Full-time: Robins 0, Newport County 1Simply put, this was a miserable end to a forgettable year.
Former Robin Chris Zebroski’s first half goal consigned Cheltenham Town to their second defeat in three days at Whaddon Road.
But like the performance at Exeter City, Paul Buckle will wonder how his young side didn’t come away with something, this time against Newport County, given the amount of chances they produced over 90 minutes.
As it happened, the Welsh side became the first to notch a first-half goal against the Robins under the new regime and in the end, it was enough to lift the Welsh side up to fifth place.
The reverse stretches the Robins' unwelcome winless run to nine league games and they finished the year in 19th position, just three points above the trapdoor.
Frustratingly the club have not now kept a clean sheet since they went top of the table at Morecambe back in September.
With important matches to come at Oxford United and Hartlepool United it’s vital that Buckle rediscovers a winning formula, but performances like this will greatly encourage the new boss that progress is being made, and that an elusive first win is only around the corner.
He made three changes to the side defeated in Devon on Boxing Day.
In came Jack Deaman, replacing hamstrung skipper Matt Taylor alongside Troy Brown in central defence, and Zack Kotwica who took the place of the injured Joe Hanks.
Harry Williams was handed his first start of the campaign, with Raffaele De Vita leaving the club yesterday (December 27) and was paired in attack with Terry Gornell.
There was no shortage of action in the first half and Cheltenham created enough chances to carry a healthy lead into the break.
They started well enough, Gornell going close to the opening goal as early as the second minute when his effort form 12 yards came back off the right post, but it rolled agonisingly across the six-yard area where Omari Sterling-James was unable to bundle home the loose ball.
But at the other end the front pair of former Robins Zebroski and Shaun Jeffers had already handed the new centre half pairing a difficult time, registering a couple of decent efforts before Zebroski grabbed the only goal of the game with 11 minutes on the clock.
He picked up play on the edge of the box, turned and found the bottom left corner with a low angled drive.
It was the first goal that Buckle’s side had conceded in the first half of a game since his arrival at the club and his side were fortunate not to have shipped another by the mid-way point of the first half.
Jeffers missed one, while Zebroski drew vital interventions from Trevor Carson and Troy Brown.
Cheltenham though responded well to going a goal down and went on to fashion a host of chances to claim an equaliser.
Sterling-James fired over from distance as Cheltenham rallied, and almost found the net with a heavily deflected cross from the right a moment later.
Williams also found himself in a couple of good positions but the young striker was wayward with his finishing.
Next Gornell was presented with another great opportunity, racing onto Kotwica’s ball only to be denied by Jamie Stephens in the Newport goal.
Stephens was then sharp to parry a fine drive by Sterling-James six minutes before the interval, while Kane Ferdinand’s shot was blocked and Kotwica’s volley flashed a foot wide.
Newport shuffled their pack at the interval, bringing on striker Rene Howe at the expense of Regan Poole and switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Zebroski on the left for the second period.
Adam Chapman shaved the left upright with a deflected drive 10 minutes after the restart, then Matt Richards was called into a goal line clearance to prevent Ismail Yakubu heading home a second for the visitors.
Zebroski brought about a smart save by Carson while at the other end, Sterling-James’ swerving effort from 18 yards flew past the post with the Newport number one beaten.
Justin Edinburgh, the Newport boss, reinforced his midfield with his substitution of Jeffers for Max Porter with a little under 20 minutes remaining.
Buckle made his first change with four minutes remaining, swapping Gornell for Bobbie Dale to make his first appearance this season.
There was a late chance for Williams, created by Dale, who skipped away from the Newport defence in injury time to open up shooting chance but Darren Jones produced a fine challenge to take the ball away from the young striker at the vital moment in the last action of 2014.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Carson; Vaughan, Deaman, Brown (c), Braham-Barrett; Omari Sterling-James, Ferdinand, Richards, Kotwica; Williams, Gornell (Dale 86). Subs not used: Harrison, Haworth, Gould (Gk), Black, Bowen, Reynolds.
NEWPORT COUNTY (3-5-2): Stephens, Jones, Poole (Howe 46), Yakubu; Jackson, Byrne, Klukowski, Chapman, Sandell (c); Jeffers (Porter 71), Zebroski. Subs not used: Pidgeley (Gk), Minshull, Flynn, Jolley, Crow.
REFEREE: I Williamson
ATTENDANCE: 3,417 (1,094 from Newport)