SWINDON Town cruised into the League Two play-offs following a blistering first-half performance in their 3-0 win over Walsall on Saturday.

Jack Payne struck twice after Harry McKirdy had kicked off the afternoon with his 19th League Two goal of the campaign to book sixth place for the Wiltshire side at the end of an extraordinary season.

Ben Garner’s men will now face Port Vale in the play-off semi-finals as a result of Vale’s 1-0 victory over Exeter City.

Forest Green Rovers were crowned champions after their 1-0 victory away at Mansfield Town. Bristol Rovers went up in third after beating Scunthorpe United 7-0 at the Memorial Stadium.

Garner made one change to the side that squeezed past Barrow last weekend. Ellis Iandolo served his one-match suspension and came back in for Akin Odimayo at left-back.

For Walsall, Emmanuel Osadebe started once again after scoring the Saddlers’ only goal in Swindon's FA Cup second-round victory back in December. Ex-Town loanee Rollin Menayese was on the bench.

On an afternoon where Town had to win to confirm their play-off spot, Garner’s men made the perfect start as they went ahead in the fourth minute.

Mandela Egbo stormed down the right, dribbling past several half-hearted tackles and seeing his eventual shot blocked once he reached the penalty area. The ball bounced straight into McKirdy's path though, and he took a touch out of his feet before firing into the top-left corner with his left.

Walsall almost equalised six minutes later when George Miller headed goalwards, only to be denied by a world-class save from Lewis Ward while the linesman raised his flag for offside anyway.

The hosts continued to press at Town’s back line when Louis Reed was forced to put his body on the line and Brendan Kiernan pulled a shot into the side-netting before 15 minutes had been played.

Josh Davison tested Carl Rushworth from a tight angle shortly after forcing Manny Monthe into a last-man block inside his own area.

Swindon would not have to wait long to double their lead, however, Payne doing so with a wonderful strike in the 25th minute.

Payne picked up possession in midfield before driving forward unopposed and smashing a left-footed shot into the top-right corner from just outside the box.

With Town on top, the visitors almost netted a third minutes before half-time after Iandolo zipped a low cross into the near post. Good defending prevented Payne from touching home, but inside first-half stoppage time the midfielder was handed a chance from the spot.

McKirdy was played through on goal but was taken out before he had the chance to shoot, with Donervon Daniels booked for his troubles.

Payne stepped up and hammered his penalty into the bottom right corner to put the game beyond Walsall and notch his second of the afternoon.

Mike Flynn’s side came out with plenty of intent in the second half, though they were struggling to create too many chances until Dion Conroy inadvertently presented them with one when he gave the ball away 10 minutes in.

If not for a heroic block by Reed, Jack Earing would have bulged the net from just inside the area.

Osadebe was the next home player to cause Swindon some problems, shooting just wide from open play and a free-kick just outside the area.

Payne thought he had secured his hat-trick with 25 minutes left after Iandolo's intricate through-ball, but the linesman had his flag up long before the shot hit the net.

Garner threw on Ben Gladwin and Akin Odimayo as Town looked to shore up what had become quite a scrappy game. Reed, Williams, and Manny Monthe were all booked by referee Sam Barrott.

With a little over 10 minutes to play, chants of 'ole!' were started by the 3,500 Town fans. Swindon kept it for a while courtesy of a slick passing move until McKirdy slipped on the right and the move broke down – a twist of fate that the maverick forward greeted with a smile towards the home supporters.

Inside the final five minutes, Kiernan went as close as he had done all afternoon when thundering a close-range effort off the underside of the bar. Due to the pace of the shot, Miller was unable to turn in the rebound as it bounced over his head.

Swindon saw out the remaining minutes with the minimum of fuss to book their play-off clash with Port Vale next weekend.

WFC starting XI: Rushworth, White, Daniels, Monthe, Kiernan, Kinsella, Osadebe, Miller, Earing, Shade, Devine.

SUBS: Rose, Shaw, Leak, Perry, Rodney, Sadler, Menayese.

STFC starting XI: Ward, Iandolo, Conroy, Baudry, Egbo, Reed, Williams, Payne, McKirdy, Davison, Barry.

SUBS: Wollacott, Gladwin, O'Brien, Mitchell-Lawson, Aguiar, Parsons, Odimayo.


REFEREE: Sam Barrott