Full Time: Brewers 2, Robins 1
Defeat for the Robins kicked things off in 2014 after they dropped a hard worked lead away at Burton Albion who won by a scoreline of 2-1.
Goalkeeping heroics from Scott Brown had kept Burton Albion at bay in the first half but the Robins weren't without their threats with McGlashan having had a chance to strike before putting it over and there was also a headed chance for Troy Brown but the glove of Lyness denied the defender. It was the Robins that opened the scoring through Byron Harrison's first goal since November but a brace from substitute Dominic Knowles punished Mark Yates' side and took all three points from an entertaining clash here at the Pirelli Stadium.
2014 had not started well for Cheltenham Town but, for Burton Albion, their good form continued.
2014 began for Cheltenham Town here at the Pirelli Stadium today with the two previous fixtures at Bristol Rovers and at home to Chesterfield both postponed due to the troublesome weather. That gave Mark Yates the time to gather his thoughts after defeat to Mansfield but the December manager of the month was also keen to react to the disappointing loss with a performance more in tune with the 11 that had come before Mansfield. Three changes were made to the starting team with one forced in the form of David Noble. 'Nobby' had an injury so Richards deputised at the base of the diamond whilst Sam Deering came back into the side. Steve Elliott replaced the departing Connor Goldson and Kemar Roofe found himself on the point of the diamond with Cureton dropping to the bench with McGlashan linking up with Harrison in attack.
Brewers boss Gary Rowett's programme notes spoke of having to 'be at their best' to take points from the Robins in today's game and those were thoughts echoed by that of Mark Yates with both teams currently sitting in the top three of League Two's form table. Perhaps form stood for nothing these days in a division providing surprises week in and week out but both Albion and Cheltenham had every right to be happy with recent progress. Early efforts from McGurk and Weir threatened the Robins from afar in this match but neither hit their intended target but they soon had a golden opportunity with Elliott fouling McGurk on the edge of the area 10 minutes into the game. Fortunately for Cheltenham the freekick was wasted as it was thumped into the wall and Jombati was able to handle the rebound with a clearing header. It was good stuff from Burton in the opening stages but Cheltenham did grow into the game and it was often the case that Kemar Roofe was at the heart of that. Positive play from the West Brom loanee seemed to be the catalyst for the Robin when attacking the Burton half.
Perhaps the hosts should have been in front after just 23 minutes with Matty Palmer skimming the ball over Troy Brown's foot into the path of McGurk who was through on goal but the emerging body of Scott Brown was enough to make the block and spare the blushes of his defence. A yellow card for workhorse winger MacDonald was shown for a late foul on Deering before Kemar Roofe almost saw a speculative and ambitious strike drop inside the post. Superb control by the attacking midfielder was met with a 40 yard effort which Lyness could only watch as it sailed over his head before dropping just wide of the post. It would have been a sensational goal but down the other end Zander Diamond came close with a header only to be denied by the glove of Scott Brown tipping it over for a corner. The Burton captain came close again from the resulting corner with a header flying wide of goal but it wasn't long before Cheltenham were trying to stretch their opponents.
A yellow card for Jombati was shown for kicking the ball away after a decision went against him but the Robins nearly had something to celebrate eight minutes from the break when Sam Deering's through ball feel perfectly for Jermaine McGlashan but the winger turned striker didn't connect well with his effort and it was put over the bar. A big waste for the Robins because the shot really should have been on target and they almost regretted it with Burton almost capitalising minutes later. A Jimmy Phillips cross from the left wing dropped well for striker Billy Kee and his headed effort looked all but in before Scott Brown's flying torso flew across the goalmouth pushing the ball away from danger. An outstanding save from the Robins number one and one that kept the scores level at the break but not without input from Dean Lyness who also made a good save down the other end from the headed effort of Troy Brown.
Half Time: Burton Albion 0-0 Cheltenham Town
Not many teams would come to the Pirelli Stadium this season and take much back home in terms of points so you would be forgiven for thinking a draw would be a solid result for the Robins here but they weren't holding back for the point. An early effort for Kee was wide for Burton but McGlashan almost had the first goal of the game on 53 minutes after solid wing work by Jombati but his glancing effort took the ball over the bar. There was some good football being played by the Robins in the opening minutes of this game and they looked too much for the Brewers at times when the ball was kept on the floor. That said Burton were in no mood to give Cheltenham any hope in this game and it took a good block from the body of Troy Brown to deny McGurk a near post effort after Taylor had lost possession.
The noise levels were ramped up in the away end as Cheltenham produced several moments of positive play but that was nothing to the noise that erupted on 62 minutes. Jason Taylor pinched possession in the middle of the pitch before driving his way into the heart of the Burton defence before dispatching a neat pass to Harrison. The striker colelcted, turned, shot and scored in the bottom corner to send the travelling fans wild and put his side 1-0 up. That was his first goal since November and he continued his goalscoring form versus the Brewers. All that good work was almost done minutes later however when Billy Kee capitalised on Troy Brown's poor knock back to his goalkeeper and the shot came back off the inside of the past, across the goal line and back off the other post. Steve Elliott eventually cleared for the Robins but it was fortunate stuff for Mark Yates' men.
That luck soon ran out for the Robins and the substitution of Knowles for McGurk reaped rewards for Gary Rowett with the striker scoring his first ever goal for the Brewers. Ismail's wing play provided the cross across the face of goal and Knowles produced one fine tough to take it away from his marker before lashing it beyond Brown into the back of the net. Mark Yates' response was a positive one with Jamie Cureton being brought in place of Sam Deering but his first task was almost to watch Burton left back Damien McCrory's long range effort dip in over Scott Brown but once again he was on hand to tip it over the crossbar.
The Brewers were throwing everything at Cheltenham by the time we hit the final ten minutes of the game but the Robins for the moment were withstanding the pressure. Troy Brown made a wonderful tackle in his own area to deny Palmer but it wasn't long before the hosts had taken the lead with that man Knowles on the scoresheet again. Poor play from Braham-Barrett gifted space on the wing and Ismail's low cross finds Knowles and the striker slammed the ball in for 2-1. Devastating blow for the Robins and Mark Yates quickly sent Ashley Vincent on in an effort to try and claim something from the game. The winger replaced Roofe as Cheltenham went in search for an equaliser as three minutes additional time was signalled by the fourth official but Cheltenham were struggling to find an advantage and it soon became apparent that the hosts were in no mood to drop their lead.
The full time whistle blew for a Cheltenham loss despite efforts from Vincent and a lofted shot from Cureton but it was a hard one to swallow with Cheltenham having worked so hard for their only to throw it away. 2014 had not started how the Robins had hoped.
Full Time: Burton Albion 2-1 Cheltenham Town
Burton Albion FC (4-4-2): Lyness (GK); Edwards, Diamond, Sharps (C), McCrory; MacDonald (Ismail 63), Weir (Bell 84), Palmer, Phillips; McGurk (Knowles 69), Kee
Subs not used: Siegrist (GK), Hussey, Buxton, Bell, Holness
Cheltenham Town FC (4-4-2 Diamond): S Brown (GK); Jombati, T Brown, Elliott (C), Braham-Barrett; Richards, Taylor, Deering (Cureton 77), Roofe (Vincent 88); Harrison (Gornell 84), McGlashan
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Ihiekwe, Hanks, Kotwica
Referee: Mr. Sebastian Stockbridge
Attendance: 2,510 (TBC from Cheltenham)