Forgive the name of the title as it is a carbon copy of one of last seasons entries. Unfortunately the same still applies and although most would bite your hand off for a 4th placed position at this stage of the season the feeling amongst many fans is that we’ve had, and missed plenty of opportunities to be positioned alongside Port Vale and Gillingham rather than fighting for 3rd with everyone else!
Don’t get me wrong I’m very pleased we didn’t get caught up in the classic post play off hangover (see Torquay) however, despite many impressive January signings it seems we continue to threaten to be THAT team that makes the early break for 3rd, only to be brought back down to earth. Let me put forward my case in argument!
The last week proves my usage of this title, for the second season running. Last weekend, and a trip to a happy hunting ground of ours at Dagenham & Redbridge. Cheltenham had never condeded a goal at Dagenham before let alone lost and after a 5-0 thumping of the beleaguered Daggers in this fixture last season hopes were high we could put the pressure on the chasing pack. Not so. An almost inept performance, despite a very impressive looking 18 lacked any on the ball quality and the fight and grit that looked there on paper. The game was decided by a well taken Luke Howell winner. In truth if a second goal were to come it would’ve been for the home side. The only positive from this game was that it taught us Marlon Pack IS a must in the XI if we want to achieve the smooth, sleek style of football we witnessed last season. His “will he wont he” move to Swindon is still to this day up in the air but his professionalism since this has to be commended.
3 days later and we made the almost identical, slightly longer journey east to Southend (a not so happy hunting ground going by last seasons 4-0 capitulation). Morale was low and fans for the first time this season seemed in agreement that any point here would be good, as much as surprising so in typical Cheltenham fashion we stole all 3, deservedly. Marlon Pack once again showed maturity beyond his years and reminded the critics of his importance in the squad with a man of the match display and a goal to boot, a cooly taken penalty. Paul Benson, on game 3 of his loan spell broke his duck with a poachers finish and Cheltenham against the odds were back in the top 3 mix and with Aldershot coming to town at the weekend it was once again a chance to put pressure on our rivals.
Once again, the Ruby Army failed to make it count going a goal down to a team devoid of any sort of quality or confidence going by their recent run. Thankfully Cheltenham managed to nab a point with another Paul Benson goal but despite Antony Tonkin’s late red card Cheltenham couldn’t snatch all 3 and once again the fickle nature of football fans showed again. Within a week we’ve gone from expecting a top 7 tussle, to thinking we could sneak top 3, to now looking behind our shoulders again and we know exactly how that feels after last seasons mayhem in March.
If we continue with this sort of form until the end of the season then a top 7 place should be claimed but with the tight nature of this league a couple of defeats could see you chasing the pack and likewise a couple of wins could see you in the top 3 chasing Port Vale and Gillingham who themselves continue to grind out results despite suffering their own mini blips here and there.
Next up another struggler lie in wake with a trip up north to Accrington Stanley who will probably give us a similar game to Aldershot, nothing of beauty, but he who wants it more will claim the points. Let’s hope Mark Yates can find that winning formula as he has a very different squad at his disposal than that of the opening day of the season thanks to the most hectic January transfer window in living memory as a Cheltenham fan!
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
Maxi tweets at @maxihobbs