Cheltenham Town produced a superb performance to defeat promotion chasing Fleetwood 2-0 here at the Highbury Stadium.
An early goal from Troy Brown on 35 seconds handed Cheltenham the lead but it was arguably the defensive performance that won this game as the Robins frustrated Fleetwood time and time again throughout the game. But it wasn't all about the defence because at times Cheltenham produced some wonderful football and they got their reward in the dying embers of the game as McGlashan netted to make it 2-0 ahead of the full time whistle.
Three points were a welcome return from a tough away trip but it really was deserved and the one present that Mark Yates will cherish the most this Christmas.
A battle against the Cod Army was in store for the Robins as they looked to stretch their unbeaten run to a big 10 games and Mark Yates made two changes to his starting XI with Connor Goldson replacing the injured Steve Elliott and Jamie Cureton coming in for Kemar Roofe who was also sidelined through injury. Fleetwood were themselves without key players such as Junior Brown and Antoni Sarcevic but the return of David Ball from a shoulder injury handed the hosts a big boost ahead of the game. A familiar face was also sat on the substitutes bench for Fleetwood this afternoon - Nathan Tyson, who had a loan spell with the Robins back in 2002. Another form Robin currently contracted to Fleetwood, Steven Gillespie, had spent a month on loan with Mark Yates' squad earlier in the season but he was unfortunately nowhere to be seen in the Fleetwood selection.
Mark Yates had issued a warning ahead of this game that he expected a tough game when coming up against a Fleetwood side intent on charging towards promotion this season but the Robins were no rollovers and they had the lead after just 35 seconds. A loose ball forward by Jombati was clipped behind for a corner and Richards' set piece was hammered past the near post by the head of Troy Brown for his third goal of the season. The travelling fans could hardly believe their eyes as the Sky Blue clad Robins wheeled away in celebration whilst murmurs of frustration seeped out from the home stands.
It was a superb start for the Robins but it could have been even better for Mark Yates' side had Byron Harrison capitalised on an exquisite cross from Jombati. The Portuguese full back swung a ball in towards the back post with the outside of his boot but Harrison's effort swing across the face of goal and wide. It was good stuff from the Robins but hearts were in the moth of the travelling support when goalscorer and defensive rock Troy Brown took a boot to the face when challenging Daniel Carr for a cross. Blood was mopped, cotton wool was placed in the nose and Troy was soon back in action however and just in time as his pressure forced Fleetwood's first effort of the game over the bar but David Ball's shot did fire a warning to the Robins. Jermaine McGlashan was next up to see a good effort fly over the bar as Cheltenham continued to probe the faltering Fleetwood defence but, in truth, the real battle was happening in midfield as both sides competed for possession with Jason Taylor dominating the early stages of the game.
Only a fool would write Fleetwood out at such an early stage of the game and, unsurprisingly, they were starting to edge their way into the game as the half hour mark hit. Gareth Evans came close to an equaliser when his lashed effort at goal struck the side netting and shortly after Jason Taylor was booked frustratingly for dissent. The hosts were really starting to push on and a cross from Blair gave Carr an excellent chance to head in from close range but Scott Brown produced a point blank save to deny the striker and protect Cheltenham's lead. It was a good response from the promotion chasers and again Scott Brown was on hand to mop up again when Cresswell's header from the corner hit the target but the Robins were good value for their lead and they threatened another goal when Cureton stole possession from under the nose of Roberts and slipped Richards in on goal but his shot was blocked well by the Fleetwood defence as half time beckoned.
Half Time: Fleetwood Town 0-1 Cheltenham Town
The second half kicked off and there was a clear frustration amongst the home fans as they heightened the noise levels and screamed for commitment from their side. It was certainly more spirited from the hosts in the early minutes but McLaughlin was booked for a silly foul in the opening stages as that spirited fight went overboard. A long range effort from Carr was well saved by Brown before Cheltenham had a good shout for a penalty. Cureton's through ball set McGlashan on his way and Cresswell looked to have brought him down but the referee waved play on much to the disgust of McGlashan. Still Fleetwood continued to press and they were looking good but Gareth Evans' smash way over the stand hardly offered much hope in the opening stages.
The Robins needed to settle themselves in this game and a duo of attacks on goal from Jermaine McGlashan offered some hope that Cheltenham could snatch a second to calm the nerves. A yellow card for Goldson after a late challenge on David Ball but the defender almost had himself on the scoresheet minutes later when he hammed a Matt Richards' cross inches over the bar from a header. Ball's dragged effort past Brown's goal signalled for the entrance of big Jon Parkin who was called to the touchline by Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander. The man mountain of a striker replaced Gareth Evans in an effort to add more muscle into Fleetwood's frontline much to the appreciation of the home crowd who were desperate for some work ethic from their side. Instead it was Cheltenham who almost stretched their lead when Jason Taylor won possession from the boot of Hughes allowing McGlashan a shot at goal but Davies was on hand to make the save.
Mark Yates made his first change of the game with Jamie Cureton withdrawn and Sam Deering introduced but it was Fleetwood who began to turn the screw. A long ball forward allowed Jon Parkin to outmuscle Sido Jombati, catch the ball on his chest and half volley a stunning strike towards goal but Scott Brown produced a fine save to deny for the former Premier League forward. The Robins number one was in scintillating form and he had to be because Daniel Carr's close range volley promised to squeeze it's way inside the near post but Brown's glove forced it behind to once again save the lead. At this rate it would be hard to decide on a Cheltenham man of the match because the Robins, in every department, were producing strong performances and defensively they had been superb but as the end of the game approached McLaughlin had the Fleetwood fans on their feet with a savage and unsaveable volley - but it was wide.
The Robins bench were open eyed and Mark Yates was continually barking out orders to his players as they looked to close the game out. Nervy stuff if you were a Robins fan facing a long journey home back to Gloucestershire. Scott Brown made a good save from McLaughlin on 90 minutes before the fourth official signalled three additional minutes and the gnawing of fingernails began. The traveling support needn't have worried however because Jermaine McGlashan put it out of reach for Fleetwood. The counter attack fell perfectly for Cheltenham as Harrison played McGlashan through on goal and the he rounded the goalkeeper before burying an effort beyond Davies for 2-0 and all three points. The full time whistle soon blew amongst jubilation in the away end. This was a superb performance from Mark Yates' Cheltenham Town and an early Christmas present the Robins were desperate for.
Full Time: Fleetwood Town 0-2 Cheltenham Town
Fleetwood Town FC (4-4-2): Davies (GK); McLaughlin, Cresswell, Roberts (C), Taylor; Blair, Murdoch, Hughes, Evans (Parkin 70); Ball, Carr
Subs not used: Eve (GK), Goodall, Hogan, Crowther, Dieseruvwe, Tyson
Cheltenham Town FC (4-4-2): S. Brown (GK); Jombati, T. Brown, Goldson, Braham-Barrett; Noble, Taylor, Richards, McGlashan; Harrison, Cureton (Deering 75)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Hanks, Penn, Ajala, Vincent, Gornell
Referee: Mr. Christopher Sarginson
Attendance: 2,300 (TBC from Cheltenham)