Cheltenham Town secured a 2-0 win over Oxford this evening to progress in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
A first half injury time header from John Marquis gave the Robins a lead to take into half-time and that scoreline was doubled on 78 minutes by the ever-impressive Koby Arthur but not before Oxford's Jon Meades has been given his marching orders for a terrible challenge on Jason Taylor.
For Mark Yates' men it is the continuation of the winning habit going into the weekend's game at Morecambe and the added bonus that they will be in the hat for the second round of this cup competition.
Cheltenham manager Mark Yates made six changes ahead of this Johnstone's Paint Trophy clash with Oxford United with Koby Arthur making his long awaited start in front of the Whaddon Road crowd. Andy Haworth, Omari Sterling-James and John Marquis were also making their first starts for the club under the floodlights. Oxford themselves made four changes to their team but it was a game in which Michael Appleton was keen to win with his side lacking a good start to the season.
Oxford started well under the floodlights here at Whaddon Road and they could have had a perfect start through Will Hoskins had Jack Deaman not intervened at the last minute. The Oxford striker broke through on goal on 4 minutes but Deaman's sliding challenge took possession and rescued his side.
The U's continued their early control with several efforts but Trevor Carson's first save of the evening came on the 14th minute when he was forced to push Joe Riley's freekick wide.
Cheltenham did grow into the game and their first chance on goal came from a set piece. Joe Hanks' corner found the head of Matt Taylor deep inside the area and his header back towards goal was steered wide by Troy Brown.
Cheltenham did begin to threaten with the partnership of Arthur and Marquis causing problems for Oxford and the Millwall loanee came close to getting off the mark with the Robins but for his shoulder taking the final touch on a cross which sent it looping over the bar
Josh Ruffels was shown a yellow card for a karate kid style kick to the gut of Koby Arthur but thankfully the Birmingham loanee was fine to continue and he was soon piling the pressure on Oxford's backline.
A Jack Deaman header was deflected wide of goal ten minutes from the break as Mark Yates' side took further control of the game and Jason Taylor also had a fine shot fly just over the bar as the half-time mark approached.
Cheltenham did take the lead in first half injury time however when the corner was drifted into a central position and John Marquis rose to head in past Long in the Oxford goal and give Cheltenham a 1-0 lead.
The half-time team talk would have been a positive one with Cheltenham responding well to early pressure in the first half but Mark Yates opted to bring captain Matt Taylor off and replace him with Paul Black who slipped into the back three.
A Joe Hanks long-range effort and an Omari Sterling-James effort signalled Cheltenham's intentions early on in this half but Oxford weren't without their chances and there were blocks needed by Troy Brown and Paul Black to deny the U's an equaliser.
The turning point of this half however was a red card on the 68th minute. Jon Meades left his studs up in a nasty challenge on Jason Taylor and the midfielder instantly reacted. The referee was quick to show the red card to Meades who immediately headed for the tunnel before Taylor was shown a yellow for his reaction to the challenge.
Oxford were left reeling and it wasn't long before Cheltenham added a second to the scoreboard.
The introduction of Terry Gornell allowed John Marquis the chance to receive the standing ovation he deserved but Gornell was soon earning an applause of his own. His drive into Oxford's area finally led to a cross towards the back post and Koby Arthur was on hand to leap and head the ball into the back of the net for Cheltenham's second and his fourth of the season.
Oxford huffed and puffed as the half went on to find any glimmer of hope in front of goal but in truth the Robins had become the controlling force in midfield and even the substitution of enforcer Jason Taylor failed to weaken the midfield.
A late effort from Koby Arthur into the arms of George Long threatened a third but the Robins comfortably saw the game out to victory and booked their place in the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (3-5-2):
Carson (GK); Brown, M Taylor (c) (Black 46), Deaman; Haworth, J Taylor, (Richards 80) Hanks, Sterling-James, Braham-Barrett; Marquis (Gornell 74), Arthur
SUBS NOT USED:
OXFORD UNITED (4-2-3-1):
Long (GK); Riley, Raynes, Wright (c), Newey; Meades, Ruffels (Rose 63 (O'Dowda 86)); Potter, Hylton, Brown; Hoskins (Morris 76)
SUBS NOT USED:
Crocombe (GK), Hunt
1,424 (261 from Oxford)