AN EVENTFUL year at Swindon Town ended in something of a damp squib as the curtain came down on 2018 with a goalless draw away at Mansfield Town on Saturday.

A total of 53 games played, 19 wins in all competitions, three managers, one humbling FA Cup exit at the hands of non-league opposition, but – crucially – no promotion of League Two.

Town began the year under the guidance of David Flitcroft but found him in the opposition dugout for their final game of 2018 against the Stags as a Swindon side now led by Richie Wellens turned in a decent performance to return home with a point.

Separating the pairs’ tenures at the Energy Check County Ground was a nine-month spell at the helm for Phil Brown.

However, the former Premier League manager was unable to put together a late promotion-winning charge out of the fourth tier last season and looked unlikely to do so again in the current campaign following a sluggish start which ultimately cost him his job.

Since then, though, Town appear to have found a clear identity and purpose to their play under Wellens, which was clearly evident at the One Call Stadium at the weekend.

Mansfield look destined to be in the shake-up for automatic promotion this season as they currently sit third in the table having lost just once in the league so far.

Swindon, though, could easily have become the only the second side to inflict defeat on the Stags had it not been for several fine saves from home goalkeeper Conrad Logan.

Only more clinical finishing cost Wellens’ side at Mansfield. Put that right, and the story of 2019 could well be one to remember.

Swindon boss Wellens made two changes to the team that started the previous 1-1 draw away at Northampton Town on Boxing Day.

Jak McCourt replaced James Dunne in midfield, while Elijah Adebayo returned up top in place of Jermaine McGlashan as both those two dropped to the bench.

Mansfield were the first to threaten and top scorer Tyler Walker caused alarm in the Swindon defence twice in the opening six minutes, seeing efforts blocked behind for corners by Dion Conroy and then Matt Taylor.

However, it was Swindon who forced the first save of the contest – and it was as good one too as Logan denied them the lead after 11 minutes.

Adebayo nicked the ball off Stags captain Krystian Pearce on the edge of the box and possession rolled nicely to Keshi Anderson, who stepped forward and drilled in a low effort that was pushed away sharply by Logan.

Swindon were then swiftly back on the front foot and full-back Kyle Knoyle drilled a low ball into the Mansfield box, but it was just too far in front of Adebayo’s run to the back post.

Luke Woolfenden then came to the visitors’ rescue twice in quick succession around the quarter-of-an-hour mark.

First, he hacked at a dangerous low cross from Hayden White, which pinged off the back of Knoyle and behind for a corner, before Woolfenden then got in a crucial block from a powerful CJ Hamilton drive.

Almost 20 minutes had passed before visiting stopper Lawrence Vigouroux was called into action for the first time as he got down well to smother a long-distance drive from former Swindon loanee Timi Elsnik.

Chances continued to come at either end and only another brilliant save from Logan denied Swindon the lead after 26 minutes, clawing away a dipping Taylor free-kick from underneath his own crossbar.

That led to a couple of corners in quick succession for the visitors as first Michael Doughty and then Anderson had efforts to no avail.

Swindon’s high press was causing real problems for Mansfield and Adebayo and Pearce grappled in the box, with Logan forced to rush from his line to snuff out the prospect of an effort on goal.

Vigouroux had seen little real danger in the opening 35 minutes but was then called into action twice in quick succession.

First, he gathered a looping header from Matt Preston following a corner, before he did brilliantly to tip a dipping 25-yard effort from Walker over the crossbar.

Swindon were dangerous on the counter and one such instance opened up the Stags as the half wore to a close, with Anderson forcing a good a low save from Logan before firing the follow-up narrowly over the bar as the teams headed back to the changing rooms with the deadlock intact.

Play continued at a frantic pace after the restart and Doughty sent Anderson into the Stags box, but he got his feet in a muddle and Preston snuffed out the chance, before Jacob Mellis flicked a header at a Mal Benning cross at the other end, which drifted across the face of goal and wide.

Play then quietened down for a while but a loose piece of control from Doughty almost allowed Mansfield to pounce as Walker reacted quickly to let fly with a first-time strike from 25 yards that Vigouroux got down well to save.

As the half reached its midway point, Wellens made his sole change of the match, relieving the hard-working Adebayo as Marc Richards was sent on for his first appearance for two months after a persistent injury issue.

The visitors’ eyes lit up with 17 minutes to play when Kaiyne Woolery escaped the attentions of Pearce, who had no choice but to pull him down 25 yards from goal, but Taylor’s subsequent free-kick went straight into the wall.

Swindon were then scampering back with 10 minutes to go as Mansfield broke at pace, carrying the ball nearly 60 yards, but the chance was gone when Walker selfishly lashed over the bar from outside the box.

Wellens’ side had to keep their wits about them right up until the final whistle, with Vigouroux pushing over a powerful Hamilton strike with two minutes of the 90 remaining.

And the home side had one final chance to nick the points in stoppage time, but Taylor cleared a Danny Rose header off his own goalline as the visitors dug in to ensure they made the trip home with something to show for their efforts.