylton hit a shot hard and low that needed Smith to save with his feet before hitting the side-netting with the rebound, and with two minutes remaining the ball found its way to the sub on the edge of the area only for him to screw his shot just wide.
Swindon Town XI | Vigouroux, Thomas (Murray 69’), Rodgers, Doughty, Obika (C), Goddard (Hylton 83’), Brophy, Furlong, Jones, Rossi-Branco, Norris. Subs Not Used: Henry, Smith, Stewart, Murray, Delfouneso, Barry
Blues XI | Smith, Wordsworth (Bridge 88’), Thompson, Timlin, Cox, Atkinson, Fortune (Ranger 55’), McGlashan (Hines 66’), Leonard, Demetriou, Ferdinand (C). Subs Not Used: Bexon, White, O’Neill, King
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Assistants: Wayne Barratt & Louis Marks
Fourth Official: Ravel Cheosiaua
Swindon Town: None
Southend United: None
Swindon Town: Anton Rodgers 31’, Raphael Rossi-Branco 60’
Southend United: Adam Thompson 26’, Jason Demetriou 62’