Cheltenham Town: Late goals sink Robins
A LATE collapse saw 80 minutes of good work from Cheltenham Town quickly ruined by Rochdale. Boss Mark Yates was left to rue his decision to stick rather than twist as a triple substitution from Rochdale manager Keith Hill helped them overturn the deficit and snatch a win in the second minute of stoppage time.
In contrast, Yates left all 11 players who started the match on for the duration, but in the end they were chasing shadows.
It was a bitterly disappointing end to the match for Cheltenham and the home crowd were left wondering why there was no response from the bench when Rochdale began to dominate.
It is difficult not to feel some sympathy for Yates, who set his team up in exactly the same was as he had at Dagenham and Redbridge in the 2-1 success a week earlier.
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The narrow midfield four, with Matt Richards in front of the back four and Jermaine McGlashan advanced, has functioned to a certain extent, but the team is still lacking fluidity and very little was created for Jamie Cureton and Byron Harrison to feed off.
It did, however, stifle Rochdale's passing game and the first half was particularly uneventful, with neither goalkeeper called into serious action.
Cheltenham were made to work extremely hard by Rochdale, who had won six of their previous seven to charge towards the top of the League Two table. They finished the half on top, but Scott Brown remained a spectator.
The heavens opened during the half-time break, with the second half starting under torrential rain.
Cheltenham took the lead after 62 minutes and it was no surprise it came from a Richards set piece.
His deliveries asked questions of the Rochdale defence throughout, but the rest of the crossing was a major disappointment as Cureton's first 90 minute appearance largely passed him by.
After Ian Henderson tripped Craig Braham-Barrett and earned himself a yellow card, Richards' free-kick was cleared as far as Cureton.
He lofted a clever ball towards the far post, where McGlashan touched it back for Troy Brown to force over the line.
It was the powerful defender's first goal since his summer move from Aldershot Town and Yates' 200th match in charge of Cheltenham looked set to end with a much-needed three points.
But eight minutes later, Hill made drastic changes, adding three sets of fresh legs and Cheltenham looked weary.
One of the substitutes, George Donnelly, set up Henderson for the first with a deep cross to the far post which was headed almost straight at Scott Brown, but it went through him and trickled into the net in the 81st minute.
Henderson had already gone close with a header and shot, with Cheltenham struggling to contain the left winger.
Cheltenham switched to a 4-3-3 formation, with Harrison and McGlashan either side of Cureton and less than a minute later skipper Russ Penn wasted a glorious opportunity to restore Cheltenham's lead.
The ball sat up kindly for him on the edge of the box, but he lashed over the bar and Rochdale soon had Cheltenham pinned back in their defensive third.
The winner was a perfectly measured chip from Henderson over Scott Brown, but the way the ball found its way to him was desperately poor from Cheltenham's point of view, with panic leading to confusion.
Right-back Sido Jombati, who had looked somewhere near back at his best in the last two matches, was culpable for much of the late woe, but lack of communication all-round was also to blame.
The end result was perhaps the most agonising setback Cheltenham have suffered this season and another failure at home to Morecambe tomorrow night is certain to further stoke the ire of the Whaddon Road faithful, who have come to expect much better.
CHELTENHAM TOWN: S Brown; S Jombati, T Brown, K Lowe, C Braham-Barrett; R Penn, M Richards, J McGlashan, J Taylor; J Cureton, B Harrison. Subs not used: S Elliott, S Deering, T Gornell, C Roberts, Z Kotwica, A Vincent, D Noble.
ROCHDALE: J Lillis; J Rafferty, O Lancashire, J O'Connell, M Rose; P Vincenti (A Tutte 70), J Allen (B Hery 70), M Lund G Dicker, I Henderson; G Cummins (G Donnelly 70). Subs not used: R Bennett, A Eastham, R Thomson, J Bunney.
REFEREE: G Ward.
ATTENDANCE: 2,887 (244 away).
STAR MAN: Troy Brown.