Full-time: Oxford United 1, Robins 2Cheltenham Town came from behind to record their first win under Paul Buckle with this impressive result at Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium.
It was the perfect way to start the new year after the disappointment of defeat by Newport County in the closing days of 2014.
The Robins were dogged and resolute here and snatched two goals in the final minutes of the first half to claim all the points.
Buckle had brought in three promising youngsters from Liverpool on New Year’s Day, and they made an instant impact. On this evidence, it looks a fine bit of business.
It didn’t all go to plan with Bristol City loanee Wes Burns opening the scoring with his second goal against the Robins this season.
But livewire Jack Dunn levelled the match with a superb goal before Kevin Stewart struck in first half injury time.
Oxford had their moments but the Robins were well-drilled and kept the home side at bay.
Next up is the long trip north to Hartlepool United and Cheltenham will travel in confidence to the bottom side on the back of this success.
Buckle threw his new acquisitions into his starting eleven, making three changes to the side that ended 2014 with defeat against Newport County.
Defensive midfielder Stewart made four appearances for League One side Crewe Alexandra towards the end of the 2012-13 campaign and started here in place of Zack Kotwica.
Meanwhile Jack Deaman was replaced by Lloyd Jones, the former Plymouth Argyle youth player who joined the Reds when he was 15. The central defender made his Football League debut, as did Dunn in attack at the expense of Harry Williams.
Jones, aged 19, was the first player to go into the book when he was harshly cautioned for tripping Danny Hylton 16 minutes in but the young defender went on to deliver an assured performance on his first senior start.
Dunn, the 20-year-old attacker, made a lively start to life in the red and white stripes and gave the Oxford back three plenty to think about all afternoon.
There were a couple of early saves for Trevor Carson to to make, to deny James Roberts and Chey Dunkley, but Cheltenham were well organised and had restricted the home side until they opened the scoring in the 20th minute through Burns.
The Bristol City loanee had already scored a goal against the Robins for his parent club earlier in the season, in the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Whaddon Road.
James Roberts started the move down the Oxford left after Stewart had given it away on the half way line, racing into space before shooting against Lee Vaughan from 16 yards.
The ball squirmed out to the right, where Danny Hyton picked up play and lifted the ball back into the middle for Burns to head home.
It was a disappointing goal to concede after a promising start. Buckle had shuffled his midfield moments before, pushing Omari Sterling-James out to the left and Ferdinand out to the right but it seemed to backfire and Oxford took full advantage.
But Cheltenham were back on terms five minutes before the break, Dunn notching his first goal for the club in emphatic style.
The exciting young striker was teed up by Vaughan down the right and beat Clarke at his near post with a fine finish from an angle.
Then on the stroke of half time, Buckle’s side were in front thanks to Stewart, who saw the Oxford number one allow his curler to squirm under his body.
The midfielder was found by Matt Richards 20 yards from goal and handed the Robins the lead at the interval.
Dunn went close twice immediately after the restart but the Robins had plenty of defending to do in the opening 15 minutes of the second half.
Tareiq Holmes-Dennis drove one low from the corner of the box but Hylton directed it wide, then Josh Ruffels’ free-kick drifted over the target from 20 yards and
Joe Hanks replaced Sterling-James in the 57th minute and Buckle deployed a diamond shape, giving his side the advantage in midfield but initially the game opened up with chances at both ends.
Dunn raced on to Richards’ threaded ball and rounded Clarke only to see his effort from a tight angle cleared.
At the other end Carson produced a superb block to prevent Hylton who tricked his way into a shooting position down the left.
Vaughan was then called into a vital goal-line clearance with eight minutes left after Campbell had met Meades’ corner from the left.
Dunn showed his menace again in the closing moments with a decent solo effort, but Clarke saved.
The Robins make the long trip north next weekend, so home fans will have to wait until the visit of Morecambe on Friday week (16 January) to see for themselves Buckle's new triumvirate of exciting young talent.
OXFORD UNITED (3-4-3): Clarke; Mullins, Dunkley, Wright (c); Meades, Whing (Rose 72), Ruffels, Holmes-Dennis (O’Dowda 82); Burns (Campbell 75), Hylton, Roberts. Subs not used: Collins, Crocombe (Gk), Long, Ashby.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Carson; Vaughan, Jones, Brown, Braham-Barrett; Sterling-James (Hanks 57), Ferdinand (Deaman 90), Stewart, Richards; Dunn, Gornell (Williams 79). Subs not used: Gould (Gk), Harrison, Haworth, Kotwica.
REFEREE: K Hill
ATTENDANCE: 5,360 (499 from Cheltenham)