The Robins were beaten 1-0 on Boxing Day by league leaders Plymouth Argyle, in front of a record crowd since the club’s return to the EFL in 2016.
5975 fans packed the Completely-Suzuki Stadium, but Morgan Whittaker’s late strike stole all three points for the visitors.
Wade Elliott made one change to the previous league game, with Charlie Raglan replacing Caleb Taylor in defence, whilst Will Ferry and Taylor Perry made long-awaited returns to the match day squad with places on the bench.
The first clear sight of goal came for the Robins when Alfie May cut in from the left wing, and in trademark style tried to band a shot into the far corner of the net, but narrowly beat Michael Cooper’s post.
After Dan Nlundulu was felled towards the corner of the penalty area, May had an opportunity to deliver a dangerous free-kick. Running into the six-yard box, Charlie Raglan threw himself at the cross, but the ball skimmed the top his head and bounced away harmlessly.
Morgan Whittaker had the visitor’s first dangerous moment, attempting a shot from about 20 yards out that skimmed the top of the net.
A Plymouth breakaway then had the Robins scrambling. A brilliant covering tackle from Elliot Bonds sent the ball into the path of Niall Ennis, who looked to bend the ball past Southwood, but Raglan stood firm in the way of the shot to block.
Late in the half, Ben Williams’ in-swinging free-kick was met at the back post by Lewis Freestone, but he could only loop his header over the crossbar, and the scores would remain level at the half time.
Danny Mayor gave the Robins an early scare in the second period, shifting the ball onto his right foot before trying to curl one into the far corner. Southwood was beaten, but so was the post.
Plymouth’s counterattack continued to be troublesome for the Robins, and when Ennis was played through on the right-hand side of the penalty area, it looked for all money that he would slot the ball into the net. However, Southwood pulled off a miraculous save, diving to his right and crucially hold onto the ball with several Argyle players lurking.
A nippy run from Alfie May set Cheltenham up for a good opportunity. He slid the ball across the edge of the penalty area, with Nlundulu leaving it for James Olayinka. The midfielder took a touch, before lashing a shot towards the bottom corner, but Cooper was equal to it, beating the ball away to safety.
Taylor Perry’s first task after his introduction to the match was to deliver a corner from the right-hand side. Long flicked the ball on at the near post, and Nlundulu tried to swing his leg at it, but his effort was blocked by Cooper.
Argyle then took the lead in the 78th minute. Morgan Whittaker picked up the ball just inside the Robins half and drove forwards. With the Robins defenders backing off him, Whittaker unleashed a shot low towards the near post. The pace on the strike was too much for Southwood and the ball nestled into the bottom corner.
The Robins had just over a quarter of an hour to find an equaliser and threw men forward accordingly. Shots from both Charlie Brown and Alfie May took wicked deflections, but landed forutn
Robins: Southwood (GK), Long © (Taylor 82’), Raglan, Freestone, Broom (Brown 82’), Williams (Ferry 71’), Sercombe, Bonds (Jackson 71’), Olayinka (Perry 71’), May, Nlundulu
Unused: MacDonald (GK), Norton
Plymouth: Cooper (GK), Gillesphey, Scarr, Butcher (Houghton 61’), Edwards, Mayor (Roberts 82’), Ennis (Cosgrove 61’), Mumba (Wilson 86’), Whittaker, Randall (Hardie 61’), Lonwijk
Unused: Burton (GK), Jenkins Davies
Attendance: 5975 (1490 away)
Referee: T Nield