MATT Preston netted in first-half stoppage time to ensure Swindon Town started 2018 on a winning note with a narrow success away at League Two strugglers Barnet this afternoon.

The win at the Hive Stadium was Town’s second in three days after a 1-0 victory at home to Notts County on Saturday and means David Flitcroft’s side have taken nine of a possible 12 points over the festive period.

Ellis Iandolo’s spectacular free-kick for Town just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark was cancelled out by John Akinde’s header shortly afterwards but the visitors still headed into half-time in front when Preston bundled home another Iandolo set-piece.

Barnet were the dominant side after the restart but never truly threatened to carve out that one chance to grab an equaliser as Swindon held firm to move within a point of the play-off places.

Town boss Flitcroft named an unchanged XI from that which beat Notts County 1-0 on Saturday in the final game of 2017, sticking with that successful 3-5-2 formation.

Interestingly, there was no place for Lawrence Vigouroux on the bench as Will Henry was named as the substitute goalkeeper.

That was one for three alterations amongst the substitutes altogether, with Donal McDermott and Scott Twince coming in for James Brophy and John Goddard.

The visitors were the first to threaten and had a sight of goal inside two minutes when Keshi Anderson floated a ball into the box from the right but it was just too high for the leaping Luke Norris to reach and drifted safely behind.

Town’s Reice Charles-Cook was the first of the goalkeepers to be brought into action, although the save was a relatively comfortable one as Jack Taylor sent a header straight at him from Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s ball in.

That was the catalyst to kick-start the game into life as a goal at each end and a flurry of other chances then arrived in quick succession.

Home keeper Craig Ross was caught out as Swindon took the lead after 17 minutes when Anderson was knocked over by Wesley Fonguck 35 yards from goal.

Iandolo’s free-kick looked to be heading deep but hung in the air before suddenly curling goalwards, leaving Ross stranded as it drifted into the top corner.

It could have been 2-0 almost instantly when Anderson fed Kaiyne Woolery on the right to drive into the box but his cut-back was just behind the waiting Norris.

That was to prove costly as Town’s lead was cancelled out after just three minutes, with Akinde restoring parity when he climbed highest at the back post to power a Campbell-Ryce cross beyond the reach of Charles-Cook.

Swindon went straight up the other end and almost grabbed another goal themselves when Woolery slipped the ball to Norris on the edge of the box but his shot was pushed around the post by the diving Ross.

After a frantic period, the game quietened down for a spell but suddenly burst back into life in first-half stoppage time when a free-kick again proved beneficial for Town.

A Woolery run was halted unfairly by home skipper Michael Nelson and Preston stretched to meet Iandolo’s subsequent floated ball and divert it past Ross to send the visitors into the break a goal to the good.

The hosts looked the brighter after the restart and Taylor sent an effort straight at Charles-Cook before cracking over the top from six yards after good work on the left by Akinde.

The hour mark had passed before Swindon had their next real effort, with Norris offloading to Anderson after a good ball in from Woolery but the strike was no real worry for Ross.

Hearts were in the mouths of the Town supporters as the 70-minute mark arrived when a free-kick was not cleared properly and came back in the box but Olly Lancashire got in a despairing block to deny Mauro Vilhete.

Barnet continued to flood forwards in the closing stages as they hunted an equaliser but Charles-Cook’s goal never came under any real pressure as Swindon stood firm to ensure the travelled back to Wiltshire with the spoils.

BARNET: Ross; Brindley, Santos, Nelson (capt), Blackman (Tutonda 24); Taylor Fonguck (Akinola 88), Vilhete; Campbell-Ryce, Akinde, Coulthirst. Subs not used: McKenzie-Lyle, Clough, Watson, Nicholls, Sweeney.

SWINDON TOWN: Charles-Cook; Lancashire (capt), Robertson, Preston; Knoyle (Purkiss 81), Dunne, Anderson, Linganzi (Gordon 46), Iandolo; Woolery (Mullin 71), Norris. Subs not used: Henry, Taylor, McDermott, Twine.

Referee: Craig Hicks

Attendance: 2,031