ANTHONY Grant’s midfield presence was missed during the first half of Swindon Town’s 2-0 defeat at home to Newport County on Saturday, according to manager Richie Wellens.

Few second balls were won by Town during the first half as Wellens’ squad wobbled in the wake of Dion Conroy’s sudden departure from the field after he picked up a supposedly long-term injury to his knee.

It followed the Town boss’ call to move Grant, who is on loan at the club from Shrewsbury Town, into an unfamiliar centre-back role while Adam May slotted into midfield.

In addition to losing Grant’s presence, Jordan Lyden also remained missing from Town’s midfield threat – the former Aston Villa man has been absent from Swindon’s last four fixtures after picking up an injury at Leyton Orient last month.

Losing both players’ abilities on the edge of the opposition’s penalty area hurt Town initially.

Wellens said: “We picked up more or less every second ball in the second half.

“We were camped in Newport’s half for long periods. But we were off it in terms of picking up second balls in the first half.

“It didn’t help because Anthony Grant and Jordan Lyden’s strength is to win second balls – and we didn’t have them in the middle of the pitch.”

First half aside, the Town boss was pleased by his players’ response to the collective message at half-time.

Wellens was dissatisfied by Town’s first-half tendency to ‘shy away’ from playing the style of football they have worked on relentlessly in training.

Newport’s game plan was polar opposite – hoof the ball upfield to six-feet-one forward Jamille Matt in the hope of claiming any second ball.

It worked a treat, and Town failed to deal with it.

Wellens said: “My message at half-time was: ‘Why are we trying to play them?’

“Newport got beaten in the play-off final last year. They try to play long balls up, win second balls, cross the ball at every opportunity. They did that week in, week out last year and got into the play-offs.

“So, they’re good at what they do. Why are we trying to take them on at that? Why do we want to do that?

“We’ve got our own identity that we are very good at. Why did why shy away from that?

“Let’s get back to doing what we’re good at, and I thought we did that in the second half. If Lloyd Isgrove’s shot went in we probably would’ve got something out of the game.”