Two late goals left United and Cheltenham with a point apiece tonight. Ryan Williams looked to have given United a priceless win but the U's could only lead for six minutes before the evergreen Jamie Cureton levelled it.
The first ten minutes were cagey as the sides tested each other out. United welcomed Michael Raynes into the defence, allowing Johnny Mullins to step into midfield alongside the recalled Josh Ruffels. Up front David Connolly replaced the injured Dave Kitson as expected and the Republic of Ireland international striker was at the heart of much of United’s early approach play, linking things well and feeding clever balls in behind the Cheltenham defence.
After that opening spell United started to exert pressure and James Constable thumped a 20th-minute header just wide as Connolly again turned provider.
The best chance of the half again came from the head of Constable as he rose at the far post on 28 to meet a swinging Hunt free kick from the right. United’s top scorer was unselfish and nodded the ball across the six-yard box but nobody could convert the chance despite a shot eventually coming in from Connolly beyond the far post.
Smalley’s touch was too heavy on 35 as Constable powered through the middle of the park and set him free, the striker’s touch taking the ball too close to the onrushing Scott Brown in the Cheltenham goal and then right on half time Constable thrashed a 20-yard shot just over as United ended the half on top.
The second half was a similar story with the Yellows dominating possession but never truly testing visiting keeper Scott Brown. Ruffels flashed a shot over, there was plenty of decent approach play but the Robins defence was solid for the first hour, while a couple of shots at the other end bracketed Ryan Clarke’s goal.
Those were warnings but on 76 Cheltenham almost found the breakthrough as Matt Richards drilled in a free kick and the ever-young Jamie Cureton flicked a header at goal. It took yet another superb save from
the exemplary Clarke to somehow touch the ball on to the post and keep United level. Two minutes later it looked to have been even more crucial.
The hard-running Williams had already shown his danger but on 78 minutes he fought his way through two challenges after a one-two with Connolly opened a path to goal. Cheltenham boss Mark Yates will be unimpressed by the challenges but Williams was through and as Brown went to ground he rolled a shot past him and into the bottom-left corner of the net to make it 1-0 with his second goal in two games.
Surely United were going to hold on? Unfortunately nobody had told Cureton and when a Richards free kick wasn't dealt with, Cureton punished them with a shot through a crowd of players that snaked in at the far post.
Back came the Yellows as they laid siege to the Cheltenham goal. Constable had the whole home crowd on its feet to salute goal 106 as he blasted at goal from eight yards but Terry Gornell somehow got his body in the way to lift the shot over the bar. Williams smashed in a shot that another desperate defender blocked on the line.
Somehow the ball just refused to roll their way and in the end a point had to do. Credit to the stubborn Robins but now comes the serious part of the season. Ten games left, four at home six away. United's destiny is in their own hands.
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