AFTER the inevitable jeers rang around the Energy Check County Ground upon the final whistle of Swindon Town’s heavy home humbling at the hands of Cheltenham Town on Saturday, there seemed a genuine sense of sensible acceptance over a sad situation.

The Swindon supporters had every right to feel aggrieved at what they had witnessed throughout a sub-standard 90 minutes, which culminated in a crushing defeat to a local rival, the ending of the team’s five-match winning run at home and their fall out of the League Two play-off places.

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Alan McLoughlin offered his services to player-manager Matthew Taylor. 

But a brief chorus of vocal displeasure was promptly replaced by lengthy applause as Town’s interim manager, Matt Taylor, circled the pitch immediately after the conclusion of a disappointing first game in charge.

Taylor was eager to reciprocate the appreciation from the stands towards his efforts in what is clearly a difficult situation and made a point of stressing that gratitude in his post-match media duties too.

In truth, the home side were undone by a shoddy 10-minute spell either side of the interval.

Jake Andrews’ fabulous free-kick put Cheltenham in front just before the break and Mohamed Eisa promptly doubled the lead shortly after the restart after slack play at the back from the hosts. Eisa then added his second for the visitors in the closing stages to seal Swindon’s fate.

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Matthew Taylor 

Town have been rocked on home turf plenty of times before this season – with similar three-goal defeats to Crawley Town and Barnet back at the start of the campaign particularly chastising.

On those occasions, the suffering Swindon supporters were justified in making their grievances known, but on Saturday, they rightly saw the bigger picture.

None of the fault can truly lie at Taylor’s door and the experienced defender should be commended for his admirable efforts amidst the unfortunate and unforeseen departure of David Flitcroft as Town manager at the start of the month.

You can only play the hand you have been dealt - and for Taylor and Town right now, there isn’t a lot to work with.

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Stuart Moore dives to his right

Tasked with steadying the ship and keeping Town’s promotion ambition on track in the wake of that shock resignation, Taylor had his hands tied from the very beginning.

Injuries and suspensions left the squad down to the bare bones against Cheltenham and although Taylor stuck with the preferred 3-5-2 formation of his predecessor, five changes were made to the team that started the 2-1 defeat at Chesterfield in Swindon’s previous outing a fortnight ago.

The most high profile of those came in goal as Stuart Moore was handed a surprise debut after Reice Charles-Cook was only fit enough to be named on the bench due to a wrist injury.

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James Dunne looks to get the ball under control 

Chris Robertson came into the back three following skipper Olly Lancashire’s injury against the Spireites, with Timi Elsnik and James Dunne also recalled in midfield to replace Kellan Gordon and Ollie Banks – the latter serving the first of a three-match ban after being sent off at the Proact Stadium.

Top scorer Luke Norris also returned up front at the expense of Paul Mullin, while on-loan Sheffield United full-back Chris Hussey returned to the matchday squad for the first time since September following a groin injury and was named on the bench.

Swindon looked to get on the front foot early on and put pressure on the Cheltenham goal with a couple of corners in quick succession, the last of which saw visiting keeper Scott Flinders claiming a looped effort from Norris underneath his own crossbar.

Cheltenham saw their first sight of goal after 10 minutes when the ball was flicked into the Swindon box following a long throw but Kevin Dawson failed to react in time and Moore was able to gather in the home goal.

The hosts promptly launched a rapid counter attack and Norris saw a powerful low effort blocked in the box by a flurry of Cheltenham bodies before the same player sent the follow-up high over the bar.

Swindon were opened up by some quick Cheltenham passing after 15 minutes and were fortunate not to concede a penalty when Taylor Moore went down in the box under pressure from Taylor’s challenge but referee Tom Nield waved away the visitors’ vocal appeals.

The game stagnated for a while as Cheltenham enjoyed a prolonged spell of dominance in the Town half without ever creating a telling chance.

The most notable moment came just after the half-hour mark when Swindon midfielder Dunne was briefly shown a red card for a foul on Joe Morrell just outside the box, with Neild instantly correcting his decision and downgrading it to a booking.

With a poor first half seemingly destined to end goalless, the visitors suddenly got their noses in front four minutes before the break.

Robertson knocked Eisa over on edge of box and Andrews -no stranger to Wiltshire having previously enjoyed a successful loan spell at Chippenham Town - curled a fine free-kick around the wall and into top left corner with home keeper Moore stranded.

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Rollin Menayese battles it out  

Having failed to create a genuine chance throughout the opening 45 minutes, Swindon’s best effort came in first-half stoppage time as a Elsnik snap-shot deflected onto the bar after a Taylor corner but the opportunity was snuffed out when Keshi Anderson bundled over Flinders while attempting to pounce on the loose ball.

Cheltenham were the first to threaten after the restart as home keeper Moore came for a deep Andrews free-kick but did not claim with it, with the ball pinging around the Swindon box before eventually ricocheting over the top.

The visitors did have a second goal just five minutes into the second period when Taylor Moore sent a long ball up field and Eisa pounced, brushing off the attentions of Ben Purkiss too easily before lifting the ball over the advancing home goalkeeper and into the net.

Cheltenham were now well on top and Carl Winchester stung the palms of Stuart Moore with a rasping drive from distance.

Eisa’s eyes lit up at the thought of a second goal just before the hour mark as he latched onto another ball into the home box but this time Moore was equal to the effort to push it away.

Swindon finally called Flinders back into action after 65 minutes but the visiting keeper was hardly troubled in comfortably gathering a tame Marc Richards effort.

However, momentum promptly swung back Cheltenham’s way and they made it 3-0 after 72 minutes after more sloppy play from the hosts.

Substitute Sanmi Odelusi pounced on a loose Dunne pass midway inside the visitors’ half and promptly carried the ball 70 metres into the Swindon box, cutting inside Rollin Menayese in the process, before teeing up Eisa to finish from close range.

A flurry of late substitutions disrupted the play as the game headed towards its climax and the hosts limped towards the finish line without offering even the slightest hope of a least a consolation goal for their suffering supporters to take some solace from.