AFC Wimbledon’s new manager Neal Ardley took his bow in front of the largest crowd of the season so far, but he could not deliver a swish of his magic wand and a first-day League Two victory.
More than 4,400 fans filled Kingsmeadow to welcome the new messiah and his assistant Neil Cox, but it was a case of the same old story as the Dons came up just short.
After falling 2-0 behind to Cheltenham, Byron Harrison’s late consolation goal set up a frenetic finale which almost ended with a remarkable come back when another Harrison header clipped the crossbar.
At 1-0 down, Jack Midson had hit the crossbar with a wonderfully weighted and looping header, and the striker should have done better in the second half when he hesitated while through one-on-one with the Cheltenham keeper, and the chance was snuffed out.
Ardley had only two days with the team prior to Saturday’s match and he had said beforehand that while time was short, he would be getting his wand out to hopefully conjure up some magic against Cheltenham.
However, despite the result, Ardley was in positive mood, saying: “There was nothing in the game. I thought for 20 minutes we were very nervous and the ball was a bit of a hot potato. We tried to get a bit of bravery into the lads and get them to calm down.
“It was only after going 1-0 down that we did that and for the last 20 minutes of the first half we took the game to Cheltenham.
“It’s a cliché, but when you get on top of a game and you get your chances it can turn a game and we had three or four good ones in that spell and we didn’t take them.”
He added: “We looked like we carried a threat and can score goals, so we’ll take the positives but at the same time not ignoring the negatives."
The Dons travel to Fleetwood this weekend.