THIS was not just a defeat that denied Swindon Town top spot in League Two.

Ten minutes had barely been played against Newport County on Saturday and Town’s defensive ranks had been shattered.

Captain Dion Conroy collapsed to the floor in tears when sustaining a seemingly long-term knee injury after colliding with visiting skipper Joss Labadie.

Your heart goes out to the likeable defender.

He puts his family first, and immediately glanced to his mum – who follows her son home and away – in the Arkell’s Stand when crashing to the floor.

It was less than three weeks ago that Conroy sat down in a pre-match press conference and opened up about the impact Swindon Town manager Richie Wellens and his assistant Noel Hunt have had on his remarkable recovery.

In the space of a year, Conroy had gone from a bench warmer to first-team regular – and now club captain.

Those hours in the treatment room, the days of mental recovery, certainly didn’t go to waste.

But it wouldn’t be a great surprise if the 23-year-old felt that way when leaving SN1 on Saturday afternoon.

News of how long Conroy will be out for at this moment is pure speculation.

But the vibe received from Wellens in his post-match presser indicates his captain could be out for the season. Again, that’s pure speculation.

It’s no wonder Town’s usual free-flowing style crumbled after Conroy hobbled off the field with the support of two of Town’s backroom staff.

Wellens had options – he could have replaced Conroy with the confidence-hit Tom Broadbent, or youngster Taylor Curran.

Instead, the Swindon boss filled the skipper’s vacant position with Anthony Grant and placed Adam May into the heart of midfield.

Grant was capable in defence. He made no notable error and went down as many fans’ man of the match.

But his presence at the other end of the pitch was, without question, missing.

Particularly in the first half, second balls weren’t latched onto – Town relied purely on the escaping Lloyd Isgrove at the end of the pitch to rescue a goal seconds before half-time.

But County goalkeeper Tom King was equal to it and made a fine reaction save.

King’s opposite number – Luke McCormick – came under fire from more than one of the 7,800-plus fans in attendance.

It must be noted that working with an unfamiliar back four certainly can’t help McCormick’s fragile situation – particular given the keen Steven Benda is hot on his tail to poach the first-team starting spot.

But the occasional breakdown in communication won’t go unnoticed – but neither should his excellent save from Joss Labadie’s effort towards the conclusion of the first half.

Defensively, Tyler Reid endured a nightmare 10 minutes when brought on in place of Danny Rose with nine minutes to play.

Reid hadn’t even touched the ball before he gifted Jamille Matt a simple tap in from six yards when seemingly marking County’s imposing forward well.

In midfield, Michael Doughty clocked another 20 minutes – perhaps time for him to become a regular member of this side again.

You almost don’t want to fault Isgrove, because of his evident talent when having a ball at his feet.

But two great chances either side of half-time were squandered amid his usual dashing runs on both flanks – one to forget perhaps.

And forwards Jerry Yates and Eoin Doyle were denied their usual boisterous runs into the penalty area.

Doyle’s absence against parent club Bradford City next weekend might not come at a bad time after all.

One enforced change was made by Wellens before kick-off – Kaiyne Woolery replaced Keshi Anderson, who failed a fitness test in the week after picking up a knock at Cambridge United last time out.

After Conroy’s injury blow, Town were understandably shaky in defence.

Five successive corners had to be dealt with, and Zeki Fryers’ under-hit back pass epitomised the squad’s nervousness.

Visiting skipper Labadie proved dangerous, his effort from the edge of the penalty area edged marginally wide of McCormick’s left post before Ellis Iandolo replicated his dashing run into the penalty area from a week earlier at Cambridge – this time he only won a corner.

Isgrove had two chances to score before half-time, the first was tipped behind by King before his second – a counter-attacking footrace into the penalty area – was again well saved.

Sandwiched between these efforts, though, County took the lead.

Mark O’Brien turned in a County corner from the left at the back post.

Further chances for Dan McNamara and Labadie could’ve doubled the visitors’ lead, but they led by only a goal at half-time.

Town’s familiar pace, energy and spirit returned in the second half.

Passionate assistant manager Hunt even waved both hands up at the Arkell’s Stand pleading for more support.

The support came, but it wasn’t enough to guide Isgrove’s effort under King’s bar after the winger benefitted from Rob Hunt’s cross.

County were weathering a major storm at this point, but they passed the test.

Little happened leading up to the game’s final 10 minutes, before Reid came on in place of Rose.

Wellens’ tactical tweak proved disastrous as Padraig Amond, crossing from the right, picked out Matt – marked by Reid – on the edge of the six-yard box.

Matt’s effort was poked into McCormick’s right corner, doubling the visitors’ lead – and prompting home fans to leave early.