Full-time: Robins 0, Doncaster Rovers 1
Cheltenham Town slipped to their first defeat of the season at the hands of Doncaster Rovers at the LCI Rail Stadium.
Rovers dropped from League One in May and provided Gary Johnson’s side with their stiffest test to date, fully meriting the three points on a soggy afternoon in Gloucestershire.
Darren Ferguson’s side arrived in Gloucestershire without a win on their travels since January but claimed a maximum haul with a dominant performance.
The Robins had their moments but were fortunate to be on terms at the interval.
In the end the only goal of the afternoon arrived eight minutes after the restart when John Marquis, the former loanee who made 14 appearances under Mark Yates in 2014, netted his second goal in two games.
It was Cheltenham's first home reverse since September ahead of another long trip north to Newcastle on Tuesday night, when the manager will hope to see a vastly improved display from his side.
Boss Johnson made two changes to the side that came back from Carlisle with a point in midweek.
In came Koby Arthur, who returned to the club for a second spell on Thursday, with James Dayton who provided the assist for Harry Pell’s goal as second half substitute at Brunton Park.
Asa Hall and Jack Barthram dropped to the bench with Gary Johnson deploying a 4-4-2 formation, pairing Arthur with Danny Wright in attack.
Arthur was replaced by former Wrexham winger Jonny Smith with 15 minutes to play, who also joined the club from Bristol City two days ago.
Ferguson made a change of his own, replacing the injured Tyler Garratt with Cedric Evina at left back, and his side were quicker to adapt to the difficult conditions and made a bright start to the match.
Russell Griffiths was called into his first stop with 11 minutes on the clock to hold Andy Williams’ effort from the edge of the box.
The Everton man produced a better stop to prevent the same striker scoring five minutes later, diving to his left to push away his angled effort.
Daniel Parslow needed to clear his lines after some great play by Tommy Rowe down the left, who skipped into the area before rolling a dangerous cross into the six yard box.
Luckily for Cheltenham, the skipper was on hand to thump it clear.
Marquis led the line alongside Williams for the visitors and pulled his first effort of the match wide on the half-hour.
Cheltenham fashioned their first real chance of the game a moment later, against the run of play.
They broke down the middle through Harry Pell, who rolled one into the path of Dayton on the right.
The winger cut inside his marker but planted his effort the wrong side of the left upright.
Then four minutes before the interval Dayton found Billy Waters, who called Marko Marosi - the Doncaster number one - into a fine block to keep his side in it at the break.
The turning point in the game arrived shortly after the restart when Doncaster were fortunate not to concede a penalty, Joe Wright diving into a challenge on Billy Waters but the referee waved away the claims.
Then two minutes later Rovers took the lead when Marquis prodded home from close range to cap a good move down the right by skipper James Coppinger.
It was a blow because the Robins had begun to get a foothold in the game, and for the third time this season needed to come from behind.
Hall had replaced Easah Suliman at right back shortly before the goal, possibly because the Aston Villa loanee had collected a yellow card before the break.
Then Danny Whitehead was withdrawn, with James Jennings pressed into action at centre half with Jordan Cranston taking up position as a defensive midfielder.
O’Shaughnessy was called into a vital block to deny Rowe a shot on target shortly before Smith made his debut, on the left of midfield in a 3-4-3 shape in the closing stages.
Danny Wright earned a free-kick in a promising position six minutes from time, but Dayton and Jordan Cranston made a meal of the short routine to waste the opportunity.
There was final chance for Jennings deep into injury time, but his glancing header was comfortably held by Marosi.
At the other end substitute Liam Middleton could, and perhaps should have, put the seal on victory when he led a three-man charge with Griffiths stranded, but his poor pass to find Marquis took the momentum out of the move.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Griffiths; Suliman (Hall 52), Parslow (c), O’Shaughnessy, Cranston; Dayton, Pell, Whitehead (Jennings 66), Waters; Arthur (Smith 75), Wright. Subs not used: Barthram, Kitscha (Gk), Rowe, Lymn.
DONCASTER ROVERS (4-4-2): Marosi; Lund, Wright, Butler, Evina; Coppinger (c) (Middleton 87), Blair (Mandeville 80), Houghton, Rowe; Marquis, Williams. Subs not used: Etheridge (Gk), Calder, Pugh, Fielding, Amos.
REFEREE: M Heywood
ATTENDANCE: 2,923 (367 from Doncaster)