EVESHAM United continued their encouraging build-up to the new season with a well deserved 1-1 draw at home to League Two neighbours Cheltenham Town at a hot and sunny Spiers & Hartwell Jubilee Stadium on Saturday.
Only a late equaliser by Andy Haworth prevented an Evesham victory against Mark Yates’ side, whose visit came hot on the heels of last Thursday’s 2-1 home defeat to Conference North outfit Gloucester City.
On Saturday Evesham – who were playing their third friendly in five days – made the early running and shocked the visitors by taking an eighth minute lead when Kevin Slack’s deep corner was played back into the box by Nathan Jackson to prolific striker Ashley Edenborough, who opened his account in United colours by glancing a well directed header beyond Town stopper Ben McNamara.
Cheltenham defender Jack Deamer then prevented Lance Smith from extending United’s lead when he cleared off the line after the Evesham frontman had rounded the advancing McNamara.
Duncan Culley responded for Cheltenham by pulling his shot narrowly wide following good work by the dangerous Zack Kotwica and then more silky skills by Kotwica resulted in the outstanding Kevin Sawyer making smart saves in quick succession from Jamie Cureton and James Bowen.
Play switched to the other end where Slack and Smith combined well before setting up Edenborough who tested McNamara with a powerful strike from 18 yards.
Sawyer excelled himself in the second half with brilliant saves to push aside strikes by Kotwica, Matt Richards and substitute Jermaine Hylton as the full-timers pressed for an equaliser.
After a period of possession, however, the leveller did arrive deep into stoppage time when Lee Vaughan sprinted down the right and crossed low to the back post where the unmarked Haworth tapped in from close range.
The Robins also looked useful in their encounter against Gloucester City and took the lead through Jared Wilson from the penalty spot in the first half, only for Elliott Chamberlain and Adam Mann to reply for the Tigers after the break.
Gloucester enjoyed the greater possession early on with Nat Jarvis, Will Morford and Sam Avery all going close to giving the visitors the lead, before United keeper Kevin Sawyer then produced a superb save from Jarvis, only for the flag to be raised for offside anyway.
Evesham, however, raced up the other end to take a 27th minute lead when Edenborough burst into the Gloucester box, only to be pulled down in full flight by Avery, and Wilson stepped up to confidently beat Mike Green from the penalty spot.
With half time approaching the United defence were caught napping but once again the alert Sawyer came to the hosts’ rescue with another flying save to deny Scott Wilson.
Two minutes into the second half Chamberlain levelled the score with a clinical finish from 12 yards, but Evesham responded by enjoying a spell of pressure that saw Gloucester defender Matt Williams clear off the line from Sean Wood and the energetic Marcus Jackson fizz a shot inches over.
However, it was City who got the deciding goal with 13 minutes to go when substitute Mann beat replacement stopper Josh Goddard with a fine strike that entered the net via an upright.
Near the end Ben Evans was a whisker away from levelling for United when his lob shaved the Gloucester crossbar with keeper Green beaten.
EVESHAM have been drawn away to fellow Southern League Division One South & West side Stratford Town in the Red Insure Cup first round and the game is scheduled for Tuesday, October 14.