Cheltenham Town produced a stunning second half performance to sweep Exeter City aside 3-0.
The first half saw no goals although Artur Krysiak and Billy Jones were forced into making goal line clearances to deny their opponents an opening goal. Cheltenham started really well in the second period and it was a moment of sublime football between Duffy and debutant Lawson D'Ath that broke the deadlock - the Reading midfielder scoring his first goal for the club. Two goals from the outstanding Keith Lowe put this game to bed and handed Cheltenham their seventh victory over Exeter in seven games.
Cheltenham had beaten Exeter City six times in their six previous meetings and Robins chief Mark Yates was looking for number seven this afternoon. He made that very clear with a strong attacking line-up which saw five changes. Keith Lowe and Sam Deering replaced the suspended Sido Jombati and Russ Penn while Chris Zebroski and Shaun Harrad both made way for Kaid Mohamed and Darryl Duffy. Lawson D'Ath who joined the club on loan from Reading this week was handed his debut in the absence of Darren Carter. It was more like a 4-1-4-1 formation today with Cheltenham's intentions clear and visible. Today was also special for Robins goalkeeper Scott Brown who made his 200th start for the club.
Don't let the previous record against Exeter fool you - this would be a difficult game this afternoon. The Robins made an energetic start to proceedings with Kaid Mohamed drilling a 20 yard drive just wide of his near post. In fact that energetic start to the game almost ended with a goal courtesy of the head of Alan Bennett
but Artus Krysiak scrambled to his post to push it off the line and deny Cheltenham an opener. Exeter had their first shot on goal ten minutes into this game and it was Jimmy Keohane's drive that forced Brown into his first save of the afternoon. City had a succession of corners after that and both times could have hit the back of the net but Coles' header was wide and Brown was quick to react at his post denying Tully's header.
Trevor Kettle, before today had issued 32 yellow cards so far this season and he soon handed his 33rd booking to Kevin Amankwaah who left Sam Deering flat on the floor with a clumsy challenge. He was at it again minutes later when a yellow was shown to Marlon Pack for a late challenge but it looked an overly harsh decision. Exeter had settled into this game but their early efforts were few and far between and not good enough to really test Brown. Exeter suffered a blow after 27 minutes when Arron Davis had to be brought off after fouling Steve Elliott in mid-air and coming worse off. He was replaced by O'Flynn as Exeter re-shuffled. McGlashan got himself into the book after 35 minutes for apparently putting his foot in the way of a freekick - again a little harsh on the winger. It was an even game but Billy Jones had to rescue his side with a goal line clearance on 39 minutes following a good attack from Exeter and Scott Brown was needed seconds later pushing away O'Flynn's drive.
Exeter were finishing this half strongly and so it seemed the notepad of Trevor Kettle who once again showed a yellow card, this time for Sam Deering who left a trailing leg on Matt Oakley inside the Exeter half. A Keith Lowe header threatened to release Duffy on goal late on and Mohamed saw an overhead kick rise above the Hazlewoods stand but the scores remained deadlocked as the whistle was blown for half time.
Cheltenham Town 0-0 Exeter City
An even game had the potential to tip either way in this game and debutant Lawson D'Ath almost created something out of nothing when he broke through on goal but his clever run was precited by Krysiak in goal and he was quickly off his line. Darryl Duffy had a great chance to fire in a shot on target but he hesitated through on goal and Krysiak once again collected. The Robins were really searching and Lowe forced a scramble in front of goal with his header and Krysiak was needed once again to block Pack's effort at the back post. Cheltenham were in control and they made that pay with a superb flowing move on 55 minutes. A long ball was superbly flicked into the pat of Duffy by debutant Lawson D'Ath and the Scottish striker slipped a lovely ball into the path of the Reading midfielder who made a darting run towards goal. The 19 year-old approached goal and stroked the ball past Krysiak with the outside of his boot for 1-0.
It was deserved for the Robins but Jamie Cureton tested the gloves of Brown moments after the goal - a big save by a true servant of the club. Cheltenham were in full control and they doubled their lead after 62 minutes. Former Grecian Billy Jones slipped a corner into the box and it was headed towards goal by Elliott but Keith Lowe was on the line ready to prod the ball into the back of the net for 2-0. It was superb stuff from Cheltenham Town and Sam Deering could have had his first goal for the club had his long range dipping effort hit the target on 66 minutes.
In truth Exeter were really struggling every time the Robins piled forward but they could have had a foothold in this game had Brown not blocked O'Flynn's flick header at the front post. Once again, great goalkeeping by Brown. 'Cheltenham's number one' was echoing around the Abbey Business Stadium and he proved himself once again with a superb double save to deny a lively Alan Gow before the striker threw himself over looking for a penalty. The Robins maintained their lead and Billy Jones could have even extended it against his former club had his 76th minute freekick been just a few inches to the left.
Exeter's sub Alan Gow was the man making all the difference for the Grecians and he would have been angry after some superb work down the left was wasted by Keohane who blasted over after Gow found him with a pass. Today also saw the first team debut of young midfielder Joe Hanks who replaced Sam Deering. The Gloucestershire born midfielder making his debut at 17 - a great story.
It was hard to see anything but a Robins victory here and so it rang true as Keith Lowe, once again, prodded in Steve Elliott's header from the corner to make it 3-0. Superb stuff from Lowe and Cheltenham Town. It could have been four but for the woodwork denying Jeff Goulding in injury time but the game ended 3-0 and firmly deserved by Mark Yates' Robins.
Cheltenham Town 3-0 Exeter City
Cheltenham Town FC (4-1-4-1):
Brown (GK); Lowe, Bennett (C), Elliott, Jones; Pack; McGlashan (Andrew 90+2), Deering (Hanks 84), D'Ath, Mohamed; Duffy (Goulding 63)
Subs not used:
Roberts (GK), Graham, Harrad
Exeter City FC (4-4-2):
Krysiak (GK); Amankwaah, Bennett, Coles (C), Woodman; Tully (Gow 65), Davies (O'Flynn 29), Oakley (Dawson 90+1), Sercombe; Keohane, Cureton
Subs not used:
Evans (GK), Baldwin, Doherty, Moore-Taylor
Mr. Trevor Kettle
3,545 (908 from Exeter)
Robins Star Man:
Keith Lowe - Two goals and a superb defensive display from the right back.