A goal in first half stoppage time from Jon Nurse was not enough to prevent the Daggers slipping to another frustrating away defeat at The Abbey Business Stadium on Saturday, writes Ricky Butler.
''I've no complaints,'' said manager John Still afterwards. ''I actually thought they were better than us today. I didn't feel the performance from us was good enough, and I've said that to them. That doesn't mean they did not try hard enough, it was just too many mistakes, too many errors, that has cost us in the end.''
Having ended a run of five straight league defeats with victory over Crewe last weekend, Still's side travelled to Gloucestershire in good spirits. In a bid to solve the goal-scoring problems that have blighted their season so far, Still gave Queens Park Rangers on-loan striker Troy Hewitt his first start for the club, while Abu Ogogo returned at right back after suffering a broken wrist. Meanwhile ex-Dagger Marlon Pack was relishing the opportunity to play against one of his former clubs.
Despite not winning away from home since late August, the Daggers started well and were close to grabbing a 4th minute lead. Gavin Tomlin whipped in a dangerous ball from the left but Nurse could not keep his header down and it failed to really trouble Scott Brown in the home goal.
However, it was the visitors who had a lucky escape ten minutes later, when only an offside flag prevented the lively James Spencer giving the Robins the lead, after he had turned home a neat flick from Sido Jombati from close range.
But it was the Daggers turn to curse their luck just past the quarter hour mark. Damian Scannell and Ollie Lee combined well down the left to create an opening for Tomlin, but he was left frustrated as his powerful effort come back off the angle of post and crossbar.
Still's side were now growing into the match and twice Hewitt came close to giving them the initiative. He was only just unable to get on the end of a 27th minute cross from Nurse, before then curling an effort straight into the grateful arms of Brown five minutes later.
However, the hosts continued to look dangerous on the break. Chris Lewington, who has been in great form between the sticks for the Daggers this season, caught the eye again with fine stops to deny both Spencer and Luke Summerfield, before the hosts did grab the lead they had been threatening five minutes before the break. Mark Arber fouled Pack 30 yards from goal, and Everton-loanee Luke Garbutt's free kick was glanced home by defender Alan Bennett from close range - his first goal for Cheltenham.
The Robins now had their tails up and they were close to adding a second three minutes later. Spencer and the late-arriving Summerfield were both inches away from getting the vital touch to a delightful ball in from Garbutt, and had they done so it may well have been all over for Still's men.
But then, in the second minute of first half stoppage time, they managed to drag themselves level. Damian Scannell beat two men in a thrilling run down the left and the ball fell kindly for Nurse to turn home from close range at the second attempt.
Despite scoring at what is generally considered to be a crucial time, the visitors were unable to take advantage in the early stages of the second period, and in fact it was the Robins who regained the lead four minutes after the resumption. Spencer played a neat one-two with Pack before bursting through to drill a shot past Lewington from 12 yards.
The Daggers were now forced onto the back foot and Lewington had to be alert to push an effort from Garbutt onto the post, before then denying Spencer a second with a marvellous fingertip save.
With time ticking down Still withdrew Hewitt and threw on young Brian Woodall, in a bid to freshen up his attack, while Billy Bingham then replaced Peter Gain, possibly to save him from a second yellow card.
The Daggers threw everything forward in the closing stages in search of a second equalizer, but the nearest they came was a low shot on the turn from Tomlin that was tipped around the post by Brown three minutes from time. Then, deep into injury time, an effort from Woodall rolled just the wrong side of the post and Still's men faced another long trip home with nothing but frustration to show for their efforts.
''It's easy to say we are not scoring enough, or creating enough chances, but we have to keep clean sheets,'' said Still. ''We are a new team, we haven't got everyone we want playing in midfield or up front. But in defence we have. We have got the back four we want so we have got to defend better, absolutely. For me that is the key,'' he continued.
''It was poor goal to concede (from the free kick) but we got ourselves back into it. We then concede again early in the second half and, apart from the last five or ten minutes, we never really recovered from that. I'm disappointed for Chris (Lewington) for the goal. He has been magnificent for us but he only a young goalkeeper and ge will make mistakes. We have to live with that.''
''We haven't got enough creativity in the team at the moment. We are not recognising when to pass and when to cross. We were tight and compact in the first half, but after going behind again we became disjointed as we chased the game.''
''Look, I could stand here and make a million excuses,'' he said. '' We have to change the team every week because of injuries. We haven't had all our best players available. We have had 6 players have to have operations this season, we have had players out for a long time. I could make a million excuses but at the end of the day we are not playing well enough consistently, and as the manager I take full responsibility for that.''
Attendance; 2,814 (135 away)