Full-time: Robins 2, Daggers 3
Cheltenham Town signed off from the 2013-14 campaign with another home defeat, this time by Dagenham & Redbridge courtesy of the odd goal in five.
Twice the Robins took the lead, through Steve Elliott and Matt Richards, but on both occasions the east Londoners were handed easy ways back into the contest before snatching a winner 23 minutes from time.
It was a disappointing way to round off a difficult season but on this evidence, the future is bright.
Boss Mark Yates rang the changes, making five changes after defeat by Rochdale and handing a number of the club’s youth prospects a chance to shine in the Gloucestershire sun.
Out following last week’s reverse at the Spotland Stadium went Scott Brown, Sam Deering, David Noble and Jamie Cureton.
In came goalkeeper Connor Roberts, midfielder Joe Hanks and Zack Kotwica, the promising winger, for their first starts at the Abbey Business Stadium alongside Harry Williams, who has scored almost 40 goals from a midfield position for Russell Milton’s young side.
Otherwise Michael Ihiekwe came in for Troy Brown, who missed out with an ankle injury.
Hanks and Williams had a hand in both their side’s goals before the break in a half that turned out to be a microcosm of the campaign that had gone before.
The Robins started brightly enough, and could have taken an early lead when Jombati found Byron Harrison in the opening exchanges but the striker, who cleaned up in the end-of-season awards beforehand, headed over.
And it was Elliott who made the breakthrough with 17 minutes on the clock, rising to meet Hanks’ perfect free-kick from the left to hand the Robins the lead.
But Dagenham were back on terms in the most unexpected way only four minutes later when Jombati inexplicably curled a 30-yard ball around Roberts from a position almost 30 yards from goal.
In a season characterised by a string of head-scratching moments, this one sat close to the top of the pile.
However Yates’ new look side stuck to their task and restored their lead three minutes later, Richards side-footing home from 18 yards after some good work down the right by Williams to find the midfielder.
Then another moment to forget, when Scott Doe levelled one minute before the break after arriving at the far post to stab home Billy Bingham’s free-kick. From Cheltenham’s point of view, it was a poor one to concede.
Despite not being called into action before the break, Roberts had conceded two.
The second half settled into a pedestrian pace and apart from a penalty claim, the first 20 minutes or so was relatively uneventful.
Craig Braham-Barrett was the aggrieved player, going down under a clumsy challenge by Gavin Hoyte but the referee remained unimpressed.
The east Londoners grabbed the winner with 23 minutes to play when Roberts pushed Hoyte’s 20-yard deflected strike onto the left upright, only for Adebayo Azeez to bundle home the loose ball from close range.
All three of the young outfield players were withdrawn by the end: Hanks replaced by David Noble, Williams by Jamie Cureton and Zotwica by Ashley Vincent.
And there was a late chance for Bingham from a free-kick after Roberts had lost the race to Lawson D’Ath’s through ball before upending substitute Joel Nouble.
However the wall stood its ground when the midfielder tried a low one.
Cheltenham ended the campaign with a ninth home reverse, knowing that their performances at home have undermined their challenge this time around.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-2-3-1):Roberts; Jombati, Ihiekwe, Elliott (c), Braham-Barrett; Hanks (Noble 70), Richards; McGlashan, Williams (Cureton 70), Kotwica (Vincent 80); Harrison. Subs not used: Brown (Gk), Gornell, Brundle, Bowen.
DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE (4-2-3-1): Seabright; Hoyte, Doe, Gayle, Connors; D’Ath, Bingham; Turgott (Nouble 79), Ogogo (c ), Elito (Shields 90); Azeez. Subs not used: Lewington (Gk), Wilkinson (Gayle 79), Ilesanmi, Dickson, Howell.
REFEREE: Tony Harrington
ATTENDANCE: 3,002 (184)