Full-time: Robins 0, Shrewsbury Town 1In the end, Cheltenham Town were put out of their misery by a combination of defeat here, and a Hartlepool United victory in the north east.
They always realistically needed a favour from Exeter City at Victoria Park, but it didn’t come and although Gary Johnson’s men produced a determined performance, they could find a way past a miserly Shrewsbury Town side who were promoted to League One with this success.
They trailed to Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro’s goal at the break, but they had their chances throughout they simply could find the quality to convert them.
After 16 years memorable years in football’s elite, the Robins have joined Tranmere Rovers in the newly named National League.
Johnson made two changes to the side that limped to defeat at Northampton Town last weekend, replacing injured Matt Taylor with Jack Deaman and Kane Ferdinand with fit-again Wes Burns on the right.
With three loanees going back to their parent clubs in the week, the bench had a youthful feel about it with James Bowen, Bobbie Dale, Harry Williams and Jamal Lawrence all taking their places
Whaddon Road was split down the middle at kick-off. One half has decked in blue and yellow, packed with confident Shrewsbury fans who had travelled in noisy expectation.
The other was tense and subdued, riddled with nerves and doing its best to rouse the men in red and white stripes.
Despite trailing at the break their side took the game to Micky Mellon’s side and forced them into plenty of defending in the first half, and were unlucky not to have grabbed a goal of their own.
There were early sights of goal for Shrewsbury’s Bobby Grant, Ryan Woods, Connor Goldson, and for Troy Brown and Mathieu Manset but neither goalkeeper was really tested.
Carson was called into the first real save of the match to punch away a swerving strike by Grant from long range.
But with 20 minutes on the clock, the visitors took the lead with heavily deflected goal by Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
The big striker burst into the box down the inside right channel, and fired one off Durrell Berry’s knee and over Carson to grab the afternoon’s only goal from 12 yards.
Burns was causing plenty of problems and was a whisker away from squaring the match seven minutes later, meeting Richards’ good delivery from the left with a downward header, but it dropped a foot past the right post.
Next Carson was equal to a decent effort by Liam Lawrence.
Cheltenham had a couple of penalty shouts in the opening 45 minutes, but the first involving Zack Kotwica would have been harsh on Shrewsbury.
However the second one was closer, when Shaun Harrad grappled with Jermaine Grandson inside the box but referee Trevor Kettle adjudged the striker to have infringed the centre back.
On the stroke of half-time, Burns raced through the middle and brought about a smart stop by Jayson Leutwiler.
The first chance of the second half came about when Carson drew a finger tip save from Leutwiler with a huge downfield goal kick.
At the other end James Collins let fly from 20 yards, but Carson produced a routine save.
But Cheltenham began to really test Shrewsbury, and they showed signs of nerves as the match entered its last quarter.
They forced a series of corners, although they came to nothing, but a 70th minute free-kick by Harrad flew inches over the top left angle of the goal.
Kotwica’s 18-yard volley was bravely headed clear by Ellis, and Harrad’s header was cleared off the line with a fine one-handed save by Leutwiler, diving at full stretch to his left. The Shrewsbury number one then blocked Hanks’ follow-up.
Moments later the young midfielder’s inswinging free-kick caused all sorts of problems for the Shrewsbury defence, who again desperately cleared their lines.
Shrewsbury had a late chance, Tyrone Barnett cutting inside from the left before aiming one into the top right-hand corner but Carson flew to turn it around for a corner.
By that point the Robins had run out of steam, and the Football League adventure was over.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Carson; Berry, Brown (c), Deaman, Braham-Barrett; Burns, Sparrow (Hanks 68), Richards, Kotwica; Harrad, Manset (Sterling-James 61). Subs not used: Gould (Gk), Williams, Dale, Bowen, Lawrence.
SHREWSBURY TOWN (4-4-2): Leutwiler; Ellis, Goldson, Grandison, Demetriou; Gayle, Lawrence (c), Woods, Grant; Akpa Akpro (Barnett 71), Collins (Mangan 71). Subs not used: Vernon, Halstead (Gk), Clark, Mandron, Smith.
REFEREE: T Kettle
ATTEANDANCE: 5,117 (1,705 from Shrewsbury)