The Robins under-18s were beaten 4-2 by Plymouth Argyle at the Cheltenham’s training ground in the EFL Youth Alliance South-West.
Despite two high-quality goals in each half from Fin Jenner and Jay Simpson respectively, it was the visitors who took the three points.
Argyle were the first to threaten either goal, as William Jenkins-Davies curled a free-kick just over Jude Franks’ crossbar.
The Robins began to create their own chances after this. First, Jenner controlled the ball well before spinning his marker and shooting low towards the corner. Argyle ‘keeper Zak Baker got down well to parry away before a clearance.
Cheltenham were quick to secure possession again, and Simpson wriggled free of a couple of defenders before trying to bend a shot into the far corner, only to be denied by the sprawling frame of Baker.
The visitors should have taken the lead when Caleb Roberts was picked out on the edge of the six-yard box by Taylor McMahon, but the forward could only side-foot the ball wide of the post.
Franks was called into action after a speculative effort from Jenkins-Davies, with the Robins ‘keeper able to fall on the ball to make a comfortable save.
Great work from the Robins’ skipper Tom Spencer prevented Henry Donovan from finding space to shoot inside the penalty area, moving across to make a firm but fair challenge to halt a dangerous run.
The visitors did however find a fortuitous breakthrough shortly afterwards through Jenkins-Davies, whose cross-cum-shot floated over Franks and into the net.
The Robins were not disheartened and responded immediately. Rio Spencer saw the run of Jenner and floated a ball over the Argyle defence and into the feet of his strike partner. With the ‘keeper rushing out to meet him, Jenner showed great composure to slot the ball into the net and bag his second goal in as many games.
Cheltenham nearly took the lead when Remy Bennison’s shot was spilled by Baker. Rio Spencer looked to capitalize, but his follow-up effort was blocked by the Argyle ‘keeper.
Just when Cheltenham were looking the more dominant team, Plymouth went ahead for the second time of the match. Once again it was Jenkins-Davies with the goal, this time rising highest to head the ball into the net.
Simpson tried to restore parity by making a jinking run past a number of Argyle players, before cutting onto his left foot to shoot. He managed to squeeze the ball through the legs of a defender, but Baker managed to get down to his left to make the save.
After half time, Argyle doubled their lead when substitute Joe Hatch dispossessed Tom Spencer and was able to run through on goal before slotting the ball past Franks at the near post.
The goal served as a wake-up call for the Robins and in particular Simpson. The midfielder took matters into his own hands with another spirited run into the penalty area, before threading the ball into the far corner to halve the deficit.
Jenkins-Davies, on a hat-trick, was next to go close for either side when he unleashed a fierce shot towards goal with his left foot through a crowd of players. In spectacular fashion, Franks managed into spring up and meet the ball with two strong hands, with his defenders able to mop up the danger.
Entering the final five minutes, the Robins were pushing harder for a leveller as Alfie Taylor drew another save out of Baker with a low right-footed shot from 20 yards.
However, Argyle managed to put the result beyond doubt by netting their fourth goal of the match. Jenkins-Davies’ corner was met at the back post by Oscar Hall, and his knockdown was tapped home by fellow centre-back Cole Gibbings.
Robins: Franks (GK), Sambu, T. Spencer (C), Wilkie, Walters (Taylor 63’), Lewis, Simpson, Wilcox, Jenner, R. Spencer (Olateju 85’), Bennison
Subs not used: Adams (GK), Tustin, Shumba
Next match: EFL Youth Alliance Cup - Bristol Rovers (H)