NILE Ranger scored on his return to the Swindon Town side as the Robins edged out 10-man Peterborough United in a compelling game of football at the County Ground.
Ranger nodded Swindon in front in the first half before Yaser Kasim added a second after the break despite Posh surging back into the tie and dominating much of the second half.
Nathaniel Knight-Percival crashed home a stunning goal for the visitors to reduce arrears and Peterborough pushed hard for an equaliser, despite Lee Tomlin seeing red for two bookings and Posh goalkeeping coach Jimmy Walker being sent to the stands, but ultimately it didn’t arrive.
The return of Ranger was the major talking point around the County Ground pre-match but there was also a full league debut for Brazilian defender Raphael Rossi Branco, while Ryan Mason and Dany N’Guessan were both restored to the starting line-up by Cooper.
Nicky Ajose, who scored 10 goals in 21 appearances on loan at Swindon earlier in the campaign, began alongside Britt Assombalonga up front for Posh, while Tomlin made his comeback from injury.
Town took the lead in the 28th minute, as Ranger leapt highest to head Massimo Luongo’s delicate cross from the right past Bobby Olejnik in the Posh goal.
The Robins went close again in the 37th minute when Alex Pritchard tested Olejnik after wriggling free of three challenges, Tomlin curled a free-kick over from a promising position as Town took a one-goal lead into the break.
In the second half Peterborough found a completely different gear and were within inches of levelling in the 55th minute when Tomlin guided a terrific first-time effort from the edge of the area onto the angle between crossbar and post.
Assombalonga then had a goal ruled out for offside after he tapped home Ajose’s volleyed cross.
The Robins seemed to be hanging on desperately to their slender lead but completely against the run of play in the 70th minute they managed to find a second.
Kasim did it all himself, picking up possession just inside the Peterborough half and driving on a diagonal run across goal into the vacant left-back position before sliding the ball beyond Olejnik.
Cooper responded to the strike by swapping N’Guessan for Nathan Byrne in an effort to shore up at the back but the substitute almost managed to score with his first touch. Only Olejnik’s excellent save, low down to his left, kept out Byrne’s volley.
Posh found a route back into the game with 12 minutes remaining as Knight-Percival was given the time to bring down a high ball on his chest and power home a tremendous volley. Spurred on by the goal, Peterborough seemed destined to turn their game around but their quest was knocked off course when Tomlin received his second yellow card of the match for pushing Kasim to the floor.
Still there was plenty of drama to come in the dying moments. Posh goalkeeping coach Walker was sent to the stands following a 20-man ruck in front of the dug-outs and somehow Jermaine Anderson managed to nod over the top from four yards out and without a Swindon man challenging him, but somehow Town held on.