Full-time: Robins 2, Bristol Rovers 1
Cheltenham Town turned in another pleasing performance to edge out Bristol Rovers in the latest pre-season friendly at the World of Smile Stadium.
They donned the red and white for the first time this summer, and entertained the home faithful with another encouraging display of attacking football to record their fourth win from five outings with only games against Bishop's Cleeve (Monday), Cardiff City (Wednesday) and AFC Wimbledon (next Saturday) to follow in the next seven days.
Then season gets underway for real, on this evidence its shaping up to be an exciting campaign.
These two teams will be swapping places this term and it will be interesting to see how they adapt to life in their respective new divisions, with both sets of fans hopeful of closing in on success.
It was a second chance at Whaddon Road for supporters to get acquainted with Gary Johnson’s new-look side, and once again there was plenty to be positive about with 10 of the starters completing 90 minutes of action.
The manager stuck rigidly to the formation that has served him well to date, although he had to juggle his personnel for the visit of Darrell Clarke’s side.
Amari Morgan-Smith, with four goals to his name this summer, sat this one out with a slight knock, meaning Billy Waters took up a more advanced forward role alongside Danny Wright.
The diminutive striker was the star performer and caused plenty of problems, more than meriting his two goals before the interval.
It took the Robins only seven minutes to take the lead through a well worked move, Harry Pell heading Kyle Storer’s free-kick into the path of Waters who arrived at the near post to bundle home.
But Rovers levelled with a set piece of their own three minutes later, capitalising on Aaron Downes’ miscued clearance to send in a corner from the left. Tom Lockyer arrived unmarked and powered a header past Dillon Phillips to square the contest.
Cheltenham will need to defend better than that when the season starts in earnest, and the Rovers strike pairing of Nathan Blissett - nephew of Watford legend Luther, and Jake Gosling looked menacing at times but it was their side that were called in to the lion’s share of defending in the first half.
Waters went close to a second, but this time pulled his angled effort inches past the left upright.
There was a chance for Downes, but Steve Mildenhall saved well to his left to deny the Aussie. At the other end Ellis Harrison was close to notching a spectacular volley, but Phillips got behind it to hold.
Right back Jack Barthram opened up Rovers down the right and almost forced James Clarke into an own goal, his deflection flying a foot over the bar, and Wright headed over from the subsequent corner.
Cheltenham eventually grabbed their second of the afternoon six minutes before the break, again through Waters after another pleasing move which started when George McLennan won back possession at left back.
Storer picked up play, and rolled one to Rowe who found Waters with a measured ball over the top. He slipped his marker and made no mistake from the edge of the box, beating Mildenhall with a confident finish.
Bristol Rovers made four changes in the second half and the fresh legs provided a stiffer test for the Robins, who didn't create as much going forward.
Waters though had the opportunity to bag his hat-trick 10 minutes after the break, but he was denied from the spot by a fine one-handed save by Mildenhall to his right.
The former Crewe Alexandra man had earned the penalty himself, racing onto a Pell through ball only to be felled by the goalkeeper who did well to keep out an angled effort by Wright 25 minutes from time.
Asa Hall’s comeback continued without a problem when he made his third substitute appearance of the summer at the expense of Rowe, who performed well on the day.
Bristol Rovers were handed their chance to claim an unlikely equaliser 11 minutes from time when Storer was harshly adjudged to have infringed Chris Lines, the Pirates’ captain, but one-time trialist Matty Taylor saw his effort held by Phillips.
The Robins flagged as the game drew to a close, with Johnson handing 90 minutes of play to 10 of his starting line-up and it gave Rovers the impetus to chase a leveller.
Taylor was in the thick of it, seeing two efforts travel narrowly wide in the closing stages but Cheltenham hold firm to secure a useful victory with only two games of the summer programme remaining.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Phillips; Barthram, Parslow, Downes (c), McLennan; Pell, Storer, Munns, Rowe; Waters, Wright. Subs not used: Kitscha (Gk), Hall, Hanks, Williams, Dale, Bowen.
BRISTOL ROVERS (4-4-2): Mildenhall; Lockyer, Clarke, Parkes, Greenslade (Sinclair 46); Gosling, Clarke (Bodin 65), Lines, Montano (Leadbitter 46); Blissett (Taylor 46), Harrison.
REFEREE: M Pottage
ATTENDANCE: 1,100 (317 from Bristol)