Cheltenham Town suffered more disappointment on home soil as a late free kick saw Stevenage snatch the points in a closely fought Sky Bet League Two encounter at the LCI Rail Stadium.
The Robins produced a battling display against their unbeaten visitors and were left to wonder what could have been as they left the contest empty-handed.
Newcomer Joe Morrell was named man-of-the-match after an all-action display while Taylor Moore, Scott Flinders and strike duo Freddie Hinds and Jaanai Gordon all worked hard on debut.
A wonderful save from Joe Fryer to deny Danny Wright’s volley from the edge of the penalty area was, ultimately, the closest the home side came to finding the net.
And the key moment of the clash came eight minutes from time as defender Joe Martin stepped up and curled home a superb free kick to seal the points.
Manager Gary Johnson made five changes to his starting line-up and it was new recruit Morrell, a midweek capture from Bristol City, who quickly caught the eye.
He showed some nice early touches in the middle of the park as he twice looked to release the always busy Mohamed Eisa and Harry Pell down the channels.
A bright opening from the home side saw Kyle Storer fire an angled drive over the bar before Pell repeated the feat as he caught a drive sweetly from long range.
The visitors had a first sight of goal midway through the opening half, when Harry Beautyman tried his luck from 20 yards out, but his swerving effort was comfortably gathered by Flinders.
Visiting striker Matt Godden then had two efforts in quick succession, as he saw an effort blocked by Will Boyle before Flinders saved a volley at his near post.
The game was proving to be a real battle in midfield between two well-drilled teams, but when the Robins did get the ball down on a beautiful playing surface they threatened.
Defender Taylor Moore always looked assured on his debut and his floated pass almost released Kevin Dawson into the penalty area before the Irishman then almost capitalised on indecision between Fraser Franks and visiting stopper Fryer.
A tightly fought contest continued after the break with both teams cancelling each other out for long periods.
Jordan Cranston won a free kick out wide after he was brought down by Whelpdale after flying run, with the Stevenage man yellow carded as a result. But the chance went begging as the ball was played over the bar.
Moments later the home side came closest to breaking the deadlock when the ball fell to Wright on the edge of the box and his volley was superbly turned around his post by Fryer.
Wright came alive as he collected Storer’s deflected cross, turned on a six pence and narrowly firing over.
A first corner of the game for Cheltenham then almost paid off as Pell headed narrowly wide from Storer’s delivery.
The late twist in the tail came when a free kick was awarded on the edge of the area and Martin produced a real moment of magic as he curled home a free kick.
Still Cheltenham came, however, late chances for Dawson and Gordon both went astray as the home side were left to ponder one that got away.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Flinders; Winchester, Boyle (O’Shaughnessy 75), Moore, Cranston; Pell, Morrell, Storer (c), Dawson; Eisa (Hinds 58), Wright. Subs not used: Flatt (Gk), Holman, Bower, Gordon
STEVENAGE (4-4-2): Fryer; Martin, Franks, Wilkinson, Henry; Whelpdale (Samuel 64), Smith, Pett, Beautyman (Toner 90); Newton (Gray 81), Godden. Subs not used: Day (Gk), Van Cooten, Toner, Ferry, Wilmott.
REFEREE: C Hicks
ATTENDANCE: 2,694 (160 from Stevenage)
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