YOU could put on a brave face and say we didn’t want to be in the competition anyway – but that didn’t stop this one hurting.

Amari Morgan-Smith’s 90th-minute penalty spelled the end of Wanderers’ winning run, and sent a side with ample first-team experience spinning out in the worst way possible.

Phil Parkinson’s face at the final whistle said it all. He had sent on Zach Clough, Sammy Ameobi and Max Clayton with 10 minutes to go in an effort to win the game outright – but could only watch as Robins sub Morgan-Smith picked himself up for a penalty he had won to slam home his first goal in a calendar year.

The Wanderers boss even exchanged angry words with his opposite number Gary Johnson as the two managers walked on to the pitch at the end.

Just nine years ago the Whites earned one of the most famous results in the club’s history as Ricardo Gardner and Kevin Davies put the ball in the Bayern Munich net at the Allianz Arena, cementing their legacy forever.

Some fans may wonder how less than a decade later their club should be competing at Whaddon Road. Supporters with longer memories may recall that on the same day 30 years ago Bolton were taking on Newport County in the same division. Football moves in cycles.

Enthusiasm for the Checkatrade Trophy has hardly been high but with Parkinson keen to keep his whole squad on the boil, there were plenty of players out on the sodden Whaddon Road pitch with a point to prove.

Some, James Henry in particular, furthered their cause. Others, Keshi Anderson and Dean Moxey in particular, did not.

Ben Alnwick – who proved the ultimate villain on the night – had actually done nothing wrong until the bitter end when he conceded the penalty.

The first half proved as miserable as the weather. Cheltenham’s front two of Danny Wright and Billy Waters were game, and the League Two side defended stubbornly when they had to.

Wanderers were lucky not to fall behind early on when Alnwick scrambled Jordan Cranston’s long-range effort round his post for a corner.

Wright got his head to the set piece but Chris Taylor was back on the line to hook the ball away before it skidded over the line.

Taylor then got himself in the right place at the other end, stooping to head Lawrie Wilson’s low cross towards goal, only for keeper Calum Kitscha to get in the way.

The wet conditions made life uncomfortable for the Whites’ back line at times and both David Wheater and Moxey were guilty of failing to clear their lines in the first half, putting their side under pressure in the process.

Thankfully, Alnwick, in for only his second start since signing from Peterborough United, was looking sharp, doing what he had to with an air of confidence you don’t always see from a so-called second-choice stopper.

As the half wore on, Liam Trotter and Josh Vela started to win their battles in midfield and secure a bit more possession.

Anderson sent a header over the bar and Henry put a bouncing volley well wide but just as Parkinson will have been finalising his half-time thoughts, along came his side’s best chance of the half.

Taylor, who looked as likely as anyone to break the deadlock at that stage, shifted the ball on the edge of the box on to his left foot and smashed a shot at goal only for wing-back Rob Dickie to stick out a boot and stop it hitting the back of the net.

Wanderers came out for the second half with a bit more purpose. Anderson should have broken the deadlock when he got on the end of Henry’s cross only to get his header all wrong again.

Cheltenham keeper Kitscha – only in because regular number one Russell Griffiths was not allowed to play by his parent club Everton – then made a stunning save to deny Proctor.

The general public have been rather blasé about the Checkatrade Trophy but someone obviously forgot to tell Parkinson and his staff, who were asked to calm down at one point by referee Kevin Friend.

The Leicestershire ref’s words fell on deaf ears. The dugout was up in unison a few seconds later when Harry Pell went clattering into Taylor.

Parkinson was about to make a real statement of intent, too. With 10 minutes left he sent on Ameobi, Clough and Clayton – who was playing his first competitive game for nearly a year.

But the gamble did not pay off. Wanderers huffed and puffed but didn’t create any clear-cut chances in the final moments.

And then, when all eyes were shifting towards penalties, it was a penalty that settled it for the hosts.