UNITED slipped further behind in their bid to avoid relegation this season after conceding a painful late goal at Cheltenham Town.
Punished for failing to clear their lines, Matt Richards struck from the edge of the Yellow penalty box in a game that was fairly even for most of the 90 minutes.
United manager Chris Hargreaves made one change to the starting line-up with Jayden Stockley replacing the ill Elliot Benyon in attack. The substitute bench remained unchanged for the relatively short journey Whaddon Road.
The Gulls started brightly with Shamir Goodwin and Stockley causing problems for the Cheltenham defence. It was Dale Tonge that got United’s first shot on goal, as he continued a run down the right and received the ball from a Kevin Nicholson throw-in.
Unfortunately, Tonge couldn’t keep the ball down and Stockley quickly followed with a chance of his own but he too was unable find the target.
It was Stockley again in the 19th minute that this time tested Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Brown. Tonge put in a powerful cross that Stockley met
with his head, but Brown decided to put safety first and tip it over the bar.
Courtney Cameron continued the resurgent form that has forced him back into Yellow plans. He deservedly kept his place in the team and was full of running and trickery. Cameron had provided the ball for Krystian Pearce to score against Rochdale on Tuesday night and his delivery from free-kicks tested Cheltenham’s back-line.
It was a trademark free-kick that found Aaron Downes and Krystian Pearce at the far post mid-way through the first half, but neither could get a clean header on target and the chance was gone.
United were finding half-chances fairly easy to come by. Some short, sharp passing threatened to overwhelm Cheltenham Town’s defence at points but the best opening of the first half fell to home forward Jamie Cureton. United were caught out by a standard long ball, and Terry Gornell found Cureton, who shot just wide.
A great opportunity fell to Cameron soon after. A Tonge cross was nodded down by Enoch Shownmi and Cameron struck it first time. A touch might have given him enough time for a more composed shot on goal, but the young winger chose to take it on first time and the ball went over the bar.
United may have been doing most of the attacking in the first half but it was Cheltenham that again crafted a good opportunity. Martin Rice came to the rescue, saving from Cureton.
Full-back Sido Jombati was having a difficult afternoon keeping track of young on-loan forward Goodwin. The Portuguese was spending more time in his own half trying to stifle the pace and direct running of the United forward.
Approaching half time, it was another Cameron free kick that nearly allowed Downes to score a header at the far post. Despite the effort of United’s forward players, they did find clear cut chances hard to come by and the first half ended goalless for both teams.
The second half allowed both managers to get their messages across and, unsurprisingly, Cheltenham showed and immediate improvement. Ashley Vincent was growing in influence for the Robins and was instrumental in them moving forward faster, and with more intent.
Often United’s nemesis, Jermaine McGlashan was being kept in-check by Kevin Nicholson for the most part. He did, however, beat the United full back early in the second half. Even so, Krystian Pearce, wearing the captain’s armband once more, covered his team-mate with a composed challenge.
The game was nearing the hour -mark and the two teams had worked themselves to a stalemate. Neither side had carved a clear opportunity, and some of the quality that had been evident in the first half had dropped out of the game.
Hargreaves replaced Enoch Showunmi in the 67th minute with Jordan Chapell. This allowed Goodwin to take his place up front with fellow youngster Stockley.
Cheltenham Town’s Ashley Vincent tested Martin Rice soon after but United’s stopper pulled off an impressive save to keep the scores level. Rice was off his line quickly to get the block in.
The Robins took the lead in the 75th minute to send United home pointless. Often a problem this season, United failed to clear a Cheltenham throw in and Richards struck from the edge of the box to leave Martin Rice with little chance of keeping it out. It was a soft goal to concede and something that United had dealt with many times before in the match.
Despite the continued efforts of the players the team couldn’t create a clear cut opportunity to equalize. Goodwin snuck in behind his marker to get a shot away in the 82nd minute but the shot was deflected away for a corner.
Hargreaves’ men now go into Tuesday’s game against Bury needing three points to fight back in their race for survival.
Cheltenham [4-2-3-1]: 1 Scott Brown; 5 Troy Brown, 6 Steve Elliot, 7 Jamie Curton (4 Jason Taylor 84’), 8 Sam Deering (25 David Noble 69’), 10 Terry Gornell (9 Byron Harrison 54’), 11 Jermaine McGlashan, 14 Matt Richards, 20 Sido Jombati, 21 Ashley Vincent, 32 Mitch Brundle Substitutes [not used]: 12 Connor Roberts, 19 Zack Kotwica, 22 Craig Braham-Barrett, 28 Michael Ihiekwe
United [4-4-2]: 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 3 Kevin Nicholson, 4 Aaron Downes, 5 Krystian Pearce [capt], 6 Damon Lathrope, 11 Courtney Cameron, 17 Shamir Goodwin, 18 Joss Labadie (7 Lee Mansell 82’), 19 Jayden Stockley, 25 Enoch Showunmi (12 Jordan Chapell 67’). Substitutes [not used]: 1 Michael Poke [GK], 8 Ben Harding, 9 Karl Hawley, 23 Danny Stevens, 29 Anthony O’Connor
Referee: Mark Haywood