Cheltenham Town won their first Tuesday night fixture since March 2011 with a deserved 2-1 victory over Oxford United.
It was an entertaining game in the early stages of the evening but Cheltenham had made the best possible start by bagging a 30th minute opener through Darren Carter's first goal for the club and what a goal it was. They took that lead into half time but it was doubled on the hour courtesy of a stunning Shaun Harrad strike. Oxford did grab a glimmer of hope through a Peter Leven penalty but the Robins held out to banish the Tuesday night hoodoo and record an excellent three points.
Robins manager Mark Yates welcomed back his team captain Alan Bennett
in place of Keith Lowe in the middle of defence and Chris Zebroski, who had recovered from sickness, replaced Kaid Mohamed on the left wing this evening. It was a tale of two sides looking for form on a chilly Tuesday evening after both suffered disappointing results at the weekend. Chris Wilder's Oxford would pose a real threat but Mark Yates' Cheltenham, on their day, were more than a match for their counterparts.
There was a lot riding on this game this evening and Cheltenham were desperately seeking a first Tuesday night win since March 2011. They made a decent start to proceedings and Sido Jombati could have opened the scoring on six minutes but his hooked effort from the head down was safely deployed into the hands of Ryan Clarke. Oxford weren't too far behind with their own effort coming courtesy of Jon-Paul Pittman but the striker's long range effort was easy pickings for Scott Brown. It was end to end stuff in the early stages with McGlashan and Pittman pushing their luck with long shots but neither side were grabbing the game by the throat in the first ten minutes.
There was an early personnel blow for Oxford after 13 minutes when Jon-Paul Pittman appeared to be suffering from a hamstring injury and had to be replaced by potent Alfie Potter. Oxford United almost saw themselves ahead on 17 minutes when Chapman caught hold of a clever long ball but his effort was well save by Brown. The midfielder did manage to pull the ball back in for Smalley but the linesman had already risen his flag aloft. United were at it again following a decent attacking spell for the Robins and Brown was called into action again to parry a thumping effort away from Smalley. It was a decent spell for the U's but Cheltenham are often at their best when on the counter and it proved so after 30 minutes. A run down the right from McGlashan produced a fine cross which just looped over the head of Zebroski but Jones picked the loose ball back up and slipped it inside for Darren Carter who produced a stunning strike to hit the bottom right and give the Robins a 1-0 lead.
It would now be a real test of character for Oxford United having found themselves a goal down but Cheltenham were easing into their possession game comfortably. Deane Smalley found himself yellow carded after pulling Darren Carter back near the end of the first period with the Robins midfield in full control of the middle of the park. There was another yellow minutes later when U's captain Jake Wright took McGlashan off his feet with a late challenge and handed Cheltenham a freekick but the set piece came to nothing. Two additional minutes were added to the half but Oxford had nothing to offer and Cheltenham went in at the break ahead.
Half Time: Cheltenham Town 1-0 Oxford United
Oxford had their opportunity for an early response after Marlon Pack committed a foul 20 yards from goal but the freekick was poor and could only be thumped into the wall by Chapman. Chris Zebroski was shown a yellow card moments later for a sloppy challenge on Batt and Oxford were again on the attack. Elliott handed them another set piece opportunity and this time Chapman came agonisingly close with a drive smashing back off the post with Craddock planting the ball over on the rebound. It was a clear early warning for the Robins who needed to maintain their composure. The Robins carved out their own opportunity when Marlon Pack met Shaun Harrad's cross with a neat header but Clarke pulled off a save for the cameras to deny the midfielder.
Who need's Champions League football when there's an entertaing League Two game on? United were an improved side in this half but they were still struggling with the Cheltenham counter attack and it proved a real thorn once again when the ball was fired to Shaun Harrad up front and the striker unleashed a wonderful shot leaving Clarke with no chance hitting the top corner. A roar from the home crowd and a huge sigh of disappointment from the travelling Oxford support.
The U's weren't about to roll over however and Alfie Potter took matters into his own hands by firing a devilish shot in at goal from the right but was once again denied by Brown who tipped the effort over. Mark Yates made his first change of the game with Russ Penn replacing Sam Deering on 66 minutes and that followed a double substitution from Oxford which saw Peter Leven and James Constable replace Simon Heslop and Tom Craddock respectively. It wasn't long after those changes that Darren Carter was caught on the ankle by Peter Leven which the referee chose to ignore but the midfielder was soon back on his feet much to the relief of the home crowd. It was all starting to get a little tense for Oxford with their fans ghostly quiet and the strikers resorting to ambitious strikes at goal but Cheltenham were causing much of that with a a solid passing performance. Never rule Oxford out however because they were still proving a menace on the attack and so it proved when Alan Bennett
was adjudged to have man handled Constable in the area giving away a penalty. It looked a little harsh but Peter Leven cared not and dispatched his spot kick with venom to pull Oxford back into the game.
It's never easy at Cheltenham Town and Oxford were turning the screw buoyed by their glimmer of hope. Chapman tried his luck from 20 yards and saw his shot fly just over the bar. Deane Smalley followed that up with another stunning strike but Brown produced a fine save to push it wide. It was tense at the Abbey Business Stadium now with Oxford definitely on the front foot as the game neared it's end but they were still wary of the counter attack and Cox was booked for halting Carter on one of those breaks. Keith Lowe was introduced late on in place of Jermaine McGlashan with Mark Yates eyeing a stronger defensive unit in the closing stages of the match.
Four minutes were added on and Cheltenham were holding off Oxford well despite constant pressure but the whistle soon came amongst a joyous roar from the Cheltenham Town faithful. The Tuesday night hoodoo was over and deservedly so.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 2-1 Oxford United
Cheltenham Town FC (4-2-3-1): Brown (GK); Jombati, Bennett (C), Elliott, Jones; Pack, Carter; McGlashan (Lowe 89), Deering (Penn 66), Zebroski (Mohamed 79); Harrad
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Hooman, Goulding, Duffy
Oxford United FC (4-3-3): Clarke (GK); Batt, Raynes, Wright (C), Capaldi; Heslop (Leven 66), Cox, Chapman; Craddock (Constable 66), Smalley, Pittman (Potter 13)
Subs not used: Brown (GK), Boateng, O'Brien, Rigg
Referee: Mr. Andrew Madley
Attendance: 3,037 (732 from Oxford)
Robins Star Man: Sido Jombati - Brilliant defensive display and looked good going forward.