A FIFTEEN minute second-half hat-trick from Nathan Byrne turned Swindon Town’s season opener with Bradford City on its head and set the hosts up for a convincing 4-1 victory.

Swindon were second best in the first half as the majority of the chances fell the visitors way and it took only five minutes before Josh Morris put the Bantams in front.

Swindon had loan goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux to thank for not falling further behind, after Nathan Thompson brought down Morris in the box, but the Liverpool stopper was equal to Billy Clarke’s spot-kick.

Town manager Mark Cooper switched to three at the back after the break and it worked a treat as Byrne found the back of the net three times in the space of 15 minutes, before Jonathan Obika added the cherry on the cake, as Town went top, briefly, on the opening day.

Town’s four summer loan signings of Vigouroux, Jordan Turnbull, Kevin Stewart and Jordan Williams, all started at a sun-soaked County Ground, alongside Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, but Drissa Traore had failed to recover from a hamstring strain.

Michael Smith, who has been strongly linked with a move to Barnsley this week, was also notable by his absence.

It took less than five minutes of the new season before Swindon found themselves trailing at the County Ground.

Tony McMahon found some space in the box before he teed up summer signing Josh Morris on the edge of the box, who was not closed down by the defence, and his side-footed shot was firm and into the top corner, leaving Vigouroux with no chance.

Swindon had some neat passages of passing as they continued to probe and Jermaine Hylton was brought down on the edge of the box with a rash challenge from McArdle.

While the free-kick came to nothing it spelt the end of the game for Hylton as he trudged off holding his shoulder, to be replaced by Fabien Robert.

The Frenchman brought a touch of flair to proceedings as his flicks and first-time passes caused Bradford issues, but it wasn’t long before a defensive error had Town back on the back foot.

This time it was skipper Nathan Thompson, playing at right back, who was to blame as he was out-paced by Morris down the right edge of the box and, with Thompson diving in, referee Stephen Martin had no hesitation to point to the spot.

However for the second time in the last three meetings between these two sides Bradford saw the penalty saved.

Billy Clarke took the responsibility, but his side-footed effort was at a good height for the Vigouroux and lacked any real power as the Liverpool loanee got down to turn the ball away.

It was at the back that the danger bells were ringing again on the half hour mark.

After a long period of possession, Turnbull was caught on the ball by Billy Clarke, and with Vigouroux stranded outside his box, the little forward went for the lob and just missed wide of the goal.

There was a fitting round of applause in the 32nd minute to remember Town fan Ben Jackson, but they were soon muted when the visitors had another fine chance to double their lead.

City out-numbered Town at the back and Billy Knott was unable to connect with a drilled ball across the six-yard-box by Morris.

The half-time whistle was a welcome relief to Swindon’s players and manager Mark Cooper as he was able to use the 15 minutes to change things up, and boy did it work.

After switching back to three at the back, Swindon found themselves on the ball a lot more and it took just five minutes to pay off.

Williams found Byrne in space inside the box and, after cutting inside, he poked the ball with the outside of his right foot and Obika did very well to get out of the way as it found the far corner.

The momentum shifted in Town’s favour with the goal and Stewart tried to capitalise as he drove into the box minutes later, but had to settle for a corner as he found his options fade.

Town did not have to wait long until they did take the lead in the game, as Stewart found himself on another charging run into the box before laying the ball off to Byrne to beat Ben Williams in the Bradford goal with ease.

Byrne completed his hat-trick in the 68th minute as he skipped past several soft challenges in the box before pulling the ball back into the net.

It took less than two minutes for Town to extend their lead further when Turnbull’s ball found Obika in the box, before the striker turned on a sixpence to beat his man and fire home to wrap up the three points.

SWINDON TOWN: Vigouroux, Thompson (C), Branco, Turnbull, Ormonde-Ottewill, Williams, Kasim (Rodgers, 82), Stewart, Byrne (Randall, 87), Hylton (Robert, 10), Obika

BRADFORD CITY: Williams, Darby, McArdle, N Clarke, Meredith, McMahon, Routis, Morris (Marshall, 71), Knott, B Clarke (Davies, 63), Hanson

Referee: Stephen Martin

Attendance: 8,090 (1,025)