Full-time: Cambridge United 1, Robins 2Terry Gornell’s third goal in four days handed Cheltenham Town back-to-back wins at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium this evening.
The Robins scrapped and showed plenty of character to deservedly come out on top of a niggly contest in which they collected four yellow cards.
The two sides were level at the break, each producing a moment of quality in an otherwise scrappy first half to register a goal apiece.
Matt Richards was making his 60th consecutive League Two appearance and celebrated the milestone with a fine volley to hand the Robins an early advantage.
The home side responded mid-way through the first half when Crystal Palace loanee Kwesi Appiah squared the game at half-time, when both managers were sent to the stands for a confrontation as the two sides headed to the dressing rooms.
Cambridge, boasting League Two’s most potent strike force, went on to create a host of chances to get back into it but Cheltenham dug in and defended manfully to preserve their advantage.
They will travel with renewed confidence on Saturday when they hit the road again to visit Plymouth Argyle.
Yates made three changes to the side that beat Northampton Town at the weekend.
Club captain Matt Taylor is expected to be sidelined for six weeks after injuring his hamstring in that 3-2 victory and was replaced here by Jack Deaman.
Joe Hanks came in for Eusebio Bancessi while John Marquis returned after scoring his first league goal for the club three days ago at the expense of Byron Harrison. The on-loan striker went on to pick up his fifth booking of the campaign, for dissent, and will not be available for the trip to Devon on Saturday.
Trevor Carson deputised as captain as Yates reverted back to a 3-5-2 formation.
The game got underway in blustery conditions and it was Cambridge that fashioned the first opening, Richard Tait crossing for Appiah but the striker missed the chance.
The home side found themselves behind as early as the tenth minute courtesy of Richards’ sweetly struck volley, latching onto a looping defensive clearance after Craig Braham-Barrett had sent in a searching throw from the left.
Lee Vaughan forced Chris Dunn into a smart near post save in the 23rd minute, racing on to Terry Gornell’s ball before firing one in from a tight angle down the right.
Cambridge responded to the early setback by switching to a 3-5-2 formation and were rewarded two minutes later when Appiah snatched the equaliser.
Ryan Donaldson created the chance, lifting the ball over the centre halves and into the path of the striker who showed great skill to take the pace of the ball before confidently dispatching a low effort past Carson.
Cheltenham had three players carded during an increasingly bad-tempered first half which resulted in the two managers being separated on the whistle and being sent to the stand for the second period.
Marquis, Troy Brown and Vaughan were followed into the book by Richards shortly after the restart.
Tom Elliott had an early sight of goal, glancing Donaldson’s free-kick over the target.
However the Robins were back in front when Gornell met Marquis’ low ball from the left at the near post to guide it home.
It may have got a final touch from defender Josh Coulson, chasing in behind but it was definitely the Liverpudlian’s goal, his third in four days.
Cambridge chased the game, swapping their defensive ranks for attacking minded players to press for a late leveller but Cheltenham defended stoutly, with Jack Deaman in particular impressing.
The Robins were indebted to Trevor Carson, who made a wonderful save to deny Elliott from close range
Next Appiah clipped the bar with a long ranger before Richards made a decisive tackle to take the ball off Elliott’s toe, as he was about to release a shot.
Former Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick was presented with the final chance of the evening shortly after coming on as a late substitute, but he blazed over the bar.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (3-5-3): Carson (c); Brown, Deaman, Elliott; Vaughan, Hanks (Sterling-James 90), Taylor Richards, Braham-Barrett; Gornell (Harrison 90), Marquis. Subs not used: Gould (Gk), Haworth, Black, De Vita, Eusebio.
CAMBRIDGE UNITED (4-4-2): Dunn; Tait (Chadwick 82), Nelson, Coulson, Taylor (Dunk 62); Hughes, Naylor (Bird 74), Champion (c), Donaldson; Elliott, Appiah. Subs not used: Norris, Lanzoni, Lennon, Hurst.
REFEREE: P Miller
ATTENDANCE: 3,252 (118 from Cheltenham)