Cheltenham banished a few bad memories and crashed the party with a 2-1 victory over Neal Ardley's AFC Wimbledon.
Goals from Marlon Pack and Kaid Mohamed ruined Ardley's first game in charge at the Kingsmeadow Stadium and put last season's defeat here to bed for good.
It was a vibrant game here this afternoon but Marlon Pack pulled Cheltenham ahead after 25 minutes with a wonderful strike and the Robins held that lead until half time despite some close calls including Jack Midson's header against the bar. Cheltenham capitalised on their half time lead on 56 minutes with Mohamed scoring against his former club with a close range header. AFC Wimbledon had opportunities to score throughout the game but Byron Harrison could only grab a consolation strike late on.
Mark Yates only had the suspension of Alan Bennett
to contend with when picking his team this afternoon but it was Keith Lowe that stepped in alongside Steve Elliott to firm up the defence. Russ Penn maintained his spot in the attacking midfield role and Chris Zebroski led the attack up front in what was a 4-2-3-1 formation. For AFC Wimbledon it was a notable day with former Dons midfielder Neal Ardley taking charge of the club for the very first time since the departure of Terry Brown. It was a tough task for Ardley's men but one they were ready to grasp with both hands.
A sunny afternoon seemingly disappeared without a trace as soon as kick off arrived here this afternoon but the Robins made a bright start to the game with a Keith Lowe header testing the Dons defence but the back line were able to clear their lines quickly to deny any further threat. The rain started to fall and a speculative Marlon Pack strike threatened to take the lead had it not been for the gut of Yado Mambo and a firm clearance. That clearance triggered a counter attack courtesy of Byron Harrison and the striker's cross was spilled by Scott Brown but the resulting effort was blasted over by the hosts. All four goals for Wimbledon in this fixture last season came from crossess and they were at it again with only Keith Lowe standing between them and a real chance on goal with a flick header from Midson's cross.
Robins midfielder Darren Carter worried the bench when he appeared to have hurt his groin after 25 minutes but he carried on and didn't look too bad but he was on the floor just five minutes later when Gregory arrived late on the challenge catching Carter's boot rather than the ball - just a warning. Byron Harrison refused a move to the Robins in the summer after a bid was accepted and he almost put his preferred side in front with a decent header but Keith Lowe was on hand to make an important block and save his team. That missed opportunity came back to bite the hosts when they wasted their own throw in and Chris Zebroski found Marlon Pack in a central area and the midfielder dispatched a superb volley into the bottom corner for 1-0. It was the perfect start for Cheltenham and Marlon's first goal of the season.
Cheltenham may have taken the lead but they almost lost it five minutes later when Luke Moore came agonisingly close with a header but the effort was inches wide of the post. Wimbledon were at it again and they could count themselves unlucky on 36 minutes when a cross found the head of Midson and the striker's effort beat Brown but cannoned back off the bar. It was a let off for Cheltenham but Wimbledon were just not taking their chances. Those wasted chances meant that Cheltenham Town went in at the break unopposed and with their slender 1-0 lead still intact.
AFC Wimbledon 0-1 Cheltenham Town
An early strike from Jack Midson, although comfortably saved by Brown, was just the manner in which debutant manager Neal Ardley would have wanted his players to start this period but they almost dug their own grave minutes later when Antwi passed the ball straight into the path of Zebroski but the forward put his shot wide of goal when he really should have been hitting the target. Missed chance can often haunt a team but it did no such thing with Cheltenham as they doubled their lead on 56 minutes through former Wombles winger Kaid Mohamed. Billy Jones whipped a corner into the back post for Elliott and the defender's cushion header back into the box was steerered in by Kaid Mohamed. His second goal of the season and 2-0 Cheltenham.
Keith Lowe was having an excellent game but he almost gifted Wimbledon a way back into the game on 65 minutes when he slammed the ball into Midson and the forward was through on goal but the defender was determined to win the ball back and he did so with a terrific sliding challenge in the penalty area. Cheltenham were under pressure again moments later and a Jack Midson strike from six yards drew a fantastic reaction save from Brown to maintain the lead. Cheltenham's first change fo the game came on 74 minutes and it was Darryl Duffy who replaced Kaid Mohamed. The Scot scored a consolation goal here last season and he almost bagged his second of this season with a low effort but Seb Brown reacted well and saved. Efforts from Jolley and Midson attempted to break down Cheltenham's walls after 80 minutes but both were denied by Lowe and Brown respectively as the Robins looked to hold onto their deserved lead.
In truth AFC Wimbledon's problems today stemmed from not taking the chances they had been given and they arguably had better opportunities than Cheltenham in this half. Jolley was probably the host's most lively player but a snap shot on 81 minutes failed to hit the target and trouble Brown. AFC Wimbledon were showign some great spirit on the attack and Byron Harrison offered some hope with a late headed strike on 91 minutes. It was a nervous last few minutes for Cheltenham but they held their lead and won this game 2-1.
AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Cheltenham Town
AFC Wimbledon (4-4-2):
Brown (GK) (C); Francomb, Antwi, Mambo, Fenlon; Yussuff (Jolley 57), Gregory, Harris (Long 57), Moore; Midson, Harrison
Subs not used:
Jaimez-Ruiz (GK), Haynes-Brown, Strutton, Osano, Merrifield
Cheltenham Town FC (4-2-3-1):
Brown (GK); Jombati, Lowe, Elliott, Jones; Carter, Pack (C); McGlashan, Penn, Mohamed (Duffy 74); Zebroski
Subs not used:
Roberts (GK), Andrew, Deering, Graham, Goulding, Harrad
Mr. Tim Robinson
4,409 (233 from Cheltenham)
Robins Star Man:
Keith Lowe - All eyes on Keith today but he had a really good game in Bennett's absence and made some vital touches to deny the Wombles a foothold.