Cheltenham Town once again dropped a hard earned lead to draw 1-1 away at Plymouth Argyle this afternoon.
The first half had been a cautious and tame affair but Cheltenham had been the better side with both Roofe and Cureton coming close. It was Byron Harrison however that took the lead in the second half though and the Robins looked to be cruising towards all three points. A poor challenge from Matt Richards 20 yards from goal however offered the Pilgrims a golden opportunity however and it was one they claimed with Luke Young's curling freekick deceiving Scott Brown.
The scores stayed level until the full time whistle but the Robins had ended their run of defeats - just not in the manner they would have liked.
Three defeats in a row for Mark Yates' men made today's game away at Home Park an important one but Plymouth were also experiencing a run of games without a win and it set today's match up an up as an interesting clash. For Cheltenham there were three changes with Michael Ihiekwe, Sam Deering and Byron Harrison replacing Steve Elliott, Jermaine McGlashan and Terry Gornell in what looked to be a diamond formation. It was a professional debut as well as a Robins debut for Wolves loanee Michael Ihiekwe today and a big test for the young central defender in an atmospheric Home Park.
A better performance than the first half against Accrington would have been asked for before kick off here today and you would have have hoped that would be the case but the opening 30 seconds saw a punch forward from the Pilgrims which almost caught the Robins off their guard before Troy Brown cleared it for a corner with his head. That momentary lapse in concentration soon passed and Cheltenham settled into the game with some neat possession football whilst Robins manager Mark Yates watched on from the stand in an attempt to watch the game from a different perspective. Cheltenham's chief almost witnessed his side go a goal behind following a freekick for Plymouth due to an agricultural foul from debutant Ihiekwe. The set piece was curled in with precision but Neal Trotman's header was poor and Brown watched as the ball lifted over his crossbar. The Robins soon had their chance on goal when Braham-Barrett beat Boco on the wing for pace before delivering a low cross in which Roofe claimed before striking the base of the post with a shot. The Plymouth defence panicked and a soft clearance was deflected back towards goal by Nelson but McCormick was on hand to claw it away from the goalmouth just in the nick of time. Suddenly the game had an injection of energy and Plymouth's follow up attack drew two superb sliding challenges from both Troy Brown and Michael Ihiekwe to deny Lewis Alessandra.
It was an enjoyable game but you could sense both teams were cautious of showing their hand too early as the wind started to howl through the stands of Home Park. The first booking of the afternoon was shown to Conor Hourihane with the Plymouth captain's late challenge on Taylor drawing the referee's attention as the Robins continued to probe the Plymouth backline. A tame effort from Roofe promised more than it could offer as Cheltenham improved but both sides looked cautious in their approach and the game was there for the taking if one of the sides could find their feet. Jamie Cureton came close with an angled effort 30 yards from goal on 44 minutes. It had been clever play involving Braham-Barrett and Harrison but the veteran striker's effort dropped just wide of the post.
Half time approached on a game that lacked a certain energy but the Robins had carved out promising attacks on goal offering hope for the second half whilst Plymouth largely lacked a quality ball in the final third.
Half Time: Plymouth Argyle 0-0 Cheltenham Town
The second half began with an ambitious strike from Cureton which almost dipped into the top corner but McCormick breathed a sigh of relief as the ball safely landed on the roof of the net. Cheltenham had started this half well and they were looking dangerous as they stretched the Plymouth defence with Cureton once again sending a snap shot into the gloves of McCormick five minutes in. A sensation chipped effort from Roofe 30 yards from goal once again called McCormick into action as the Robins began to impose themselves and it wasn't long before they had their opening. Neat passing play allowed the Robins to infiltrate the Plymouth backline and Byron Harrison used his strength well to keep his marker at by before firing a shot at goal which was deflected over McCormick for 1-0. It was his tenth goal of the season and just what Cheltenham deserved after a positive start to the game.
It was no more than what Cheltenham deserved and with Mark Yates now back on the touchline, they were looking confident. Roofe was dictating to play and Ihiekwe was having a solid debut but Plymouth substitute Luke Young almost turned the game on it's head with a thunderous 40 yard drive which had to be tipped onto the post by Scott Brown. A close shave for the Robins and the closest Plymouth had come in the entire game. A long range effort from Roofe promised a second for Cheltenham although the attacking midfielder's effort was lifted over the bar but the West Brom loanee continued to pose serious problems for the hosts with several cutting edge passes inside their area which were threatening to feed Cureton's hunger. His impact on the game was highlighted when Curtis Nelson was booked for a cynical challenge on the youngster after he continued to frustrate the defender.
The home fans were growing frustrated. Moans and groans seeped out from the old main stand as Cheltenham introduced their first change of the afternoon. The troublesome Cureton had been replaced by Jermaine McGlashan whilst John Sheridan rolled his dice for the last time replacing Purrington with Nathan Thomas. The Pilgrims did have the chance to life their frustrated home fans however when Richards fouled Hourihane 20 yards from goal. The midfielder was booked and Luke Young stepped up to curl it into the bottom corner for the leveller. The freekick was precise and unstoppable but Cheltenham, who had been in control, had once again dropped a lead. Young was at it again soon after when he had another freekick 30 yards from goal although this time it dropped over the bar much to Cheltenham's relief.
The Robins would have had a bitter taste in their mouths because once again they had lost control of a game when they had been cruising comfortably. It was credit to Plymouth who were now seriously seriously growing into proceedings with the goal a clear catalyst. Cheltenham were no longer holding onto their possession well and the patient play that had come before Plymouth's equaliser had disappeared. A Jason Banton effort stung the gloves of Brown before the Robins started to fight their way back in an effort to re-take their lead. Several searching crosses tested Plymouth's resolve before a Pilgrims counter attack on the left wing almost led to a Braham-Barrett own goal but the left back was relieved to see his clearance drop wide. Still the Pilgrims piled on the pressure though and they had a great chance to win the game at the death with the ball dropping to Reuben Reid inside the area but the striker's effort was awful and well wide.
The full time whistle soon blew upon an enthralling half of football and though Robins fans may have taken a point before the game there was perhaps an element of frustration to have not taken all three from Home Park this afternoon.
Full Time: Plymouth Argyle 1-1 Cheltenham Town
Plymouth Argyle FC (4-4-2): McCormick (GK); Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Purrington (Thomas 79); Banton, Blizzard (Young 54), Hourihane, Boco (Harvey 54); Alessandra, Reid
Subs not used: Cole (GK) Wotton, Thomas, Richards, Vassell
Cheltenham Town FC (4-4-2 Diamond): S Brown (GK); Jombati, T Brown, Ihiekwe, Braham-Barrett; Deering, Taylor, Richards, Roofe; Harrison, Cureton (McGlashan 79)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Elliott, Hanks, Kotwica, Vincent, Gornell
Referee: Mr. Lee Collins
Attendance: 6,735 (162 from Cheltenham)