Our most recent meeting with Saturday's visitors Cheltenham Town was back in August and was settled by a Mohamed Eisa’s strike seven minutes before half-time.
The Robins ran out 2-1 winners last season when the Reds were slow out of the blocks and Billy Waters raced clear to finish past Glenn Morris after only four minutes. Jack Munns doubled the advantage just after the hour when he volleyed home, but Kaby Djalo scored the goal of the match with a long-range effort 12 minutes from time. The hosts weathered some late pressure to hold on.
The rematch came on Good Friday. Our home form was on the slide with only one win in the final three-and-a-half months. This one ended goalless and was a generally uninspiring affair but the visitors had enough chances to win and hit the woodwork twice.
They had been the first meetings since a League Cup clash in August 2013. Nicky Adams’ brace and Gary Alexander’s strike put us 3-1 up before goals from Terry Gornell and Byron Harrison sent the tie into extra-time. To complete the turnaround, Harrison won it in the 114th minute.
Our only League win over today’s opponents came in February 2012 when it required a herculean effort from fans to clear an estimated 120 tonnes of snow to get the game on. They got their reward in a mesmerising attacking display as a brace from Tyrone Barnett and a double from Sanchez Watt gave the Reds a 4-2 win.
The reverse meeting that season resulted in our first defeat in 35 league matches when a nightmare first-half saw us go in 3-0 down. An improved second-half showing followed after Steve Evans made three changes at the interval, but Matt Tubbs’ penalty was our only reply. For those two games and the cup tie in 2013 our opponents were managed by future Reds boss Mark Yates.
There had been a gap of 15 seasons between our previous encounters, back in our days together in the Southern League Premier Division. Cheltenham were a strong outfit in the five years following their relegation from the Conference, but we enjoyed a good record at Whaddon Road. Goals from Craig Whitington and Jack Dineen were not enough to prevent a 3-2 loss in January 1993, but eight months later our excellent start to the season continued as Whitington and two from Paul Fishenden sealed a superb 3-1 victory.
A year later, we endured a difficult start to the campaign, but scored an unlikely 2-1 triumph thanks to two first-half strikes from Neil Pearson, and it was another new striker that gave us the lead in November 1995 - a trademark leap and thumping header from David Speedie, but this time we had to settle for a 1-1 draw. Our final trip there during this spell saw yet another victory in October 1996. Again, we had not made a great start with only three wins from ten, but sprung a surprise as a great first-half display saw us leading 2-0 thanks to Steve Restarick and Gavin Geddes. As in previous visits, we had to withstand plenty of second-half pressure but held on to win 2-1.
We only lost one of the matches here in Sussex as well, but it was a crucial one in early February 1994 as the Robins inflicted our first home league loss (1-0) in nearly 18 months in a promotion six-pointer. More significantly, it sparked a run of one point from five home midweek matches to severely dent our promotion hopes. A season earlier, we had shared a goalless draw, then in April 1995 we were finishing the campaign strongly while the visitors were still hoping to catch eventual champions Hednesford Town. We took the lead very late on through Raphael Meade, but the Robins equalised soon after.
The opening day of the 1995-96 season saw Colin Pates’ new-look side – including Speedie among others – make a dream start with a stunning 4-1 triumph. The first-half was goalless but Speedie pulled the strings as a pair from debutant Landy Sakala were added to by Dineen and Billy Hudson and we ran out 4-1 winners.
It was another goal-fest in December 1996. We had won only one of our previous nine games since winning the reverse fixture but Joff Vansittart had rejoined on loan from Dover and he netted along with Steve Restarick and Paul Adam also on target. Cheltenham finished that season second but were promoted to the Conference because champions Gresley Rovers’ ground was not up to standard.
Pictured: Gary Alexander is congratulated after scoring against Cheltenham in a League Cup tie in August 2013 which Reds lost 4-3 after going 3-1 up.