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
Deja-vu, something that seems to be striking Cheltenham fans more than most this season. This time last year Cheltenham Town lie in the top 7, pressing the top 3 and with a plum FA Cup tie to look forward to against Premiership opposition after the festive period. This season, bar the fact we are now actually in the top 3 we lie in exactly the same position!
Hereford Untied were/are the ultimate definition of a bogey side. No home win vs the Bulls since 1969 and no win against them since 1999 illustrates this so when we drew them in the FA Cup you couldn’t blame fans for thinking “here we go again” – add then to the fact Everton were drawn out the hat before a ball had been kicked, the prize was just too big to miss out on. Everytime we play them we claim it’s our best chance yet, and everytie they somehow raise their game whilst we seem to lose ours.
After drawing the first game at Whaddon Road that same sinking feeling struck again after Hereford pulled level despite Shaun Harrad’s clever 16th minute flicked opener. Had we blown our chance at home? Not quite, as a memorable 2-1 extra time victory at Edgar Street made everything oh so worth it, a night that will go down in the memory for the thousand or so travelling army whether that be for simply just seeing us actually beat Hereford or for the £250k prize and Everton that await in January, when the ESPN cameras come to town once again.
In terms of league matters only a rampant Gillingham and a Tom Pope inspired Port Vale lead the Robins. What is more pleasing is that most fans believe the side has barely hit top form yet. Take Marlon Pack for example, one of the top 2 central midfielders in League Two last season according to the Team of the Year, yet this season the cultured midfielder looks a shadow of his self last season. Whether that be due to arrival of a similarly styled Darren Carter or the loss of the combative, non stop Luke Summerfield is something we can only speculate. Although moments of genius have still transpired the general feeling is he hasn’t come anywhere near to hitting last seasons quite brilliant heights.
Many felt the wheels were starting to fall off after two heavy away defeats in a row, first a 4-2 reverse at Rotherham that saw the defense go AWOL after 4 consecutive clean sheets beforehand, and then an even more woeful 4-1 defeat at Chesterfield – easily the Robins poorest display of the season so far. The 1-0 home win that followed at home to then bottom of the table Barnet did little to boost confidence. It took a stroke of genius on 80 minutes from Jeff Goulding to win it and Barnet were oh so unlucky not to claim a point or more having missed a penalty and hit the post.
Thanks to consecutive away wins at Northampton and now Hereford in the Cup morale has been raised hugely once again and we head into this weekends top of the table clash with Port Vale hoping to emulate a similar game last season when we welcomed Southend to town at the start of December – two teams flying high at the time. Cheltenham ran out emphatic 3-0 winners and the league sat up and took notice of Cheltenham Town. A performance on a similar scale this weekend could well spark a similar reaction, let’s just hope all eyes are not on January 7th when the Toffees of Everton come to town!
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
Cheltenham Town’s early season report very much bares many similarities to that of this time last season, if the next few months follow this pattern then we are about to embark on a quite brilliant unbeaten run, here’s hoping! After nine games including a Capital One Cup opener, there have been displays of class, encouragement and frustration ranging from a comfortable home win against Dagenham to a team that wilted at home to a 3-1 defeat against Southend.
The 2012-13 season began with an unfamiliar pre-season feel as MK Dons visited in the Capital One Cup, a tough draw by all accounts but the Robins matched their opponents, showing a thoroughly improved performance to the 4-1 defeat in the same fixture last season and Kaid Mohamed’s deflected 30 yarder forced a penalty shoot-out which saw eight brilliantly dispatched penalties only to see the one miss from Daryll Duffy who, perhaps predictably went to the goalkeeper’s right (a favourite of Duffy’s seemingly). The keeper did his homework and Town were out, but went home encouraged for the season’s opener having seen a number of new signings bed in.
Dagenham were defeated with relative ease at Whaddon Road with Jermaine McGlashan picking up exactly where he left off last season. His 25 yard thunderbolt added to a debut goal for Shaun Harrad to give the Robins a routine opening day victory and ready to take midweek a trip to Plainmoor and Torquay just a few months after that infamous play off night. The game itself was a thoroughly entertaining one with the impressive Shaun Harrad heading home the opener from a corner.
A mad couple of minutes at the back however, saw Torquay take the lead with two headed goals from Aaron Downes and Rene Howe. The Robins clearly missing the organisational presence of their captain centre back Alan Bennett. Cheltenham to their credit fought long and hard and got exactly what they deserved with ten minutes left through former Gull Chris Zebroski who fired home a late leveller.
Aldershot hosted a rain drenched encounter the following weekend and once again Shaun Harrad was the match-winner. In a game of little quality it took one moment of strikers instinct to steal three points on the road. Cheltenham, just like last season proving their effectiveness away from home but before early season hopes could rise further Accrington Stanley very much took us down a peg at Whaddon Road with a 3-0 humbling – a near perfect away performance, coupled with a poor defensive display from the Robins.
