Forest Green Rovers inflicted a first home defeat on Cheltenham Town with a 2-1 away victory to go top in League Two.
Forest Green opened up a two-goal advantage going into the break with Jack Aitchison’s third goal in as many games, before Elliott Frear netted his first since returning to The New Lawn.
Luke Varney, with his third in three games also, gave Cheltenham a lifeline in the 67th minute, but it wasn’t to be a repeat of the comeback from last year, as FGR played out the final 20 minutes well to claim all three points.
Head coach Mark Cooper made on change to the side that started in the win away to Morecambe, Jack Aitchison coming in after netting on the Tuesday night on the North West coast, coming in for James Morton, who dropped to the bench.
After a cagey start to the game, FGR lit the touch paper in the 15th minute through Celtic loanee Aitchison.
Matty Stevens skipped through the challenge of two on the edge of the box down the left before playing Aitchison into space in the box. He played a one-two with Liam Shephard, as both hunted for that gap, with the Scot finding just that angle to beat Scott Flinders.
The hosts responded well to going a goal behind and in the 19th minute, Chris Hussey, a constant danger down left, put a cross in that Joseph Mills was across well to clear.
The ball was fired straight back in and this time Liam Kitching was on hand at the back post with a great block to deny Sean Long at the far stick.
As the clock approached the half hour mark, a double chance fell the way of FGR which they were unable to capitalise on.
First, Shephard's cross for Ebou Adams was only scuffed by the midfielder at the near post before the ball worked its way back to Shephard, whose perfect cross is headed agonisingly wide by the free Frear.
Three minutes later and Cheltenham almost made Cooper’s side regret their miss when Ryan Broom was found in space in the box but his cross went through a host of players before Mills turned behind for a corner at the back post.
Like the same encounter last season, FGR were able to pull out to a two-goal advantage in the 40th minute.
A delightful ball over the top from Adams, that was inch perfect, found Frear running in behind, beating the offside trap, and he made no mistake this time, lifting the ball over Flinders to score his first since returning to the club.
In the 60th minute, Frear, clearly in the mood, looked to end a spell of home dominance at the start of the second period as he cut in off the left flank and let fly, aiming for the far, top corner, but it was agonisingly just over.
Three minutes later, and it was again Frear involved as he played a lovely one-two with Stevens, but the FGR front man looked to cut inside in the box and presented Cheltenham the chance to clear.
Cheltenham were able to halve the deficit with 23 minutes left on the clock when Farrend Rawson conceded a free-kick right on the edge of his own box.
Former FGR man Chris Clements stepped up and Joseph Wollacott couldn’t keep hold of it and Varney is the first to react, heading into an open goal.
Wollacott did better the next time he was called on, with seven minutes remaining, as Varney this time cut in off the left flank, but the Bristol City loanee got down to parry before FGR hurried the ball away from danger.
It was the last sniff of goal that Cheltenham had as FGR were able to control the dying minutes of the game to go top in League Two.
Cheltenham Town XI: Flinders, Long, Hussey, Tozer (c), Raglan (Ince 45’), Thomas, Broom, Reilly (Smith 65’), Doyle-Hayes (Clements 57’), Greaves, Varney
Unused subs: Boyle, Addai, Lloyd, Lovett
Forest Green Rovers XI: Wollacott, Shephard, Bernard, Rawson, Winchester, Stevens, Adams, Frear (Collins 76’), Kitching, Mills (c), Aitchison
Unused subs: Thomas, Morton, McGinley, Godwin-Malife, Mondal, Taylor
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 5,788 (944 away)
Man of the Match: Ebou Adams