Full Time: Robins 2, Wombles 1
A good solid 2-1 win for Cheltenham Town over a plucky Wombles side lifted the frustrations of past results and put Mark Yates' side back on track.
Cheltenham Town opened the scoring through Steve Elliott's stooping header having caught the end of Billy Jones' excellent delivery. The Robins grabbed another goal in the second half through Darren Carter but AFC Wimbledon grabbed a goal back through Brennan Dickenson to ensure this afternoon's game would end as a less than comfortable affair. Cheltenham held on however and deservedly took three points in what would have felt like a big relief for the players.
Chesterfield up next for Cheltenham on Tuesday and another opportunity to continue their impressive home form.
It was a beautiful day in Cheltenham and Mark Yates would have been hoping the sun would shine upon his Robins as they looked to grab an important three points over an AFC Wimbledon side who were on a decent run of form themselves. The Wombles were on a four match unbeaten run and Cheltenham made no changes to their side from the 1-1 draw at Fleetwood, following a very strong performance. It was of course the return of Alan Bennett too with the former Robins captain joining Wimbledon following his departure from the Abbey Business Stadium. Striker Byron Harrison came to Cheltenham in the opposite direction although he would have to wait to make his appearance against his former club as he was named on the bench.
Despite Cheltenham Town being unbeaten in ten games, they needed the victories and they started well this afternoon with some pacy attacks causing a few problems for Wimbledon early on. The first real chance on goal feel to Darren Carter after Sam Deering's neat pass but his angled effort was well saved by the veteran Sullivan and the Dons were quick to clean up. The early pressure paid dividends when Deering was fouled on the far right allowing Billy Jones a freekick opportunity. His curling delivery found the unmarked Steve Elliott and his stooping header beat Sullivan in goal to put the Robins in front. That goal set Cheltenham off into the style of play they were showing off at Fleetwood in midweek and Billy Jones could have had a sensational first goal for Cheltenham had his 25 yard effort been on target.
It was becoming a feisty game with some strong challenges going in and Cheltenham could have had a penalty on 26 minutes when Pell's loose leg tripped Penn in the area but referee was having none of it and waved play on. AFC Wimbledon's first real effort on goal was from a ling range freekick but Chris Hussey's on target strike proved to be easy pickings for Scott Brown. Wimbledon were huffing and puffing but not creating anything of real quality and Cheltenham were more than comfortable keeping hold of possession and waiting for their moment to strike.
Cheltenham did have one more good opportunity to score before half time but a combination of Neil Sullivan's leg and the offside flag denied Paul Benson a goal following a sublime Jason Taylor pass. They had to settle for just the one goal in this period but safe in the knowledge that they were in control of the game.
Half Time: Cheltenham Town 1-0 AFC Wimbledon
The second half kicked off and it was apparent that both teams were still playing a feisty game with Chris Hussey and Darren Carter both picking up yellow cards within the first two minutes. The Robins needed to put the game to bed and they grasped the opportunity to do so when Darren Carter made it 2-0 on 56 minutes. Hector's long clearance found Russ Penn and the midfielder cut across the 18 yard line before slipping a pass through to Carter who professionally dispatched the ball past Sullivan. The former Birmingham midfielder could have had another just a few minutes later when he ran onto a through pass but Pim Balkestein was on hand to turn the ball put for a corner before anymore damage was done.
Wimbledon were on a good unbeaten run recently and they weren't about to roll over for the Robins here at the Abbey Business Stadium and it was a substitute who clawed his side back into the game with a thunderous strike. Some hesitant defending allowed Kevin Sainte-Luce to find Brennan Dickenson on the far left of the area and his rasping strike left Brown with no chance before settling into the back of the net.
It was a blow for Cheltenham but not the end of the world and they needed to stand firm against a Wimbledon side looking a lot more confident going forward. Mat Mitchel-King came close with a volleyed effort on 68 minutes but it was sent over the bar and Cheltenham settled their ranks. Mark Yates made his first change of the game with Kaid Mohamed, a former Dons player, replacing goal scorer Darren Carter on 71 minutes. If Wimbledon were to ever have a chance to equalise then the perfect opportunity was given to them on 77 minutes. Gary Alexander found himself inside the area and he managed to slide past Michael Hector and his pass found the incoming Jack Midson but the former Oxford striker blazed his effort high over the bar in what could possibly be one of the misses of the season. That proved to be Midson's last act of the game with his manager replacing him with Charlie Strutton seconds later.
Former Wimbledon striker Byron Harrison was called upon on the 80th minute and he replaced the hard working Paul Benson on the point of attack. Yellow cards for Russ Penn and Balkestein followed in the minutes that followed and still the Robins kept their control over the game despite their opponent's plucky attempts. The Wombles rarely threatened after that point and Cheltenham held out to record three very good points and their first win since Southend last month.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 2-1 AFC Wimbledon
Cheltenham Town FC (4-2-3-1): Brown (GK); Lowe, Hector, Elliott, Jones; Taylor, Pack; Penn (McGlashan 86), Deering, Carter (Mohamed 71); Benson (Harrison 80)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Jombati, Harrad, Duffy
AFC Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan (GK); Mitchel-King (C), Balkestein, Bennett, Hussey; Darko (Dickenson 62), Moore (Sainte-Luce 62), Pell, Moore; Midson (Strutton 77), Alexander
Subs not used: Jamiez-Ruiz (GK), Cummings, Long, Yussuff
Referee: Mr. Andy Davies
Attendance: 3,177 (500 from Wimbledon)
Robins' Star Man: Sam Deering - Gave it his all today and caused Wimbledon so many problems. Very good performance.