A Tyrone Barnett goal gave United a point at Cheltenham today and made it four games unbeaten for the U's. Having trailed to a Byron Harrison goal United might easily have come away with all three points but were denied by an inspired performance by home keeper Trevor Carson who made a succession of saves to keep the U's at bay.
As you would expect, Cheltenham started at a million miles an hour under new boss Paul Buckle and the U’s were grateful to Ryan Clarke for some safe handling in the first ten minutes as crosses fizzed across his box and the Robins tried their luck from the edge of the area.
Having survived that, United then stepped on the gas and had a spell when they should certainly have taken the lead. First they had a glorious chance to go ahead on 15 minutes as a swift break gave them three against two. Danny Hylton drew his man and then sent Barnett in to his right but the striker’s well-struck effort was well saved by home keeper Carson. Three minutes later and it was the impressive Joe Riley who almost gave the U’s the lead with a vicious dipping free kick from the edge of the box that beat Carson all ends up but bounced away off the underside of the bar. The irrepressible Alfie Potter then burst past his man and crossed before smashing the ball into the arms of Carson when a Cheltenham defender returned it to him.
With the outstanding Andy Whing winning everything in midfield and Danny Rose at the heart of everything, United were looking comfortable and might easily have had the lead just before the break when first the always-excellent Tareiq Holmes-Dennis burst forward and sent in a swerving effort that flew perhaps a yard over and then Hylton tried his luck from similar range only for Carson to fumble the ball to safety.
United had been on top but Buckle will have demanded more from his new men and on 52 they were in front as a cross from the right from Jack Deaman was flicked neatly home at the near post by the dangerous Byron Harrison to make it 1-0.
That was slightly harsh on the U’s but rather than let their heads go down they instead raised their game and forced their way back into contention within nine minutes. The intensity went up a notch, Whing won the ball once more and an astute through ball sent Barnett running free in the right channel. One touch took him into the area, the next was a low drive through the legs of Carson and United were level. Having had to be patient with the emergence of James Roberts in the last couple of games this was the perfect return from Barnett, who led the line intelligently, brought others into play and when his chance came took it at a crucial time in the match.
It was now a real local derby with both sides going for the win. Ryan Clarke needed to be at his best to push away a Harrison piledriver on 68 minutes but that was surpassed at the other end on 72 when Carson somehow got enough of a glove on an O'Dowda effort from eight yards out to tip the ball into the 774 disbelieving away fans behind his goal.
It was to be the Cheltenham keeper's day. He made another smart double save on 71 to twice deny the marauding Riley, then confirmed his man-of the-match status by sticking out his right leg to get a toe to Hylton's goalbound shot as it arrowed towards the bottom left corner of the net.
Some days you don't create enough chances on others you come up against an inspired keeper. This afternoon it was the latter rather than wasteful finishing that cost United all three points.
Att: 3,002 Away: 774
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures Darrell Fisher, Stats by OPTA
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