A young Cheltenham Town reserve XI were comfortably beaten this afternoon by Swindon Town.
A young Cheltenham reserve side were swept aside 5-2 by a strong Swindon reserve team in blustery conditions at the training ground this afternoon.
A barnstorming first half performance from pacey winger Nicky Ajose helped Swindon into a commanding 5-0 lead at the interval, but a spirited fight back from Cheltenham saw the deficit reduced to a more respectable 5-2 at full time.
Russell Milton took charge of the team and sent out a youthful side, with Ashley Vincent afforded a chance to play 90 minutes ahead of this weekend's FA Cup tie against Tamworth. Zack Kotwica, Joe Hanks and recent first team debutant Harry Williams were also hoping to catch the eye in front of Mark Yates who was watching from the sidelines.
Swindon immediately took control of the game and they were two goals ahead within 16 minutes. The League One side took the lead when Nicky Ajose, who had already been causing Robins' right back Liam Sheppard problems, was released down the left wing and went through on goal to cooly slot his shot past Connor Roberts on 12 minutes. Four minutes later and their lead was doubled. Some good work from Kayden Jackson had resulted in a corner and it was taken short by Ajose. His pass was returned by Ryan Harley and Ajose, from a tight angle, clipped in a cross come shot which looped over Connor Roberts.
Cheltenham had their first notable attack shortly after but a floated cross from Jamie Goodwin just evaded the incoming Harry Williams. As if sensing danger, Swindon instantly extended their advantage. With only 19 minutes on the clock, Lee Cox chipped a ball through to dangerman Ajose. who expertly pulled the ball back to Ryan Harley and the ex-Swansea and Brighton man stroked an assured finish into the far bottom corner from just inside the penalty area to make it 0-3.
The Swindon XI contained seven senior professionals and it was evident. They were running riot with Kayden Jackson and Nicky Ajose in particular causing endless problems for Cheltenham full backs Liam Sheppard and Danny Reynolds. After 22 minutes Jackson powered his way past Reynolds in search of a fourth goal but his weak shot was straight at goalkeeper Roberts. It was to be a busy afternoon for the Welsh U21 stopper. Minutes later the dangerous Ajose saw his powerful shot well turned round the post for a corner - which again was taken short - but the resulting shot from Lee Cox sailed past the outside of the post.
Keen to avoid a Leverkusen style 'ghost goal', the referee stopped play for a couple of minutes as substitute keeper Harvey Rivers - on hand with a ball of string – fixed a hole in the Cheltenham net. However there was nothing that could be done five minutes later as Swindon extended their lead to four nil eight minutes before the break. Again Nicky Ajose was involved. He saw his shot well saved by Conor Roberts but the ball broke to Connor Waldon who smashed a shot into the corner of the net from 20 yards.
Keen to salvage something from the first half, the young Cheltenham side went straight up the other end and nearly pulled a goal back. Jamie Goodwin saw his shot saved by Swindon stopper Tyrell Belford, the ball fell to Joe Hanks but he was denied by a fantastic goal line clearance from Swindon defender Raphael Rossi Branco.
With half time approaching, Nicky Ajose looked keen to complete his hat-trick. Firstly he rolled a shot just wide of the goal and moments later his powerful drive was put out for a corner by Connor Roberts, who had so far been the busiest Robins player on the pitch.
The young Cheltenham defence had endured a torrid half with young scholar Liam Sheppard facing a near impossible task in keeping Ajose quiet. In the 42nd minute the impressive Swindon winger again muscled past the young Robins right back to reach the byline and send a pinpoint pass back to Mohammed El-Gabbas. The Egyptian striker duly applied an accomplished finish to see a rampant Swindon take a five goal lead into half time.
The break gave Cheltenham a chance to regroup and they came out in the second period looking a much tighter unit. Despite Swindon still causing some problems for the young Robins defence, a couple of good saves from Roberts helped keep Swindon at bay whilst Liam Sheppard was having more success in his ongoing battle with Nicky Ajose.
Five minutes into the second half saw the first of the substitutions. Swindon sending on Lee Marshall and Harry Agombar in place of Ryan Harley and Kayden Jackson as they looked to freshen the midfield.
The longer the half went on and the more Cheltenham grew in confidence. As Joe Hanks began to dictate the tempo, the Robins enjoyed long spells of possession which eventually came to a head just before the hour mark. A quick throw in from Sheppard found Harry Williams – the young attacker cleverly turned inside past his marker and saw his composed finish beat Tyrell Belford at the near post with 58 minutes on the clock.
Sixty seconds later and the young Robins added another. A lovely pass from Harry Williams split the Swindon defence to find Zack Kotwica one on one with the Swindon keeper. The tricky winger took a touch before casually slotting home to make it 2-5.
Swindon offered a reminder of the talent they possessed in their XI as Ajose and Agombar both saw efforts fly narrowly over the bar. In the 67th minute Jack Barthram and Louis Thompson were withdrawn in place of Alex Ferguson and Mark Jones and three minutes later man of the match Nicky Ajose was replaced by Luke Matthews.
The glut of substitutions saw the game start to fizzle out but it was Cheltenham who were looking the brighter. Positive play from Danny Reynolds down the left hand side saw his shot from 25 yards sail just over the bar and moments later Ashley Vincent's cross was headed against the foot of the post by the hard working Jamie Goodwin.
Ashley Vincent had struggled to make much of an impression on the game up until now but he was having more joy down the left hand side and he again set up Goodwin but this time the young striker's shot was easily saved.
With the much improved Robins hunting for a third, Russell Milton sent on Kieran Whitehead and Callum Craddock in place of Sheppard and Powell. Some good hold up play from Jamie Goodwin and a burst of pace from Zak Kotwica saw Cheltenham win a corner but the pressure didn’t amount to a chance.
With the match drawing to a close Harry Williams and Joe Hanks were withdrawn with Reece Daly and Zach Kirkpatrick-Jones given a few minutes to impress.
The final action of the game saw Connor Waldon round Connor Roberts but his strike was cleared brilliantly off the line by Spencer Hamilton.
It was a much brighter second half display from a spirited Cheltenham side and although the class of Swindon was too much for the Robins, Russell Milton will have drawn positives from the way his young team refused to lie down against their vastly more experienced opponents.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town Reserves 2 – 5 Swindon Town Reserves
CTFC Starting XI: Roberts (GK); Sheppard, Hamilton, Keightley, Reynolds; Hanks, Kotwica, Powell, H. Williams; Goodwin, Vincent
STFC Starting XI: Belford (GK); Kisitu, Branco, Barthram; Jackson, Harley, Cox, Thompson, Ajose; Waldon, El-Gabbas