SWINDON Town eased their home fans’ hurt by returning to winning ways with a superb victory over in-form Rochdale at the County Ground tonight.

Luke Williams’ side had gone four matches without tasting victory in League One but got the County Ground rocking once again by shattering Dale’s nine-match unbeaten run and helping themselves to a much-needed three points.

With his squad rocked by a host of injuries and suspensions – Yaser Kasim the latest man to join the list of unavailable Town players as a result of a one-match ban picked up for a fifth yellow card of the season against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday – Williams went with the same system his team employed during last weekend’s goalless stalemate at Kingsmeadow.

Teenage midfielder Tom Smith replaced Kasim as one of Swindon’s two sitting midfielders in front of an unfamiliar back four, the 18-year-old earning his first-ever start in League One, while Australian midfielder James Georgaklis, who himself turns 18 next month, joined fellow academy scholars Tom Ouldridge and Scott Twine on a youthful-looking bench.

James Brophy also featured after passing a fitness test, with fellow left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, who also missed the Wimbledon game, out with a hip injury.

Despite Dale’s domineering recent form, they took their time to get going at the County Ground, with the first chance of the game coming on the 10-minute mark when visiting captain Ian Henderson dragged an effort well wide of the mark from an unappealing angle.

In the early stages, Town adopted a solid defensive shape, standing off their opponents when they had possession in front of their own goal and as a result, the majority of Rochdale’s attempts to sling balls forward failed to find a team-mate.

That solidarity seemingly paid dividends as Williams’ troops took the lead with 24 minutes on the clock.

Launching an attack from a throw-in, the home side drove into the danger area and with Sean Murray attempting to gain possession on the turn, the ball diverted to allow Darnell Furlong to hammer home an unstoppable strike past goalie Josh Lillis, the Queens Park Rangers loanee grabbing his second goal in a red shirt and ending a scoring drought of 376 minutes.

And why stop there? Just seven minutes later, Conor Thomas – playing at centre-half – sliced open the visitors with a stunning through ball, allowing Nathan Delfouneso to race away from the offside trap and confidently tuck a shot past Lillis to make it 2-0 with his first league goal for Swindon.

Town understandably had their tails up, with John Goddard glancing a header across the face of goal from a devilish Murray cross while at the other end, Joe Bunney slammed a powerful shot narrowly wide of the post but Swindon would go into the break with confidence anew.

The Town bubble could have been burst just a minute into the second period as the visitors exploded out of the blocks and Goddard was adjudged to have tripped Joe Rafferty in the box.

Henderson went for power with the resultant spot-kick but his thunderous strike slammed against the crossbar, with Lawrence Vigouroux, making his 50th appearance for the club at the relatively tender age of 22, appearing to get a touch on the Dale man’s shot and surviving from 12 yards for the second match in a row.

The visitors were understandably keen to raise the tempo but Lillis was forced to scramble in the 53th minute when Ellis Iandolo cut inside on his stronger left foot and lashed a shot narrowly wide of the post.

For all their recent good form, Keith Hill’s men looked to be running out of ideas at a rapid rate, with Town’s comfort levels rising with each passing minute, even more so when they found themselves playing against 10 men for the final 17 minutes.

In an effort to delay the game, Furlong got in the way of Bunney on the sideline and the Dale full-back responded with a two-handed shove in his opponent’s back.

After consulting his linesman, referee Gavin Ward opted to show a straight red to Bunney and a yellow to Furlong, leaving the visiting bench in bewilderment and all but finishing off Rochdale’s chances of an unlikely comeback.

Town would make things safe themselves on their own accord though as, with 10 minutes to go, Anton Rodgers curled a free-kick into the area from the left and the visitors were all at sea as Nathan Thompson glanced home a header from point-blank range.

And there was still time for two superb late pieces of defending from the hosts, with Vigouroux pulling off a reaction save to deny former Swindon loanee Calvin Andrew when he rose to head goalwards at the far post and Thomas denying Dale with an expertly-timed sliding block in the area.

SWINDON TOWN: Lawrence Vigouroux, Darnell Furlong, Conor Thomas, Nathan Thompson (C), James Brophy, Anton Rodgers, Tom Smith, John Goddard (Bradley Barry 67), Sean Murray (Luke Norris 67), Ellis Iandolo (Jake Evans 81), Nathan Delfouneso.

Subs not used: Will Henry, James Georgaklis, Tom Ouldridge, Scott Twine.

Attendance: 6,048 (149 away supporters)