Cheltenham Town: Still much to work on after first league win
DEFENSIVE solidity made a welcome return as Cheltenham Town picked up their first League Two victory of the season at Accrington Stanley.
Any success on the road can be viewed as a pleasing afternoon's work, particularly after a winless opening to the season.
There is, however, clearly still much to work on for manager Mark Yates as he bids to mastermind a third successive promotion push.
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The first thing he simply had to do was shore up the backline and Cheltenham succeeded in achieving this against an Accrington side who had also taken only one point from their first three fixtures.
Jason Taylor's inclusion in midfield, protecting the back four, added extra insurance to a defence that had shipped 10 goals in the opening four matches.
There was also a change at right-back, with the dependable Keith Lowe handed his first start of the campaign in place of Sido Jombati.
Jermaine McGlashan and Byron Harrison were dropped to the bench, with ex-Stanley striker Terry Gornell joining Steven Gillespie up front.
The majority of Cheltenham's preparation for the long trip north involved remaining solid, compact and hard to break down.
The fact that Scott Brown was not called into evasive action at any point during the 90 minutes tells its own story as Accrington were restricted to hopeful long-range efforts.
Taylor did a sterling job in his ideal role, with Russ Penn and Sam Deering more advanced either side of him and Matt Richards at the top of the diamond-shaped midfield.
At times the new narrower shape worked well, while at others it was obviously a work in progress as Cheltenham struggled to create much in the final third themselves.
It was a lifeless first half, with neither goalkeeper called into a save and it was not pleasant to watch, but Yates would have been pleased with his team's efforts to cut out the sloppy errors that had cost them so many goals in the opening matches.
Steve Elliott stood out at the back with a dominant display as he and summer signing Troy Brown enjoyed their first shut-out as a central defensive pairing.
Cheltenham often relied on left-back Craig Braham-Barrett to provide width and he spent plenty of time in the opposition half without ever managing to deliver a killer ball.
The match livened up slightly after the break, with Gillespie shooting wide of the near post after Braham-Barrett and Richards combined.
Gornell teed up Deering for a shot in a promising position near the edge of the penalty area, but he lifted it over the bar.
The first meaningful shot on target arrived in the 55th minute when Taylor drew a save from Ian Dunbavin, before Laurence Wilson cut out a misplaced pass from Taylor and tried his luck from distance, but it was easy for Scott Brown.
The all-important breakthrough came in the 71st minute from an unlikely but fitting source.
Braham-Barrett was challenged by Peter Murphy in what looked like a hard but fair challenge.
Richards' delivery from the resulting free-kick was not dealt with by Accrington and after Gornell nodded it against a defender, it fell kindly for Taylor and he scored with a deflected finish.
It was his first Cheltenham goal in his 15th start and exactly the sort of match for which Yates brought him in from Rotherham United on a two-and-a-half year deal in January.
Taylor's challenge now is to show he is worthy of a regular starting place, while Yates must find the balance between defensive frugality and attacking creativity, but this performance has provided him with a welcome base from which to build.
Cheltenham could and should have added a second late on, with Deering bursting into the box and going for goal when the unmarked Taylor was screaming for a square pass, but the diminutive midfielder's wait for a Robins goal goes on.
He is the luxury creative talent to Taylor's uncompromising presence and after a bright pre-season and encouraging start to his second season, Deering must now add end product.
There is enough attacking threat in Yates' squad, but it is now down to the midfield to supply the quality they need to mount a rapid climb up the division.
Accrington Stanley: I Dunbavin; P Murphy, T Aldred, R Atkinson, M Liddle; P Mingoia (J Gray 66), L Joyce, M Richardson (W Hatfield 82), L Wilson; S McCartan (M Carver 74), K Naismith. Subs not used: L Clark, J Windass, B Wilson.
Cheltenham Town: S Brown; K Lowe, T Brown, S Elliott, C Braham-Barrett; R Penn, J Taylor, M Richards, S Deering; S Gillespie (B Harrison 61), T Gornell (J McGlashan 85). Subs not used: A Vincent, C Roberts, R Inniss, Z Kotwica, S Jombati.
Referee: S Mathieson
Attendance: 1,224 (115 away)
Star Man: Jason Taylor