Crawley Town ended their poor run of recent results against Swindon with an entertaining draw in front of the Sky TV cameras at the Broadfield.
A lively atmosphere greeted the players for a 5.20pm kick off and Richie Barker’s revamped side were well worth their half time lead thanks to a Billy Clarke penalty.
Having lost their last three games against Swindon 3-0, Reds were denied victory with the second penalty of the match as Adam Rooney came off the bench to net in his first game for two months as it finished 1-1.
In what was Reds first action for two weeks, boss Richie Barker handed debuts to both Jamie Proctor and right back Mustapha Dumbuya.
It was in-form Swindon who carved out the first opening inside five minutes, striker James Collins shooting straight at Paul Jones in the home goal after Aden Flint had out-jumped Joe Walsh at a corner.
An even better chance came at the other end where Mike Jones drifted in a ball from the right to pick out Proctor in between defenders but he nodded wide when he should have scored.
Reds did take the lead mid-way through the half when Nicky Adams turned Alan McCormack in the box and the defender caught him. With regular penalty taker Gary Alexander having left on loan Clarke stepped up and thundered the ball into the net.
The hosts were now playing with confidence and new skipper Josh Simpson saw an effort deflect just past the near post.
At the other end Gary Roberts fizzed a rising effort only just over Jones’ crossbar, and Paolo Di Canio’s men continued to look a threat, largely from balls in the box.
In added time at the end of the half Proctor should have given Reds a 2-0 lead to take into the half time break. Crunching tackles from both Walsh and then Mark Connolly set Clarke scampering forward on the break. He played Proctor in on goal but going for precision Swindon keeper Wes Fodderingham made the save.
At the resumption a curling Simpson effort was easily held by Foderingham, while Swindon’s Aden Flint lost his footing as the ball broke to him in the Crawley box.
Di Canio didn’t waste time making changes, hauling off James Collins and Jay McEverley for Adam Rooney and Nathan Thompson after 52 minutes.
And Rooney took just seven minutes to make his mark. He went down under the challenge of Walsh from a free kick and referee Andrew Madley didn’t hesitate in awarding his second penalty of the match. Rooney smashed home the spot kick in what was his first appearance since November.
Rooney so nearly had a second soon after but his near post header from McCormack’s cross was brilliantly kept out by Jones.
Paul Jones had to punch bravely as Swindon continued to probe.
Reds boss Barker waited until the 81st minute to make his first change, replacing goal-scorer Clarke with Lateef Elford-Alliyu for the striker’s debut.
Fans’ favourite Sergio Torres was also introduced late on and in strong finish Dumbuya surged forward but saw his cross headed behind.
Thompson enjoyed a mazy run but fired straight at Jones as honours ended even at the Broadfield.
Crawley: Paul Jones; Mustapha Dumbuya, Mat Sadler, Joe Walsh, Mark Connolly; Matt Sparrow, Josh Simpson, Mike Jones (Torres 89), Nicky Adams, Jamie Proctor, Billy Clarke (Elford-Alliyu 81).
Subs: Connor Essam, Sergio Torres, David Hunt, Dannie Bulman, Lateef Elford-Alliyu, Jonte Smith, Johnny Maddison.
Swindon: Wes Foderingham, Jay McEveley (Thompson 52), Aden Flint, Simon Ferry, James Collins (Rooney 52), Gary Roberts (Martin 78), Alan McCormack, Andy Williams, Tommy Miller, Darren Ward, Raffaele De Vita.
Subs: Leigh Bidwell, Alan Navarro, Nathan Thompson, Chris Martin, Adam Rooney, Aaron Oakley.