Cheltenham Town comfortably defeated promotion rivals Rotherham United 3-0 here at the Abbey Business Stadium this afternoon.
First half goals from Jermaine McGlashan and Marlon Pack kicked things off for Mark Yates' Robins and a third from Steve Elliott in the second half confirmed a victory and all three points in what was an entertaining and rewarding performance.
It was a strong first half display from Cheltenham Town and they went in at the break deservedly ahead through a wonderful Jermaine McGlashan volley and a composed Marlon Pack effort. The second half was just as strong for the Robins as they kept Rotherham at arm's length throughout proceedings and grabbed a winner late on through Steve Elliott courtesy of an Andy Warrington error.
Three changes were made to the Cheltenham Town starting eleven this afternoon with Sido Jombati, Kaid Mohamed and Jermaine McGlashan replacing Keith Lowe, Darren Carter and Jason Taylor respectively. Former Millers midfielder Taylor was left out of the squad following an agreement between both clubs at the time of his January move to the Robins. There was also a first competitive return for former Cheltenham striker Kayode Odejayi who started from the Rotherham United bench.
A wet afternoon almost got off to the perfect start withing a minute when Sam Deering was released through on goal but a quick reactive tackle from Mullins halted the midfielder's progress. The Robins had started well and Jombati's through ball to winger Jermaine McGlashan almost led to an opportunity but his low cross was batted away by the defender for a corner which came to nothing despite Cheltenham's best efforts. Rotherham weren't without their threats in the opening stages of the game and Lee Frecklington forced Scott Brown to tip the ball over his goal with a long range drive on 14 minutes. It was on 22 minutes however that Cheltenham came closest to opening the scoring. McGlashan's work rate on the right wing led to his pass inside to Marlon Pack and his 20 yard effort clipped off the edge of the post much to the frustration of the home support. Sam Deering had an ambitious strike gobbled up by Andy Warrington minutes later as Cheltenham began to string some good attacking movements together.
The Robins continued to pose a real threat and Paul Benson was close to celebrating a lovely goal when he got onto the end of a long ball with Rotherham keeper Andy Warrington far away from his goal but his loping effort dropped just wide of it's target. Rotherham were looking strong in the attack but Cheltenham were doing a good job at keeping them at arm's length with a number of their early efforts forced into a long range strikes. The Robins had been the stronger side throughout the opening stages and they got their reward when Pack found Mohamed on the winger and his cross found an unmarked McGlashan who struck a stunning volley past Warrington for 1-0. A beautiful goal which will be taking a lot of views on the highlight reel over the next few days.
It was a very strong spell for Cheltenham and they were very close to grabbing a second when Billy Jones' cross just evaded the boot of Paul Benson but they didn't have to wait long before they grabbed a deserved second. Kaid Mohamed found himself in possession on the left wing and he cut inside before slipping a pass through to Marlon Pack on the edge of the area. The midfielder took his time before slotting a composed shot past the diving arm of Warrington into the bottom corner of the net doubling the scoreline. It was a tremendous start for Mark Yates' Robins who were coasting in this promotion battle.
Rotherham could have had a goal back on 45 minutes had it not been for a timely block from Michael Hector. Ben Pringles got away from Steve Elliott just inside the Cheltenham area before releasing a shot but the young defender caught the incoming ball with his thigh to turn it away from danger. That was the last chance of the half thought and the Robins went in at the break delighted with a solid 45 minutes.
Half Time: Cheltenham Town 2-0 Rotherham United
There was a half time change for Rotherham with the yellow carded David Noble being replaced by Daniel Kearns but the Millers could have found themselves 3-0 down had Sido Jombati released a more composed finish amidst a scramble in the Rotherham area. Cheltenham were happy to keep hold of possession and were doing a good job of frustrating Steve Evans' Millers side. The fiery Scot made his second personnel change after 57 minutes when former Cheltenham striker Kayode Odejayi replaced Alex Revell amongst a good reception from the home support.
Cheltenham Town were in good form and they had the ball in the back of the net after 62 minutes with Paul Benson getting on the end of a through ball, chipping the ball over the goalkeeper and slipping the ball into the back of the net but the linesman already had his flag high above his head for offside. The wayward Warrington almost cost his side another goal with McGlashan threatening a loose ball inside the area but the Millers stopper completely missed the ball and had to rely on his defenders to clear the ball with desperation. That was followed up by a long range Russ Penn effort which glided wide of the goal as Cheltenham began to impose themselves upon their opponents.
A Lee Frecklington effort offered one of very few second half opportunities for Rotherham as the match approached 70 minutes but frustrations were boiling over with a few hefty challenges coming in from the Millers midfielder. A clumsy challenge from Frecklington on Penn won him a yellow card and on 72 minutes Paul Benson appeared to take a big elbow to the side of his face from Claude Davis, although the referee came to the conclusion that it was a freekick in the visitor's favour. Michael Hector was handed a yellow card minutes later for a foul the referee had spotted at an earlier stage of the game but still Cheltenham continued to control proceedings.
Byron Harrison was introduced on 79 minutes for the hard working Paul Benson and that was swiftly followed by Rotherham final substitution with Agard replacing the unusually quiet Ben Pringle. Harrison was lively when he came on and he forced Warrington into a good save ten minutes from time after driving his way into the area. The Robins perhaps deserved another goal and they were given that honour when the corner, from Harrison's effort, led to a calamitous error from Warrington who dropped his catch which led to the ball finding it's way to Steve Elliott who calmly curled a shot into the top corner for 3-0. The Abbey Business Stadium was bouncing with the Robins now cruising to victory.
Darren Carter and Darryl Duffy were late changes for Cheltenham Town as they sought to further extend the scoreline but it was all confirmed on the final whistle with Cheltenham Town claiming a big win in the hunt for promotion.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 3-0 Rotherham United
Cheltenham Town FC (4-2-3-1): Brown (GK); Jombati, Hector, Elliott, Jones; Pack, Penn; McGlashan (Duffy 90+3), Deering, Mohamed (Carter 89); Benson (Harrison 79)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Lowe, Hanks, Harrad
Rotherham United FC (4-4-2): Warrington (GK); Mullins (C), Morgan, Davis, Ridehalgh; Noble (Kearns 46), O'Connor, Frecklington, Pringle (Agard 80); Revell (Odejayi 57), Nardiello
Subs not used: Shearer (GK), Tonge, Rowe
Referee: Mr. Darren Deadman
Attendance: 3,241 (650 from Rotherham)
Robins' Star Man: Russ Penn - Tremendous display from the captain in midfielder today. Kept Rotherham firmly on a leash.