Steve McMahon and Bryan Robson were never the best of pals on a football field so the taste of a first league victory for the Swindon player-manager came with added spice yesterday.
It was at the beginning of October that Swindon last claimed three points. The victims on that occasion were Wolverhampton Wanderers who, like Middlesbrough, arrived at the County Ground as leaders of the First Division. Again, Swindon roused themselves and, on balance, deserved their reward.
They competed aggressively, worked hard and had the character to come from behind, qualities which always underscored McMahon's own performances. Not that Middlesbrough were short on those counts, either. They showed their determination in shrugging off the loss of Curtis Fleming, sent off near the end of the first half, and did not give ground easily.
Swindon won because, as they showed last week in reaching the Coca-Cola Cup semi-final, the ball is running for them at the moment. Especially for Jan Age Fjortoft, who applied the final touch to a firm Mark Robinson header which was going in anyway to claim his 23rd goal of the season.
McMahon reacted less than kindly to suggestions that Newcastle are on Fjortoft's trail, denying an approach had been made. He also queried the man of the match award, saying that Fjortoft's fanfare was unfair on the rest of the team.
Fjortoft's eighth goal in nine games came soon after Craig Hignett had given Middlesbrough the lead in the 14th minute. His first effort from a free-kick, with his right foot, slapped tamely into the wall. He chose to strike the rebound with his left andsaw the ball arrow into the corner.
Alan Moore hit the inside of a post as Middlesbrough continued to dominate. But with Fleming's dismissal, after a squabble with Luc Nijholt that brought a second booking, Swindon took charge. Their winner came in the 57th minute when Kevin Horlock redirected Joey Beauchamp's cross for his first goal in more than two years.
Swindon Town (4-4-2): Hammond; Robinson, Culverhouse, Taylor, Bodin; Ling, Nijholt, Horlock, Beauchamp; Mutch, Fjortoft. Substitutes not used: Digby (gk), Murray, O'Sullivan.
Middlesbrough (5-3-2): Miller; Morris, Pearson, Vickers, Whyte, Fleming; Hignett, Pollock, Mustoe; Moore (Kavanagh, 81), Hendrie. Substitutes not used: Roberts (gk), Blackmore.
Referee: G Pooley (Bishop's Stortford).