Full-time: Robins 1, Pompey 1So it’s three matches, and three 1-1 draws for Paul Buckle’s side as Cheltenham Town stretched their unbeaten start to life under the new manager against Portsmouth this afternoon.
There were plenty of signs of progress in this entertaining contest but a clean sheet, and a victory remain elusive.
Omari Sterling-James celebrated his midweek contract extension with a fine goal approaching half-time, his first in the Football League.
But Pompey were back on terms within 11 minutes of the restart courtesy of a real festive cracker by Nigel Atangana.
The result ended a run of five away defeats for the travel sick 2008 FA Cup winner, while Cheltenham now prepare to travel to Exeter City on Boxing Day.
Boss Buckle made two changes to the side that came away from Mansfield with a share of the spoils last weekend, courtesy of Zack Kotwica’s stunning late leveller.
Back came Lee Vaughan from suspension to replace Jack Deaman, who had deputised for three games at right back, while Sterling-Jamess replaced Byron Harrison in attack.
Terry Gornell therefore led the line, with Sterling James supplying the Liverpudlian in front of a midfield four to start with, although Buckle matched the visitors’ 4-5-1 formation later on in the first half and finished the game using 4-4-2.
There were four changes for Pompey, who brought one of League Two’s weakest away records to Gloucestershire with just one win and four goals away from Fratton Park this term.
They went close to opening the scoring with ten minutes on the clock through Danny Hollands, who met Lee Holmes’ free-kick with an acrobatic effort that flew into the side netting.
There was another chance ten minutes later, Nigel Atangana exchanging passes with Jed Wallace before scuffing a shot with his unfavoured left foot, which bobbled a foot wide of the right post.
Then Gornell registered the Robins’ first effort of the afternoon, although Paul Jones in the Portsmouth goal was able to comfortably gather it.
Trevor Carson was drawn into an important stop ten minutes before the break to deny Jack Whatmough from distance.
At the other end, Gornell diverted wide a 20-yard free-kick by Matt Richards.
Then with the interval approaching, the first half’s sole moment of quality which led to the first goal of the afternoon in Cheltenham’s favour.
The move started out on the left, with Braham-Barrett but when the left back cut inside, Sterling James nicked it off his toe and darted towards goal.
The 21-year-old jinked past his marker and wrong-footed Jones in goal, measuring his effort inside the left upright to hand Cheltenham a half-time lead.
Pompey responded strongly after the restart and forced the home side into a period of sustained defending.
Sterling-James though was gifted a golden opening by Joe Devera, who slipped to present him with chance to beat Jones and double the lead but the Pompey number one got down well to save.
Almost immediately, the Robins were made to pay for the miss when Atangana crashed home a 20 yarder from the corner of the box, via the underside of the crossbar, to send over 1,077 travelling supporters wild in the Hazlewoods Stand.
The most frustrating part of the goal was the way in which impressive centre half Jack Whatmough had carried the ball from defence to attack under very little pressure to create the opportunity.
Sterling-James went close again, this time watching a deflected strike drop a couple of feet wide of the right post.
Then Matt Taylor, who was again fantastic at the back, was called into a perfect last-ditch tackle to superbly deny Ryan Taylor from close-range.
Harrison was pressed into action with 18 minutes remaining, replacing De Vita with Buckle pushing two into the front line in the closing stages.
Vaughan’s 18-yard effort was a whisker away from giving his side a late lead when it picked up a deflection, while Paul Robinson and Lee Holmes both missed good chances to snatch a rare win on the road for their side.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-1-1): Carson; Vaughan, Taylor (c), Brown, Braham-Barrett; Ferdinand, Hanks, Richards, De Vita (Harrison 72); Sterling-James; Gornell (Haworth 85). Subs not used: Gould (Gk), Deaman, Kotwica, Williams, Dale.
PORTSMOUTH (4–2-3-1): Jones; Devera, Robinson, Whatmough, Butler; Bean, Hollands (c); Wallace, Atangana (Barcham 84), Holmes; Taylor. Subs not used: Webster, Storey, Shorey, Westcarr, Poke (Gk), Fish.
REFEREE: F Graham
ATTENDANCE: 3,331 (1,077 from Portsmouth)