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Ben Garner hails Swindon’s ‘incredible achievement’ to reach play-offs

Ben Garner’s side sealed a play-off place (Isaac Parkin/PA)
Ben Garner’s side sealed a play-off place (Isaac Parkin/PA)

Swindon boss Ben Garner says his play-off bound side have performed a “miracle” to be in with a shout of an immediate return to League One after sealing sixth spot with a 3-0 win at Walsall.

After an ownership wrangle last summer left the club facing administration, Swindon were among the favourites for back-to-back relegations.

But a takeover from Australian businessman Clem Morfuni rescued the Robins and four successive wins to end the season has set up a two-legged play-off semi-final with Port Vale.

Harry McKirdy’s early opener, his 19th league goal of the season, set them on their way at Walsall before a Jack Payne double, one from the penalty spot, settled the game before half-time.

“It’s an incredible achievement – from where we were to get to this point is a miracle,” said Garner.

“To have no pre-season, to go into the season with no player that had done 90 minutes, to have just six or seven players signed.

“We’re happy but we are not content – we want more. We don’t just want to reach the play-offs – we want to go to Wembley and we want to win.

“We’ve had a great run in these last four games – we said we needed to win all four and we did.

“We’ve shown a host of qualities in these last four games, different elements to our game – the quality of our attacking play, resilience when down to 10 men, character to come back when conceding last week and then a really comprehensive first half today that set us up.

“We’re going to need all those qualities in the play-offs and more.”

Walsall hit the bar late on through Brendan Kiernan but paid for woeful defending that was punished by fine strikes from McKirdy and Payne before the former won the penalty the latter converted.

Boss Michael Flynn, who took over in February, is already embarking on a rebuild.

“I can’t wait. We’ve already got four or five over the line – I’ve started early,” said Flynn.

“It’s going to be a big overhaul. In a way that result has helped me.

“If you beat Swindon and you finish 13th or 14th, higher up the table, your judgment starts getting clouded because you think ‘you know what, maybe these players can do it’.

“But the brutal truth of it is they can’t – we’ve finished 16th and that’s not good enough. The squad in general has not been good enough.

“It was a terrible first half – we gave them a lead after three minutes, just made the whole day even tougher – it got their confidence up, got their fans going.

“All three goals were preventable. It was a calamitous first 45 minutes but we should really have scored some goals in the second half and made it interesting at least.”