AS AUDITIONS go, Swindon Town’s new-look side passed their one on Saturday afternoon with flying colours in a gutsy 2-1 win away at Carlisle United in the League Two season opener.

Town were good, really good.

This was a performance that emphatically blew away the shadowy spectre of last season’s disappointing relegation from League One and proved they should undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with in the fourth tier.

As new Swindon manager David Flitcroft mentioned post-match, this was a Carlisle side hardened from several seasons in League Two and developed with the aim of promotion. Last term, they finished sixth before being eliminated in the play-offs.

By contrast, the evolution of Town’s team is still very much in its infancy having seen 10 new signings arrive over the summer as Flitcroft radically overhauls the squad, with even more heading out of the exit door.

Given the quality of opposition and logistical complexity of a 600-mile round trip that partnered their opening day assignment, Town could have been forgiven to shutting up shop and making do with a draw at Brunton Park.

Swindon Advertiser:

 Luke Norris has to be helped from the pitch after dislocating his shoulder in the act of scoring Swindon’s opener at Brunton Park.

What unfolded was quite the opposite. They played with purpose and intent and looked genuinely threatening on the way to opening up a two-goal lead through Luke Norris and Paul Mullin early in the second half.

However, when Luke Joyce gave Carlisle a lifeline with more than half-an-hour remaining, memories of last season’s many collapses surely came flooding back to the minds of the hefty Town travelling contingent in the stands.

They can take heart then that these days their side are made of much sterner stuff.

Although they were largely on the back foot during the latter stages as Carlisle flooded forward in search of an equaliser, there was no sense that Swindon would fold easily and in truth, the game was seen out without any real alarm.

It is early days for sure, but Flitcroft, his players and staff deserve no end of praise for the speed and size of the turnaround that has taken place in such a short space of time.

Whisper it quietly but there is a real cause for optimism at the County Ground these days.

Swindon Advertiser:

Lawrence Vigoruoux gets his fingertips to a Nicky Adams header. 

Of his 10 summer signings, Flitcroft named six in his first starting XI, with two more on the bench.

There were three new faces in the back-line, with newly-appointed club captain Olly Lancashire in the heart of defence and Ben Purkiss and Chris Hussey in the full-back slots.

James Dunne and Amine Linganzi combined in a sturdy central midfield, while Paul Mullin was named up top in a traditional 4-4-2 formation.

Chris Robertson and Harry Smith were amongst the substitutes, with Kyle Knoyle and Donal McDermott the only ones to miss out, both sidelined because of injury.

After a tepid opening 10 minutes, Town began to offer the first signs of life in front of goal, with Mullin having the first two chances of the game. First, the summer signing from Morecambe saw a header from James Brophy’s cross blocked by Tom Parkes in the six-yard box before he then cracked a long-range effort well over the top after a quick counter.

Swindon Advertiser:

The Carlisle players appeal in vain after Paul Mullin bags Town’s second goal. 

Mullin then turned provider, with his good work in the box allowing striker partner Norris to send in a shot from the edge of the box that was saved by home keeper Bonham.

All the pressure was coming from the visitors and Dunne fired straight at Bonham after 15 minutes, with Hussey’s free-kick bouncing back to him off the wall after Brophy was brought down on the edge of the box.

Having been a virtual spectator so far, Town stopper Lawrence Vigouroux had to be on his toes midway through the half to tip Nicky Adams’ looping header over the bar.

That seemed to kick the game into life and three more chances arrived in quick succession. First, Danny Grainger’s corner sailed all the way through the Town box and was worked back in by Joyce, with Parkes’ snatched effort drifting narrowly wide.

Swindon Advertiser:

Many Town fans made the long trip to Carlisle. 

At the other end, Mullin saw flicked header from Brophy’s cross caught by Bonham before Jamie Devitt hit the Town woodwork, cutting in and cracking an effort against the post from 16 yards after driving up the left from halfway.

A good contest had really opened up and Town got their noses in front just after the half-hour mark when Norris flung himself to meet a whipped free-kick from Hussey at the back post, stooping low in front of Bonham to head home.

However, the Swindon striker landed awkwardly in the process and after immediate treatment on the pitch, it was the last action he saw as he had to be withdrawn and was replaced by Smith.

The visitors went closest to another goal before the break when captain Lancashire met Hussey’s corner from left by it was well saved by Bonham to keep the score to 1-0 at half-time.

Town got the second half off to a dream start and needed less than three minutes to double their lead. Goddard pounced on a mistake from Liddle and let fly from 25 yards and although Bonham dived to keep it out, Mullin was on hand to bundle the loose ball home.

Swindon Advertiser:

John Goddard celebrates with new team mates, Chris Hussey and Ben Purkiss. 

Carlisle were not going to go down without a fight and reduced the deficit eight minutes later when a ball into the Town box was not properly dealt with and Joyce curled a low strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Town thought they had calmed their nerves when they got the ball in the back of the net for a third time just after the hour mark as Smith tapped into an unguarded net, but the big striker had strayed offside when meeting Mullin’s flick-on when challenging keeper Bonham.

Chances continued to come at either end and Vigouroux made a fine point-blank save from substitute Richie Bennett’s header to keep his side in front.

The game began frantic in the dying stages as Carlisle pressed in desperate search of the goal but Town dug deep and there were no major scares to contend with despite a despairing late header from Bennett and low drive from Hallam Hope as they calmly saw out the closing minutes for an impressive victory.