IT WAS inevitable that Swindon Town’s path towards a prospective promotion would have the odd hiccup along the way.

Swindon have been in strong form since the turn of the year, collecting 19 points from 10 games played in League Two in 2018 prior to this weekend’s trip to struggling Chesterfield.

David Flitcroft’s side coped more than admirably with their recent run of games against rivals equally intent on climbing out of the fourth tier.

However, it should not be forgotten that there are plenty of teams with other ambitions over the closing months of the campaign.

On Saturday, they travelled north to take on a Spireites side desperate for victory for a different reason as they look to climb out of the relegation zone and retain their EFL status.

A week earlier, Town were pushed all the way by a Port Vale side hovering just above the dreaded dotted line at the bottom before snatching a dramatic late 3-2 win.

This time, the desperate nature of an opponent fighting for their lives was just too much.

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Kyle Knoyle looks to get past his man

In truth, Town created their own problems at the Proact Stadium.

They fell behind inside two minutes when a ball into the box was not dealt with, allowing Chris O’Grady to bundle home the opener.

Then six minutes into the second period, Andy Kellett was gifted the freedom of the Swindon half to run in on goal and double the hosts’ advantage.

Life got even harder for Swindon in the final quarter when Ollie Banks was shown a straight red card for a needless lunging challenge, and although they showed plenty of fighting spirit to come back into it through Chris Robertson’s header, the damage was already done.

In terms of the overall outlook, the harm done by this defeat was minimal. Although they slip to the final play-off spot in seventh, results elsewhere mean they retain a four-point cushion on the chasing pack.

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Matt Taylor goes down under pressure from a Spireites challenge

Town boss Flitcroft made three changes to the team that started the win over Vale seven days earlier, with two of those down to injury.

Having sat out against the Valiants, club captain Olly Lancashire was able to shake off an ankle injury to reclaim his place from Robertson in the centre of Swindon’s three-man defence.

However, Timi Elsnik was forced to sit out after picking up an injury of his own and he was replaced in midfield by fellow Derby County loanee Kellan Gordon, who was available again after a three-match suspension.

Finally, last weekend’s match-winner, Paul Mullin, was rewarded with a starting role and came in for Luke Norris up front.

Town got off to the worst possible start and found themselves behind inside two minutes from the first meaningful attack of the match.

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Charles-Cook at full stretch on Saturday afternoon. 

Kellett sent in a teasing low ball from the left and Swindon goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook could only palm it down into a crowded six-yard box where O’Grady pounced to scramble it over the line.

The visitors were slow to get going and it took until almost the quarter-of-an-hour mark for them to see a genuine sight of goal, although it was agonisingly close to an equaliser.

Gordon was felled by Drew Talbot just outside the box and Matt Taylor whipped in a superb free-kick that looked destined to nestle in the near corner of the net, only for Chesterfield stopper Aaron Ramsdale to fling himself to his right and claw it away.

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Flitcroft consoles his troops at the end of the game. 

Moments of memorable action were then few and far between for an extended spell as the play became congested in the middle of the park before both sides were forced into a reshuffle due to injury.

Just before the half-hour mark, injury struck again for Town skipper Lancashire, with this time a calf issue arising, and he hobbled off to be replaced by Robertson before the Spireites lost their own captain eight minutes later when Robbie Weir limped from the field.

After a lacklustre opening 40 minutes, Town suddenly burst into life and had three sights of goal in quick succession before the break.

First, Kyle Knoyle sent in a good cross from the right and although Mullin twisted and turned to meet the ball, his header looped well wide.

Marc Richards then blazed over the top after Robertson had headed a Taylor corner back across goal before another Taylor set-piece caused panic in the Spireites box as Louis Dodds headed a whipped free-kick over his own bar.

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Kaiyne Woolery looks to get Town back on terms 

After a strong spell, Town were almost undone in first-half stoppage time as Talbot climbed highest to meet a Kellett corner at the near post but sent his header across the face of goal and wide.

Town came out keen to press after the restart and much of the early play took place in the Spireites’ half.

However, that left them exposed on the counter and the home side took full advantage to double their lead six minutes into the second period.

Jak McCourt sent Kellett into space in the Swindon half and he charged into the box before cutting back inside the backward run of Rollin Menayese and curling beyond Charles-Cook into the far corner of the net.

Swindon continued to push and Richards and Mullin got their foot on the ball in the box but were crowded out as they looked to shoot before Keshi Anderson saw a good first-time effort deflected wide after a Taylor free-kick was only half-cleared.

At the other end, McCourt headed wide after climbing to meet a Kellett free-kick and Town boss Flitcroft responded with a double substitution with half-an-hour to go, sending on Norris and Kainye Woolery on in place of Anderson and Gordon.

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Kellan Gordan returned to the starting XI this weekend

It almost had an instant impact and only the woodwork prevented Swindon from cutting the deficit as Woolery crashed a deflected effort against the crossbar before Taylor sent the follow-up wide.

Kellett then went down in the Town box under pressure from Robertson but referee John Brooks waved away the appeals for a penalty and Swindon went straight up the other end, where Richards headed wide from a cross from Norris.

After a promising spell, Swindon suffered a setback with 18 minutes to go as they were reduced to 10 men when Banks was sent off after lunging in on Louis Reed on halfway.

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A section of Town's travelling contingent. 

However, any thoughts that they would then roll over were diminished just three minutes later when Robertson cut the deficit with a powerful header from a Taylor free-kick after Mullin had been fouled wide on the left.

Town began to press for an equaliser and Woolery fashioned a shooting chance for himself from the edge of the box but sent it narrowly wide.

Woolery had another sight of goal in the last of the regulation 90 minutes as he chased onto a through ball but Ramsdale was quick from his line to make the chance a difficult one and again the substitute shot wide as time soon ran out on Town.