Cheltenham hosted Poole Town knowing a win over their opponents would see them leapfrog them into fifth place in the Women’s Premier League - but it was the visitors who eventually emerged 2-0 winners.
Manager Alex Cheal welcomed back Ella Hitchcox from illness and included new signing Eve Edmondson. And the early exchanges fell to Cheltenham as they tried to release Sally Butterfield and Hitchcox up front.
However, it was Poole that started to get a foothold in the game and chances came and went before Butterfield again went close, only to be denied by a fantastic save.
The second half would pose different threats for Cheltenham with the sun in their eyes. But the home team still started brightly with chances for Hitchcox and Louise Fensome.
It was Poole who struck first with a corner that found its way through the box and was tapped in at the back post. Goal number two quickly followed from another corner that was powerfully headed home despite the best efforts of Bec Panniers in goal.
Cheltenham had given themselves a mountain to climb with 20 minutes remaining but the introduction of Charlie Rowlands and Ellie Briscoe lifted them.
The duo were pivotal in creating the home team’s best chance of the game as they combined to set Butterfield through. Her first shot was parried back into her path only for her rebound effort to go over the bar.
Manager Alex Cheal said: “It was a frustrating day for us as too many players didn’t perform to the levels we expect. We touched on doing the basics right before the game and at half-time, but we didn’t do it enough.
“We were unable to get our influential players involved in the game and for that we didn’t deserve to win the game. It is a missed opportunity for us as we had the chance to climb the table, but we have to go and pick up points elsewhere now.
“We are a couple of months into this project and we have a lot still to work on. Things won’t change overnight and it’s all a learning process for these players but we will get stronger as the weeks pass.”
Cheltenham Town Ladies: Panniers; Knuckey, Morris, Brown-Wealls, Walters; Dance, Davies (Rowlands 64), Fensome, Hateley, Berry (Briscoe 64), Butterfield..
Caption: Lilac Jackson, with mum Leila, meets players before the game at Petersfield Park
The match raised £350 for Lilac’s Little Legs campaign - an amazing effort and Lilac braved the cold throughout to watch the game. Mayor Klary Sudbury, who was at the game with Lilac, said: “I used to play in the park is the 1970s in this area, it was great coming back and watching ladies football. I thought Cheltenham played well, but Poole were slightly the stronger team.”