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21:30 3rd September 2013
By  James Brown

Robins 3, Pilgrims 3 (4-5 Pens)

Cheltenham Town exited the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in round one at the hands of ten-man Plymouth Argyle this evening, but it was not without a fight.

Despite producing a much-improved performance to share six goals in an entertaining and topsy-turvy game, they ultimately came up short in the penalty shootout.

Mark Yates will of course be disappointed to fall at the first hurdle in this competition but he can tonight take away plenty of positives from his side's response to Saturday's insipid showing at Bury.

Cheltenham returned to the Abbey Business Stadium after racking up almost 1,000 miles on the road last week and they were positive from the start, taking a deserved lead after only five minutes through Steven Gillespie with his first goal for the club in five years.

But just as they did at Gigg Lane only four days ago, they found themselves chasing the game only 12 minutes later after leaking two goals in a minute.

The writing was on the wall when the visitors extended their lead after the break but a second goal from Gillespie, from the penalty spot, and an equaliser by Jason Taylor, his second of the campaign, set up a tense finale.

Curtis Nelson had been sent of in the incident leading to Gillespie's second and although Cheltenham made the numerical advantage count by finishing the game the stronger of the two sides, they couldn't find a winner to prevent the dreaded penalties.

Keith Lowe, David Noble, Sam Deering and Taylor converted their spot kicks, but Terry Gornell saw his saved to hand Marvin Morgan the opportunity to book the Devon side's place in round two.

Yates rang the changes following Saturday's disappointing afternoon in Bury, three of which were forced through injury. Steve Elliott (jaw), Craig Braham-Barrett (ankle) and Matt Richards (hamstring) all missed this one while Gornell and Jermaine McGlashan dropped to the bench.

In came Sido Jombati, at left back, with Zack Kotwica and Ashley Vincent on the flanks. Byron Harrison joined Gillespie up front in the revamped side.

There was the welcome sight of Jamie Cureton on the teamsheet, back after dislocating his shoulder on the opening day of the season and he joined Noble, the club's latest loan acquisition, on the bench.

Cheltenham made the perfect start with just five minutes played when Gillespie was found by Jombati deep inside the Plymouth box with it all to do, but the striker jinked his way around a couple of defenders before slotting home from the corner of the six-yard box.

It had all looked so positive for the home side, who started the game brightly but just as they did in Greater Manchester on Saturday they quickly found themselves behind, this time after two goals in a minute.

Boco, who had netted in the league meeting 17 days ago, raced on Reuben Reid's flick header and cooly lifted the ball over Scott Brown from 20 yards to level the scores with 16 minutes played.

Then within a minute Lewis Alessandra put the Devon side in front, Blackman producing a fine ball from the left to set up the midfielder who took advantage of some poor marking to do the rest.

The goals handed the initiative to John Sheridan's side and they began to enjoy the lion's share of possession.

Hamza Bencherif went close with a low, 25-yard free-kick that Brown was equal to while Kotwica - making his first start for the club - almost caught out Jake Cole, the Plymouth goalkeeper, with a looping effort from the touchline out on the left.

The next chance fell to Bencherif, found by Jamie Reckford from the left but the Algerian headed well over from six yards.

At the other end Harrison narrowly missed the target with a glancing header after a pinpoint delivery by Jombati from the left.

On the stroke of half-time Gillespie forced Cole into a diving save from 25 yards.

Penn was withdrawn at half-time, replaced by Noble in the centre of midfield but the new boy conceded the free-kick that lead to Plymouth's third. Skipper Conor Hourihane swung it in from the left and Bencherif met it with a powerful header that left Brown no chance.

But Plymouth's two-goal cushion lasted only four minutes when a mistake by Guy Branston handed Gillespie a sight of goal, but Nelson impeded the striker as he shaped to shoot and bundled him to the ground.

The referee immediately pointed to the spot and flashed a red card to the left back before the Liverpudlian registered his second goal of the night at the second attempt.

Cheltenham were back on terms only six minutes later, Taylor providing the equaliser after the ball spilled into his path following a scramble in the Plymouth area. 

It took a deflection on its way through to wrong-foot the Pilgrims number one, not that the makeshift centre back will be too concerned about that.

And Harrison really should have won it for the Robins with 15 minutes remaining when substitute Jermaine McGlashan escaped his marker down the right before cutting it back into the striker's path, but Cole pulled off a fantastic reaction save to preserve parity, leaving the contest to be decided by a penalty shootout.

CHELTENHAM TOWN: Brown; Lowe, Inniss, Taylor, Jombati; Vincent (McGlashan 70), Deering, Penn (c ) (Noble 46), Kotwica; Gillespie (Gornell 83), Harrison. Subs not used: Cureton, Rivers (Gk).

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE: Cole; Nelson, Blanchard, Branston, Reckford; Alessandra, Bencherif, Hourihane, Blackman; Boco, Reid (Morgan 65). Subs not used: Young, Harvey, McCormick (Gk), Gurrieri.

REFEREE: M Heywood

ATTENDANCE: 1,236 (256 from Plymouth)


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.