Cheltenham Town: Kotwica's fine strike completes comeback
Cheltenham Town Res 4 Bristol Rovers Res 3
CHELTENHAM Town Reserves hit back from three goals down to defeat Bristol Rovers at Seasons yesterday.
A first half hat-trick from former Gloucester City loan striker Mitch Harding put Rovers firmly in command, but Sam Deering pulled one back before half-time and Cheltenham showed a dramatic improvement after the break, with Zack Kotwica netting the winner in the 78th minute.
Robins boss Mark Yates named a strong side, with six professionals joined by members of Russell Milton's youth team.
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Steve Elliott started at the back, having been left out of the last three first team games.
Deering and Kotwica were joined by fellow professionals Ashley Vincent, David Noble and Terry Gornell in the starting line-up.
Rovers took the lead in the 11th minute when Alefe Santos' cross from the right was not dealt with by goalkeeper Harvey Rivers and Harding tapped into an empty net.
Rivers redeemed himself, touching a firm header from Pat Keary, but he was beaten again in the 15th minute.
Matt Gill's corner was nodded in by Harding, who was totally unmarked.
Rivers turned a shot from Shaquille Hunter over the bar in the 38th minute, but from the resulting corner Rovers extended their lead.
Gill delivered again and the ball fell for Harding, who flicked cleverly past Rivers for his hat-trick.
It was all Rovers and ex-Robins boss John Ward was enjoying what he was seeing from the sidelines, but Deering's strike lifted Cheltenham.
He let fly from 30 yards and his ferocious drive beat Conor Gough and bounced in off the underside of the crossbar in the 44th minute.
Cheltenham were a different side after the break and Elliott nodded in Noble's corner to make it 3-2 four minutes into the second half.
The outstanding Kotwica saw a far post header from Elliott Keighley's cross saved by Gough, but the winger was heavily involved in the leveller.
His skilful run and pass to Vincent resulted in a cross that was headed into the net by Gornell in the 58th minute.
Gornell and Noble were taken off with 20 minutes remaining, replaced by youth team pair Bobbie Dale and Adam Powell.
Kotwica scored the winner with a fine run and powerful finish in the 78th minute, underlining his potential.
There was still time for Seanan Clucas to fire a shot against the outside of the left post in the 90th minute, but Cheltenham deserved the win for their second half show.
Cheltenham Town Res: H Rivers; E Keightley, S Hamilton, S Elliott, J Bowen; A Vincent, S Deering, D Noble (A Powell 70), Z Kotwica; H Williams; T Gornell (B Dale 70).