OLLIE Banks’ first-half header lifted Swindon Town into the League Two play-off places following a narrow win away at Stevenage this evening.

Clear-cut chances were at a premium in a match largely devoid of quality at Broadhall Way but Banks made the most of the best one of the evening after just 16 minutes, rising to power home a Matt Taylor corner.

The victory was a fifth for Swindon in their last six matches and pushed them up to sixth in the table, with David Flitcroft’s side now just a point behind Notts County in the third and final automatic promotion positions.

Town boss Flitcroft made four changes to the side that started Saturday’s thrilling 4-3 win at home to Crewe Alexandra.

Taylor and Ben Purkiss came back into the side as Swindon retained what is now their preferred 3-5-2 formation, with Timi Elsnik handed a start after scoring twice against the Alex and Luke Norris returning up front.

Chris Robertson, Ellis Iandolo, James Dunne and Kaiyne Woolery all dropped to the bench as Flitcroft named the same matchday 18 that had beaten Crewe.

Town enjoyed a good spell of pressure early on as Taylor’s corners proved particularly troublesome for the Stevenage defence, with one eventually leading to the opening goal after 16 minutes.

Those set-pieces had already allowed Marc Richards to send a deflected effort into the side-netting and Olly Lancashire to head wide before Banks did eventually get the visitors in front.

The on-loan Oldham Athletic midfielder climbed highest in the box to meet a perfect Taylor corner and send a header crashing against the bar and down over the line to break the deadlock.

Stevenage swiftly responded with their only notable effort of the first half as Swindon stopper Reice Charles-Cook comfortably claimed a Jonathan Smith strike after space opened up for the full-back on the edge of the box.

Elsnik then brought a similar routine stop out of home goalkeeper Tom King at the other end after gobbling up a loose ball and trying his luck from distance.

The contest then stagnated for a while, with the most notable pieces of action being two substitutions for the home side as Danny Newton and then Ronnie Henry both succumbed to injuries.

That was until first half stoppage time when Banks went closest to a second goal of the evening, sending a dipping free-kick from 25 yards onto the roof of the Stevenage net.

The home side were the first to threaten after the restart and a teasing ball across the six-yard box from Fraser Franks eluded everyone before going safely behind, although other goalmouth action remained at a premium.

Almost 20 minutes of the second half had passed before Town mustered their next effort of note, with Purkiss probing forward from deep and sending in a dribbled effort along the floor that keeper King gathered with ease.

The home stopper was then equal to a Banks effort before Stevenage substitute Jamie Gray sent spectacular strike from 30 yards narrowly wide at the other end.

Swindon had a sniff of a chance of second goal as the game entered its final 15 minutes when King spilled a devilish cross from Taylor but the Stevenage keeper was able to gather just as Richards looked to pounce.

That was Richards’ last piece of action as Paul Mullin was sent on in his place with 12 minutes to go and the Swindon substitute thought he would double his side’s lead with his first touch as a floated cross from Norris looked destined to land on his head, only for King to get his fingertips to it and push the ball away.

That was the last piece of meaningful action as Town saw out with closing stages in robust fashion without much alarm to ensure they head into February sitting pretty in the top seven.

STEVENAGE: T King, Henry (Amos 45+3), Wilmot, J King, Vancooten, Franks, McKee (Gray 67), Smith, Kennedy, Godden, Newton (Conlon 33). Subs not used: Fryer, Wade-Slater, Wilkinson, Georgiou.

SWINDON TOWN: Charles-Cook; Purkiss, Lancashire, Preston; Gordon (Robertson 90+2), Elsnik, Banks, Anderson (Dunne 83), Taylor; Norris, Richards (Mullin 78). Subs not used: Moore, Knoyle, Iandolo, Woolery.

Referee: Darren Drysdale

Attendance: 2,116