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Stevenage 2-1 Cheltenham Town: Robins relegated to League Two after spirited defeat

Written by on April 27, 2024

Darrell Clarke was appointed at Cheltenham after their poor run at the start of the season

Cheltenham Town have been relegated from League One after three seasons in the third tier following a spirited 2-1 defeat away to Stevenage on the final day of the season.

The Robins have been in the bottom four since August after a disastrous start to the campaign, when they equalled an English Football League record by not scoring a goal in their first 11 games.

Cheltenham beat Peterborough 2-0 at home on Tuesday to take their fight to the final day of the campaign, however they had to beat Stevenage and hope that Burton or Cambridge above them dropped points to avoid relegation.

While Burton were beaten 3-0 by Fleetwood, Darrell Clarke’s Cheltenham could not get the needed three points that would have secured their status in the division as Nick Freeman struck a 90th minute winner for the hosts.

Goalkeeper Luke Southwood has been a steady presence in goal for Cheltenham this season and did well to keep his side in the match during the first 20 minutes, producing back-to-back saves to keep out Elliot List’s strike and then Nesta Guinness-Walker’s rebound.

But Cheltenham were struck a big blow when Southwood – who has played every minute in the league – was stretchered off less than 10 minutes later after a lengthy stoppage.

The Robins enjoyed more of the shots and possession but Stevenage scored in stoppage time at the end of the first-half, when Eliott Bonds tripped Elliott List in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, with Kane Hemmings converting the penalty.

Yet Matty Taylor gave the Robins hope by drawing Cheltenham level early in the second-half, heading in a Will Ferry corner.

Cheltenham knew another goal would keep them up and they pushed hard for the winner with James Olayinka forcing an excellent save and Tom Bradbury seeing a header cleared off the line, while Hemmings and Freeman had excellent chances for Stevenage.

However Freeman struck the devastating blow in the 90th minute against the run of play for Stevenage, as the ball cut in from the right hand side and he slotted it into the bottom corner.

A side lacking in goalscorers

Matty Taylor celebrates his goal for Cheltenham against Stevenage
Matty Taylor has scored three goals in the last four games for Cheltenham

Cheltenham won promotion in 2021 under manager Michael Duff and this campaign marked only the second time in their history that they had played for three successive seasons in the third tier.

The Robins, who finished 15th and 16th in the previous two seasons, lost their director of football, recruitment analyst and a first-team coach during the summer of 2023, as well as star striker Alfie May.

Talisman May was always going to be difficult to replace after scoring 43 league goals in the previous two campaigns – he is also incidentally the division’s top scorer at new club Charlton this season – but his absence was instantly felt.

The goalless Robins picked up only one point across their first 11 games before manager Wade Elliott left in September and Darrell Clarke was appointed.

Clarke set a target of 15 wins to ensure their survival. Results improved significantly, with five wins and four draws in 12 games from October to the end of 2023 moving them off the bottom of the table.

However, goals have remained a problem, with their tally of 41 scored among the lowest in the league, and with midfielder Liam Sercombe tellingly being their top scorer.

A run of four straight losses at a crucial point of the campaign in April made the task more difficult and, while a win against Peterborough gave Cheltenham hope, it was too late to save them from the drop.

Line-ups

Stevenage

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 12MacGillivray
  • 6Sweeney
  • 15Vancooten
  • 5Piergianni
  • 14Smith
  • 24ThompsonBooked at 74mins
  • 23Thompson
  • 22Guinness-Walker
  • 11RobertsBooked at 50minsSubstituted forSmithat 90+4′minutes
  • 9ListSubstituted forFreemanat 54′minutes
  • 29HemmingsSubstituted forPressleyat 68′minutes

Substitutes

  • 2Wildin
  • 4Thompson
  • 10Freeman
  • 18White
  • 20Pressley
  • 41Mitchell
  • 45Smith

Cheltenham

Formation 3-5-2

  • 1SouthwoodSubstituted forPardingtonat 27′minutes
  • 2Long
  • 33Davies
  • 4Bradbury
  • 7KinsellaSubstituted forThomasat 45′minutesBooked at 51mins
  • 23BondsSubstituted forOlayinkaat 68′minutes
  • 34Pett
  • 8Sercombe
  • 15FerrySubstituted forShepherdat 82′minutesBooked at 84mins
  • 9Taylor
  • 26NuttallBooked at 45minsSubstituted forKeenaat 68′minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Williams
  • 10Keena
  • 14Shepherd
  • 17Olayinka
  • 21Pardington
  • 25Harrop
  • 27Thomas
Referee:
Lee Swabey
Attendance:
5,441

Live Text

  1. Match ends, Stevenage 2, Cheltenham Town 1.

  2. Second Half ends, Stevenage 2, Cheltenham Town 1.

  3. Attempt missed. Liam Sercombe (Cheltenham Town) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Matty Taylor.

  4. Attempt missed. Aaron Pressley (Stevenage) with an attempt from very close range is just a bit too high. Assisted by Harrison Smith.

  5. Attempt blocked. Harrison Smith (Stevenage) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is blocked. Assisted by Kane Smith.

  6. Substitution, Stevenage. Harrison Smith replaces Jordan Roberts.

  7. Foul by James Olayinka (Cheltenham Town).

  8. Jordan Roberts (Stevenage) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  9. Matty Taylor (Cheltenham Town) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  10. Foul by Louis Thompson (Stevenage).

  11. Attempt missed. Liam Sercombe (Cheltenham Town) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Matty Taylor.

  12. Goal! Stevenage 2, Cheltenham Town 1. Nick Freeman (Stevenage) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Jordan Roberts following a corner.

  13. Corner, Stevenage. Conceded by Sean Long.

  14. Attempt blocked. Jordan Roberts (Stevenage) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Louis Thompson.

  15. Foul by Tom Pett (Cheltenham Town).

  16. Jordan Roberts (Stevenage) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  17. Hand ball by Aaron Pressley (Stevenage).

  18. Jack Shepherd (Cheltenham Town) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  19. Foul by Jack Shepherd (Cheltenham Town).

  20. Nick Freeman (Stevenage) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

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