SWINDON Town drew 1-1 with Bristol Rovers at the County Ground on Saturday in a scrappy west-country derby.

Town began well in the early kick-off and took the lead through Tyreece Simpson in the 16th minute.

But the hosts could not find another gear against head coach Ben Garner’s former side, and the Gas equalised in fortunate circumstances 10 minutes before the break when Sam Finley’s cross missed everyone but the far corner.

The remainder of the contest featured no lack in endeavour but a real dearth of quality as both sides were forced to settle for a point.

Ben Garner named an unchanged side to the one that dominated Port Vale last weekend and emerged 3-1 winners. Jojo Wollacott - fresh from international duty with Ghana - came back in on the bench.

For Bristol Rovers, January signing Ryan Loft started up front while former Town strikers Brett Pitman and Leon Clarke began the afternoon on the bench.

Town began on the front foot and fashioned the first chance of the afternoon in the third minute. Louis Reed whipped a delightful ball across the face from a free-kick which Ben Gladwin could only volley against the roof of the Alan McLoughlin Town End.

In the 10th minute, Rovers very nearly took a shock lead when Aaron Collins whipped a ball across the face from the right which Ryan Loft dived in for. The former Scunthorpe United striker - who scored against Town on the opening day from the penalty spot - was inches away from poking in.

But in the 16th minute, it was the hosts who went in front. Gladwin fired a pass into Simpson which the Rovers defender mis-controlled. Reed picked up the loose pass and tapped it to Simpson who simply turned and whipped a left-footed shot past James Belshaw and into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box.

Home debutant Jake O’Brien headed narrowly over midway through the first half, while Iandolo later saw an inviting cross unfinished as the strikers struggled to make up the ground.

With half an hour played, Rovers began to generate some momentum and they wasted very little time in making it count.

After Town gave away possession cheaply from their own throw-in, the Gas won a corner. Although the set-piece was initially dealt with, a hopeful lob back in was half-cleared, and Finley's cross from the left went straight in as a broken Town back line marked space.

A tight first-half ended with no further chances for either side, but Swindon happy to hear the whistle after an encouraging first 30 minutes.

The second half began at a slower tempo, with only a solitary Rovers chance breaking up a tense first 10 minutes. After Town gave the ball away, Sam Nicholson broke down the left before cutting inside and shooting tamely at Ward.

The scrappy nature of the second half continued until the 66th minute when Simpson almost grabbed his second.

After Hunt was wrestled to the ground, the referee waved play on and Reed curled a pass down the right. The Ipswich Town loanee held off his man well before curling narrowly wide of Belshaw's right-hand post. McKirdy was screaming for a tap-in in the middle, but the striker went for goal and it didn't pay off.

Around a minute later, McKirdy – who was trying to create something out of nothing – cut in from the right and blasted goalwards with his left, but Belshaw did well to gather it down low.

With 10 minutes to go, Town tried to fashion a chance down the right as Rob Hunt and Jonny Williams both attempted crosses, but the Rovers backline stood firm in clearing.

Williams had the best of the attempted assists, but both Simpson and McKirdy were on their heels in the middle.

Up the other end, Rovers won a cheap free-kick with five minutes to play, and Loft rose highest, but his header lacked power and Ward was able to easily gather.

Rovers sent on Clarke inside six minutes of added time, but he was not presented with any chances of note.

Midway through added time, Grant cynically tripped McKirdy on the edge of the box as the striker was almost in on goal.

Reed stepped up from the free-kick, but his dipping effort was straight down the middle and comfortably taken by Belshaw in the Rovers goal as both sides settled for a point.

STFC starting XI: Ward, Odimayo, Iandolo, Conroy, O'Brien, Hunt, Gladwin, Williams, Reed, Simpson, McKirdy.

SUBS: Wollacott, Lyden, Mitchell-Lawson, East, Aguiar, Parsons, Dabre.

BRFC starting XI: Belshaw, Connolly, Grant, Finley, Collins, Nicholson, Coutts, Taylor, Evans, Hoole, Loft.

SUBS: Jaakkola, Anderton, Spence, Pitman, Thomas, Anderson, Clarke.