Full Time: Robins 2, Oxford 2Cheltenham Town and Oxford united played out an entertaining 2-2 draw here at the Abbey Business Stadium this afternoon.
Twice the Robins took the lead and twice Oxford clipped their wings but there were plenty of positive signs for Mark Yates but there's also no denying that an individual mistake once again cost Cheltenham a lead.
Cheltenham had started well and Byron Harrison had them ahead after just 8 minutes but once again a defensive mishap allowed the opposition to grab a foothold and Dave Kitson made no mistake in punishing Steve Elliott and making it 1-1. The Robins started the second half in a perfect fashion and it was Terry Gornell who retrieved Cheltenham's lead but once again Cheltenham found themselves conceding again, this time from Oxford's Johnny Mullins.
Torquay United await Cheltenham at Plainmoor next week with the fresh hope that the Robins are now turning a corner.
Cheltenham Town made three changes ahead of today's derby clash versus an Oxford United side who remained unbeaten this year and had a 100% record on their travels. A big test for Mark Yates who was on the hunt for a first home win of the league season for his squad of Robins but injuries to Jamie Cureton (calf), Troy Brown (hamstring) and Craig Braham-Barrett (ankle) continued to frustrate. New loan signing James Wilson started alongside Steve Elliott to make his Cheltenham Town debut and there were also starts for Russ Penn and Byron Harrison to make up the remaining changes.
The key for today? Keep that defence tight and do what Cheltenham have been doing well in front of goal so far this season. It's easier said than done of course but the Robins started well and Byron Harrison had the first chance of the game but his shot from the edge of the area was high over the bar. Cheltenham had another opportunity to grab an early foothold but Terry Gornell's header was safely collected by Ryan Clarke. Mark Yates will have been happy with his team's start to proceedings but he would have been positively ecstatic after 8 minutes when Byron Harrison popped up to score the opening goal. David Noble's header found Terry Gornell who beat his marker for pace and his shot was well saved by Ryan Clarke but Byron Harrison was arriving late and he was able to thump the ball into the back of the net unchallenged.
A superb start for the Robins and it could have been even better on 10 minutes had they experienced a little more luck. Gornell found himself in possession deep inside Oxford's area but he lost out only for David Noble to nip and steal the ball but his near post shot was well blocked. The early control of this game was evidently in Cheltenham's favour and they wanted a penalty on 12 minutes after McGlashan appeared to be felled by Ryan Clarke in the Oxford goal but the referee waved the shouts away much to the disgust of the Cheltenham players. Oxford weren't without their threats and there were offerings of their attacking prowess but the partnership of Elliott and Wilson stood strong in the opening 20 minutes to deny the opposition. It was Scott Brown however who was needed to slam the door shut in the faces of Oxford however when he was forced to pull off a quick reaction save from the head of Mullins following the corner. Oxford's central defender was at it again a few minutes later from the long throw but he put his effort over the bar whilst unmarked and Oxford continued to scratch their heads.
25 minutes in and Oxford were improving as you would expect and they had a good opportunity to test Brown again after Richards was caught red handed fouling Dave Kitson 20 yards from goal but Danny Rose could only find the gloves of Brown with his set piece. Asa Hall saw himself shoot wide on 31 minutes but Oxford had every right to think they were taking a firmer grip of this game as the minutes ticked by and they were soon level after an unlikely mistake from Steve Elliott. The goal kick was thumped down the pitch towards Elliott but the Robins club captain let the ball bounce anticipating a Scott Brown collection but Dave Kitson nipped in behind before poking it beyond Brown to make it 1-1 and seal his first goal for the club. Another defensive error and another lead lost.
No clean sheet for the Robins but they almost had an instant response when David Noble's strong drive was fumbled by Ryan Clarke but there was no Cheltenham player in sight to capitalise and the Oxford keeper was quickly on top of the situation. Noble was at it again minutes later when his freekick dropped just wide of the far post but Keith Lowe came closest when a corner was whipped in on 45 minutes and his header rocked the post. Unlucky for the Robins but that was the final chance of an open first half.
Half Time: Cheltenham Town 1-1 Oxford United
Cheltenham would have been warned about their individual mistakes at half time during the team talk but they could have found themselves in trouble early on when Keith Lowe appeared to jump onto the back of Potter but the referee waved the appeals away. Instead it was Cheltenham who took control of proceedings and it was a man who had been pulling strings all afternoon who did the honours. Sido Jombati's charging run down the left wing was followed by a searching pass into the feet of Gornell. Cheltenham's number 10 was heavily marked and it looked as though Byron Harrison would be the one to take the ball and shoot at goal but Gornell found the room he needed following Harrison's effort and he poked the ball beyond Clarke for 2-1. A scrappy goal but good forward play from both Cheltenham Town strikers.
It would be a fool who would rule Oxford out of this game and they reacted well to going a goal behind when Whing's header forced Brown into a reaction save and Byron Harrison was on hand to acrobatically clear the lines. It was turning into a feisty game in truth and it was Dave Kitson who was involved in two incidents with Sido Jombati and Steve Elliott. The U's continued to press and they got their rewards when a corner was dropped inside and the clearing header found it's way to Mullins who volleyed it inside of the post to draw the scores level once again. The travelling fans were bouncing and Jombati and Kitson were yellow carded in the aftermath.
A good atmosphere from both sets of fans was testament to a captivating match being contested between both sides and David Noble almost had the home crowd on their feet when he attempted a cheeky effort just inside the area which was just over the bar. You really couldn't take your eyes off this match and Rose almost caught the attention of everyone in the stadium with a neat shot at Brown's near post but the Robins number one was on hand to make a solid save. A cheeky effort from Russ Penn forced a save from Clarke and a yellow card for Newey following a foul on McGlashan gave Cheltenham hope that they could grab a win from this game as we approached the final ten minutes and Cheltenham could have had a penalty on 85 minutes when Harrison's effort appeared to be handballed by an Oxford defender. The referee's decision was met by a chorus of boos from the home support as he waved the protests away much to the frustration of the Robins.
You would be forgiven for thinking there may have been a red card in this game at any moment such was the temperament of both teams but Mark Yates looked to take control of the midfield by introducing Jason Taylor at the expense of David Noble on 90 minutes. Three minutes additional time was added onto this match and Jason Taylor's first action of the game was to thump a long range effort wide of goal. The minutes ticked by and neither side could find the spark they needed to win the game but the referee's whistle blew on a much more positive performance from Mark Yates' Robins. Another point and another step in the right direction.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 2-2 Oxford United
Cheltenham Town FC (4-4-2): Brown (GK); Lowe, Wilson, Elliott, Jombati; Penn (C), Noble (Taylor 90), Richards, McGlashan; Gornell, Harrison
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Deering, Kotwica, Vincent, Gillespie
Oxford United FC (4-4-1-1): Clarke (GK); Hunt, Mullins, Raynes, Newey; Davies (Smalley 59), Rose, Whing (C), Davies; Potter (Williams 74); Kitson
Subs not used: Jalal (GK), Bevans, O'Dowda, Marsh, Ruffels
Referee: Mr. David Phillips
Attendance: 3,906 (1346 visiting fans)
Star Man: Terry Gornell
Star Man: Terry Gornell