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Cherries: Late goal earns Swindon share of spoils (with video)
Williams netted five minutes from time to cancel out Harry Arter’s first-half strike as Cherries extended to 18 their undefeated sequence since Howe returned in October.
Arter fired Cherries ahead in the 26th minute with a finely-taken effort before Williams’s opportunist goal denied the hosts all three points.
Goalkeeper David James and strikers Lewis Grabban and Brett Pitman all returned to the starting line-up as Cherries boss Howe made three changes.
Shwan Jalal, Richard Hughes and Matt Tubbs, who had all played their part in Cherries’ 1-1 draw at Wigan in the FA Cup, dropped down to the bench.
Robins midfielder Nathan Thompson was fortunate to escape punishment after going through the back of Marc Pugh inside the opening 90 seconds.
A lively start saw James save smartly from Tommy Miller, the former England stopper pushing the Swindon man’s thunderous drive over the crossbar in the third minute.
And as Cherries looked to break the deadlock, goalbound efforts from Steve Cook and Harry Arter were both charged down by the Swindon defence.
Andy Williams headed straight into the arms of James after Matt Ritchie’s cross had picked him out before the Cherries goalkeeper had a let-off after he had almost slid out of his 18-yard box while carrying the ball, with Swindon unable to profit after he had released it.
Pitman wasted a presentable chance to opening the scoring when he fired straight at Thompson from 12 yards before Arter made no mistake to give Cherries the lead.
It was a goal befitting of the occasion as the gifted midfielder found the bottom corner of the net with a well-placed left-foot effort from the edge of the box.
Cherries had a huge let-off when James Collins, who had scored four times in 22 minutes against Portsmouth a couple of weeks ago, missed an absolute sitter.
The striker, presented with an open goal following a defensive mix-up, contrived to slice the ball horribly wide from 12 yards after 35 minutes.
Referee Phil Gibbs extended the half-time interval by five minutes to allow groundstaff to mop up a sodden pitch, with the contest eventually given the green light to continue.
Arter went close to doubling Cherries’ lead three minutes into the second half, the midfielder forcing his way into the penalty box before his shot was saved by Wes Foderingham.
James got down to his right to smother a speculative effort from Robins substitute Chris Martin before Grabban’s header from a Pitman corner was deflected past the post.
Cherries goalkeeper James made a superb reaction save when he stuck out his right leg to keep out Ritchie’s strike after Raff De Vita had centred from the left.
James was also on hand to save a header from Martin before Foderingham dived full length to his right to push Pitman’s long-range drive round the post.
Foderingham also had to be at his best to save another Grabban header before Swindon levelled five minutes from time through Williams.
The striker seized on the loose ball and picked his spot after James had raced off his line in an attempt to save at the feet of Martin.
And although Cook tried to retrieve the situation, his despairing dive proved in vain as Williams lofted the ball into the back of the net.
Cherries: James, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, McQuoid (Fogden, 73), Arter (Hughes, 84), O’Kane, Pugh, Pitman (Thomas, 74), Grabban.
Unused subs: Tubbs, McDermott, Partington, Jalal (g/k).
Robins: Foderingham, N Thompson, Devera, Ward, McCormack, Ritchie, Miller (Ferry, 75), Hollands, Roberts (De Vita, 65), Collins (Martin, 55), Williams.
Unused subs: Flint, Navarro, A Rooney, Bedwell (g/k).
Booked: Williams, Ward.
Attendance: 8,777 (including 1,374 visiting supporters).
Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands).