Full Time: Oxford 1-0 Robins2013 started with defeat for Cheltenham Town as poor away form continued to cast a shadow.
A sole goal in the first half courtesy of Peter Leven's spot kick was enough to take all three points but it was Oxford's stubborn defensive display that truly won them this game.
The Robins started this game well but a mistake from Jombati allowed Peter Leven to score from the spot and, from there, Oxford began to frustrate Cheltenham and defend with true grit. Cheltenham pushed and pushed in the second half and probably deserved at least a draw from the game but Oxford were stubborn and were in no mood to lose the lead. Oxford frustrated Cheltenham right through to 90 minutes and the full time whistle.
It was another away defeat for Cheltenham Town but they deserved more from this game.
It had been an unchanged line-up for Cheltenham Town this afternoon fresh from their 4-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers. Mark Yates was keen to show faith in the side that bounced back so well from disappointment at Rochdale and it was that team given the task of getting the away form back on track at the Kassam Stadium. Oxford were enjoying a nine game unbeaten run and they were boosted by the presence of James Constable with the Us appealing a red card he picked up against AFC Wimbledon at the weekend.
It was a chilly afternoon to kick off 2013 and Cheltenham Town started the game well with a fair amount of possession and they also had the lion's share of early pressure. It was largely a game played in the midfield areas in the first ten minutes however until Alfie Potter finally delivered something for the Oxford fans to cheer in the form of the first effort on target. The attacking midfielder burst through the midfield before drilling a shot in at goal which forced Brown to pound it away before it was cleared by the defence. That effort signaled a change in the flow of this game and a Sean Rigg ball through to Craddock drew a foul from Sido Jombati leading to a penalty. Peter Leven stepped up to take the spot kick and smashed it into the back of the net for 1-0.
That goal gave Oxford the lift they needed to start controlling the game a little more but Cheltenham weren't backing down and they were still trying to pass their way through Oxford's backline. The Us however were looking to double their scoreline at the earliest possibility with Rigg's glancing header and a rather poor effort on goal from Duberry. Jermaine McGlashan had a good opportunity to get a goal back for Cheltenham on 25 minutes after breaking past O'Brien but his shot was soft and an easy save for Clarke. The Robins were struggling to create anything of note in front of goal and Darren Carter's freekick after 33 minutes summed that up as it flew high and wide into the stand.
Oxford were frustrating Cheltenham to very slim opportunities on the attack but Cheltenham kept probing and examining; waiting for their chance. Jeff Goulding had a run through on goal in injury time but Jake Wright quickly swept the danger away with a sliding challenge.
Half Time: Oxford United 1-0 Cheltenham Town
The second half began with a blow for Cheltenham as Darren Carter took a ball close range to the face and appeared to injure himself in the process. The midfielder tried to carry on but he was eventually replaced by Marlon Pack on 51 minutes. Oxford had a good break on minutes later when Elliott's clearance could only find Leven. The midfielder's ball to Potter on the far led to a decent cross across goal but Bennett was on hand to make a superb clearance with Constable approaching. Russ Penn had a drilled shot held well by Clarke after 60 minutes as Cheltenham started to put a little more pressure on the Oxford defence but still the Us proved to be stubborn.
Oxford had a fantastic chance to double their lead when Alfie Potter found enough space to mount an assault on Brown's goal but his low curled effort was wide of goal and a tight game continued in the same manner. Mark Yates introduced Kaid Mohamed in place of Jake Taylor after 67 minutes and moments later saw a Jones cross fall to Duffy in the area but the striker's pass to McGlashan didn't create the chance it should have. Oxford debutant Josh Parker had a decent effort sail over the bar before both sides made changes with Darryl Duffy being replaced by Shaun Harrad and Sean Rigg taken off for Tony Capaldi.
Efforts from Russ Penn and Shaun Harrad threatened to stun Oxford but Cheltenham now perhaps deserved a goal with them largely being in control for this half. A Billy Jones freekick narrowly missed the target with Oxford now doing all they could to deny the Robins a way back into this game.
The minutes ticked on with Jombati coming so close to a late equaliser with a header but still Cheltenham could find no way through. Deserving they may have been for a goal or two but Oxford's gameplan had worked wonders and had taken the three points.
Full Time: Oxford United 1-0 Cheltenham Town
Oxford United FC (4-4-2): Clarke (GK); Batt, Duberry, Wright (C), O'Brien; Potter (Worley 90+1), Cox, Leven, Rigg (Capaldi 71); Constable, Craddock (Parker 63)
Subs not used: Brown, Marsh, Forster-Caskey, Heslop
Cheltenham Town FC (4-4-2): Brown (GK); Jombati, Bennett (C), Elliott, Jones; McGlashan, Carter (Pack 51), Penn, Taylor (Mohamed 67); Goulding, Duffy (Harrad 72)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Lowe, D'Ath, Deering
Referee: Mr. Fred Graham
Attendance: 6,951 (637 from Cheltenham)
Robins Star Man: Russ Penn - His usual aggressive self in midfield and he put in another good shift.