A second half header from former Derby County defender Steve Elliott earned all three points for Cheltenham, with Paolo Di Canio tasting defeat as Swindon boss in his first competitive game on the road.
Despite a bright start Swindon went into the break all-square, with Elliott's powerful header proving enough to separate the sides after a tense affair at The Abbey Business Stadium. Paolo Di Canio made two changes to the line-up before the game with Alan McCormack and Nathan Thompson handed starting roles with Jonathan Smith and Michael Timlin dropping out of the squad. McCormack lined up alongside Risser in central midfield with Thompson and Ritchie on the flanks. The home side included former Town winger Kaid Mohamed in the starting eleven with no place for midfielder Michael Pook, who was left out of the matchday sixteen.
The opening exchanges saw Swindon take control of the game and manage several early attempts. First Billy Bodin powered a fine drive at Scott Brown from the edge of the box, before Oliver Risser drove a powerful effort just over moments later. Having already come close, Swindon should have opened the scoring on ten minutes. Good work from Risser won the ball back with Bodin crossing for Raffaele De Vita who side-footed wide from close range. With fifteen minutes played another effort fell to Swindon, with Alan McCormack driving a fine effort from the edge of the box which crashed against the right-hand post.
Town midfielder McCormack earned a yellow card with 25 minutes on the clock after a robust challenge on Russell Penn.
A mistake from Callum Kennedy at left-back let in Marlon Pack with the midfielder crossing for Kaid Mohamed whose shot drifted wide. The first booking of the game for the home side went to Pack after a lunge on McCormack with the Irishman able to return after treatment from Kate Cady.
Swindon continued to press with several more openings coming the way of Di Canio's men. Ritchie fired wide when well-placed inside the box before another powerful effort from Risser drifted wide. Just before the break the home side had goalkeeper Scott Brown to thank for a superb stop. De Vita brought a fine save from the stopper at close range right at the base of the left hand post. In the two added minutes of first half injury-time, Kennedy drove a free-kick into the Cheltenham wall with the scores level at the break. Both sides emerged unchanged for the second period and it was the home side who took the lead early in the second period. A 48th minute corner from Pack was met by the head of Steve Elliott who rose highest to head home past Phil Smith in the Swindon goal. Swindon manager Di Canio responded with his first change of the afternoon with Etienne Esajas coming on in place of Nathan Thompson seven minutes later. Ritchie switched flanks with Esajas on the left. After a period of possession from the home side, Swindon edged back into the affair with Aden Flint heading over a free-kick into the box from Joe Devera.
On 68 minutes Swindon had a penalty appeal waved away after Billy Bodin had been felled inside the box. The referee waved play on with the visitors left to continue their search for the leveller. The home side were reduced to ten men on 82 minutes with Spencer shown a straight red card after catching Flint with an elbow. The decision offered Swindon the chance to mount more pressure, but it was a huge defensive effort from the home side. Swindon pressed hard inside the closing stages but even after five minutes of added time, were unable to break through the resilient home defence. After the game Paolo Di Canio confirmed his intent to add to his squad before Tuesday's game with Dagenham & Redbridge, which will be another stern test for the new-look Swindon side.