Full-time: Blackpool 2, Robins 1
Cheltenham Town slipped to defeat despite taking an early lead at Blackpool in their Checkatrade Trophy group stage match at Bloomfield Road.
The controversially revamped competition got underway at this famous old venue in front of only 760 fans, 73 of which had made the long trip north from Gloucestershire.
The game was played out in an eerie, and at times bizarre atmosphere.
James Jennings had handed the Robins a narrow advantage at the interval, tapping home from close range with 20 minutes on the clock.
But the game turned on its head when half-time substitute Kyle Vassell scored twice in two minutes to ultimately hand his side the victory.
The Robins can count themselves a little unfortunate to not take anything from the tie after creating 22 chances on the night.
With a little more composure in front of goal, they could well have won.
They face Everton and Bolton Wanderers at the LCI Rail Stadium in the final two matches of their group.
Boss Gary Johnson made seven changes in total, deploying a 3-5-2 formation from the off.
Only Rob Dickie, Daniel Parslow, Daniel O’Shaughnessy and Harry Pell kept their places after Saturday’s 2-0 win against Crewe Alexandra at the weekend.
In came Calum Kitscha, Jack Barthram, Jennings, Daniel Whitehead, Amari Morgan-Smith, Koby Arthur and Jonny Smith.
The first half was an open affair with chances at both ends.
Morgan-Smith and Mark Yeates exchanged early chances, both narrowly missing the target from the edge of the box.
Mark Cullen had a fantastic opportunity to put the home side in front with 14 minutes played, heading over a cross from Yeates who had been teed up by a neat back heel by Armand Gnanduillet down the right.
Jennings though put the Robins in front six minutes later, meeting Pell’s low cross from the right to apply a side-footed finish and notch his first goal for the club.
It could have been two after a well-worked free-kick approaching the half-hour, but Arthur glanced his header wide.
Smith floated one over from distance, while at the other end Brad Potts called Kitchsa into his real stop of the night.
He preserved the lead with an even better save two minutes before the interval, diving to his right to claw away Pott’s defected effort from an angle down the right.
Jennings faced Myles Boney, the Blackpool goalkeeper, into a decent save immediately after half-time when Johnson made two changes to his side.
Hall and Cranston were pressed into action at the expense of Pell and O’Shaughnessy.
Smith had the next chance, but he couldn’t get enough on his effort to steer home Bertram’s low cross from the right.
The game was turned on its head in a two-minute spell a few moments later when substitute Kyle Vassel struck twice to hand his side the lead.
First he was picked out by Yeates from the left, and made no mistake with a decent finish from 12 yards.
Then he was found by Cullen from the opposite side, who was given plenty of time to roll a low ball across the face of goal to hand the striker an easy finish from three yards out.
Hall went close in the 69th minute when his long ranger was deflected inches wide of the left upright.
Danny Wright replaced Jennings 16 minutes from time and his first contribution was a defensive header that fell nicely for Vassal 16 yards from goal.
Fortunately for the Robins striker, his opposite number drilled the chance for a hattrick wide of the target.
He called Boney into a smart save 11 minutes from time with a volley from the edge of the box, but the Blackpool number one beat it away.
Next Hall tried his luck from distance, but his drive fizzed a yard wide.
Finally Amari Morgan-Smith had a shout for a late penalty when he appeared to be hauled down five minutes from time, but referee Ben Toner adjudged Will Aimson’s tackle fair and waved away the claims.
BLACKPOOL (4-4-2): Boney; Nolan, Aimson, Robertson, Higham; Potts (Vassell 46), Cain, Yeates (c), Daniel (Cameron 59); Gnandulliet (Payne 46), Cullen. Subs not used: Slocombe, Osayi-Samuel.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (3-5-2): Kitscha; O’Shaughnessy Cranston 46), Parslow (c), Dickie; Barthram, Smith, Pell (Hall 46), Whitehead, Jennings (Wright 74); Arthur, Morgan-SMith. Subs not used: Lovett (Gk), Downes, Waters, Rowe.
REFEREE: B Toner
ATTENDANCE: 760 (73 from Cheltenham)