Cheltenham Town made the perfect start to their 2012-13 npower League Two campaign with a 2-0 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge this afternoon.
A goal right before half time from Shaun Harrad and a wonderful strike on 49 minutes from Jermaine McGlashan handed Cheltenham the three points on a boiling hot opening day of the season. It proved comfortable for Cheltenham after McGlashan's winner although the Daggers will be kicking themselves for missed opportunities in the first half but Mark Yates will be delighted with the victory and his first ever opening day win as Cheltenham manager.
The opening day of the npower League Two season brought about a clash of real interest with Cheltenham Town hosting John Still's Dagenham & Redbridge on a hot and humid afternoon here at the Abbey Business Stadium. The Daggers were looking to kick off their season with three points but Mark Yates' Robins were fancied favourites ahead of the game. Both sides had completely different campaigns last season but today was kicking off on an even footing and Mark Yates remained wary of the visitors' threats. Cheltenham Town were without Alan Bennett
and Kaid Mohamed however but Harry Hooman and Shaun Harrad, who was making his first competitive start for the club, both filled the void.
It was a strong start for the Daggers as they immediately started to snap at the heels of the Cheltenham midfield and attacking the left wing but Jombati halted their attacks on a number of occasions. They did however have the first effort on goal when Luke Howell steered a right wing cross wide of Scott Brown's goal. Cheltenham weren't without their own attacks however and Jermaine McGlashan almost scored a wonderful goal on seven minutes with a well struck effort which flew just wide of the far post. It was on sixteen minutes however that Cheltenham saw themselves literally inches away from an opener when Shaun Harrad did well to cut inside and drag a low pass across goal but Zebroski, being well hassled, was only able to steer the ball past the far post with a stretched toe.
Cheltenham continued to push forward and McGlashan's searching cross on 20 minutes was almost steered in by former Arsenal youngster Gavin Hoyte but he was breathing a sigh of relief when the ball flew wide for a corner. The Daggers were tentative going forward but Brian Woodall almost pulled off a shock opener with a well struck freekick that flew just over Brown's crossbar. Former Robins loanee Medy Elito almost came back to haunt the club when his 20 yard strike swerved towards the corner of Scott Brown's goal but the Cheltenham number one saved well and pushed the effort clear of danger. It was a good spell of play for the visitors and they could have been celebrating a lead had Harry Hooman's poor back pass to Brown been a few more yards inside but there was a collective sigh of relief from home crowd as it dribbled wide. The Daggers front line was becoming a worry for the Robins when Elito was able to break past Jones on the right and set the striker up for a simple effort on goal but Hooman was on hand to make a last ditch block to save his side.
Efforts on goal from Chris Zebroski and Sam Deering, although it proved to be offside coming off the foot of Harrad, signalled Cheltenham's slow recovery after a spell of dominance for the visitors but Dagenham were still knocking on the door, this time with Dwight Gayle testing Brown at his near post with a thumping shot which was cleared well following the save. Cheltenham weren't about to roll over however and they had a perfect chance to nick the lead when Zebroski's flick header played the midfielder through on goal at an angle but his final shot struck the outside of the post. It would perhaps be a little harsh on the Daggers had Cheltenham taken the lead before half time but with a striker such as Shaun Harrad lurking there will always be the chance of a goal and so it happened on 45 minutes. Sam Deering broke down the right wing and delivered a lovely ball into the area with the incoming Harrad smashing a shot into the bottom corner for 1-0. Perhaps a little harsh on John Still's Dagenham but it 1-0 to the hosts at the break.
Half Time: Cheltenham 1-0 Dagenham & Redbridge
Perhaps the goal would settle the Robins down in the second period? It seemed so as the half began and Chris Zebroski instantly tried to get in on the act with a cheeky lobbed effort over Lewington but the goalkeeper was equal to it every step of the way. No questions were asked on 49 minutes however when Jermaine McGlashan found himself plenty of space in the middle of the park and the winger unleashed a wonderful strike from 25 yards past Lewington and into the back of the net for 2-0. It was a wonderful goal to start the half with and it was now seemingly Cheltenham's game to lose.
It was a constant pressure from Cheltenham at this point and McGlashan was doing his best to further unsettle the defence and he almost won a penalty going down under the challenge of the defender but the referee was having none of it and called out the handball against the Robins. There was another penalty appeal minutes later when a Dagenham defender appeared the handle the ball following a scramble in the box but, again, the referee was giving nothing away and allowed play to carry on. A penalty for Cheltenham at that point and it could well have been curtains for the Daggers but there was a yellow card on 63 minutes when left back Ilesanmi took McGlashan down unfairly.
Dag & Red had a lot to do but the closest they came mid-way through the half was an ambitious overhead kick from Dwight Gayle but the effort was far over and the Robins remained content at the back. The forward was in trouble moments later when he was adjudged to have made a dive under the pressure of Steve Elliott inside the Cheltenham area and was shown a yellow card but it looked harsh on the Daggers frontman. Cheltenham's first change of the afternoon was Jeff Goulding for the energetic Sam Deering and the midfielder rightly received a warm applause on his league debut for Cheltenham Town.
Dagenham & Redbridge had a golden opportunity to find a way back into this game on 80 minutes when Michael Spillane was allowed unleash a strike a few yards from goal unmarked but his effort was poor and it could only ricochet off the perimeter board wide of Brown's goal. Chris Zebroski was withdrawn eight minutes from time after a good performance and he was replaced by young winger Bagasan Graham in his first appearance of the new season. That was quickly followed by Darryl Duffy replacing Shaun Harrad on 85 minutes and Dagenham's Danny Green was also brought on for Luke Howell.
The pace of the game had slowed down rapidly with the scorching sun beaming down upon a glorious Abbey Business Stadium pitch but Brown had to be alert when substitute Williams fired in a long range effort forcing the Robins number one into a low save. The full tiem whistle wasn't far behind however and it blew up to signal a deserved victory for Cheltenham Town and a perfect start to the 2012-13 campaign.
Full Time: Cheltenham 2-0 Dagenham & Redbridge
Cheltenham Town FC (4-2-3-1): Brown (GK); Jombati, Elliott (C), Hooman, Jones; Penn, Pack; McGlashan, Deering (Goulding 73), Zebroski (Graham 82); Harrad (Duffy 85)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Lowe, Andrew
Dagenham & Redbridge FC (4-4-2): Lewington (GK); Hoyte, Spillane, Doe, Ilesanmi; Elito, Howell (Green 86), Ogogo (C), Bingham; Gayle, Woodall (Williams 69)
Subs not used: Seabright (GK), Wilkinson, Dennis, Reed, Scott
Referee: Mr. Jeremy Simpson
Attendance: 2,655 (164 from Dagenham)
Robins Star Man: Jermaine McGlashan - A constant menace all day long. He could be in for a wonderful season if he can keep this kind of form going.