Two defensive errors from the talented youngster Harry Hooman allied cries for the return of the injured Alan Bennett, a tad harsh on young Harry who will no doubt be key in the coming seasons. Wycombe was the venue for Cheltenham’s next encounter and once again they showed class and suave on the road with a dominant display. Marlon Pack and next signing Darren Carter pulled the strings in midfield and but for some profligate finishing Cheltenham could’ve won this by a large margin. As it were it took a Harrad penalty to take home a point after a terrible own goal after just two minutes from Keith Lowe. Certainly thought the signs were encouraging and once again Cheltenham returned to Whaddon Road with tails up.
However, optimism turned to pessimism once more with another poor home display despite a decent 44 minutes. Cheltenham took an early and deserved lead through Jermaine McGlashan once again but once Sean Clohessy levelled on the 44 mark after more calamitous defending, there was only going to be one winner, Southend eventually prevailing 3-1 and once again high hopes were deflated within 90 minutes!
That wrong was quickly put right with a 2-1 home victory over Oxford just three days later, a welcome midweek game after the previous display and two beautifully struck goals from Darren Carter and Shaun Harrad were enough to steal the points despite a late Peter Leven penalty. The Robins maintained their unbeaten run on the road with a drab 0-0 draw at York, our longest trip of the season. A point on the road however is a point gained in my view and we sit well placed in 11th and ready for another play-off assault, so we hope!
Summer acquisitions have, by and large, been impressive. Shaun Harrad and Darren Carter are clearly going to be key cogs in the season ahead and Billy Jones, for his early critics has been steady. The jury is still very much out on Chris Zebroski,who may well find the season hard going if Shaun Harrad continues his goalscoring form, but Sammy Deering has proved a bright spark linking the midfield and the strike-force effectively on numerous occasions already this season.
With the league table still finding it’s shape Robins fan can be fairly satisfied if not pleased with many factors of the season so far. We are proving hard to beat on the road, as our unbeaten record shows. If we can just try and aim for more consistency at home and bring the fans through the doors there’s no reason to believe why we can’t match or even better last season’s efforts.
So the question lies, can we now embark on that long unbeaten run…
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
It barely feels like a matter of days since the season 2011-2012 season ended for Cheltenham Town. Granted we had a three week extension to the majority in the Football League but with two sporting spectacles such as Euro 2012 and the London Olympics (both of which I managed to attend) the summer has flown by and MK Dons await this coming Saturday in the Capital One Cup, an unusual way to start the season admittedly.
After a pre season of mixed results the squad is almost in shape and ready for another challenge but this season poses far greater hurdles than last. Rewind 12 months to my pre season hopes and fears on the terraces with Cheltenham. Little was expected of the Rubies, written off as 11/4 favourites to go down on day 1 and everyone bar ourselves were expecting Cheltenham to feature at the wrong end – how we proved them wrong.
Mark Yates produced nothing short of a miracle to lead Cheltenham to the top of the League Two table as late as the start of February and although we couldn’t hold onto this lead we still managed a top 7 finish, which in retrospect was a remarkable achievement. Sadly the fairytale didn’t end happily with Manchester United new boy Nick Powell signing off in dream fashion for Crewe Alexandra scoring a ‘worldie’ on the way to a deserved 2-0 win against ourselves – we left Wembley deflated but with heads held high and renewed optimism coming into the new season.
However, the dangers of expectation are what face the players and management this season. Last season Mark Yates couldn’t lose in reality – struggle, and nobody really bats an eyelid, succeed and everyone sits up and takes note. This season however, fans are expecting success. Anything less than a top 7 finish will be deemed a failure by most, this despite the strong nature of the league – a league in which probably two thirds of the teams can lay forth a sound promotion claim. Players such as Marlon Pack, Sido Jombati and Scott Brown are now expected to perform week in, week out. Can they handle that pressure that wasn’t present last season? Time will tell.
Summer recruitment has been sound in most fans eyes. Our policy of seemingly signing players who play well against us or in need of a resurrection in their career has continued. Sam Deering and Chris Zebroski join us having produced man of the match displays against us on numerous occasions last season ala Jermaine McGlashan of whom we signed in January. Shaun Harrad joins the fray up front in a move that has delighted fans and Billy Jones, a left back from Exeter, probably which fans know least about. A central midfielder and a young second choice goalkeeper are the final pieces of the puzzle according to Yates leaving us with a squad of 21 and strong competition in most areas of the pitch.
Ultimately the question on every Chelties lips is can we match or even better last seasons achievements? It’s one that has certainly split viewpoints in the camp and at this stage no answer is a right or wrong one. Personally I believe a season of similarity may well be on the cards, maybe without the magnificent cup exploits at White Hart Lane. A top 7 finish for me would still represent a fantastic achievement considering the financial strength of Fleetwood and Rotherham, teams willing to prove a point such as Bradford, Northampton and Bristol Rovers and last seasons near misses including Torquay, Oxford, Gillingham coupled with ourselves and many other pretenders. Whatever happens, we go into Day 1 in fine shape with competition fierce, quality in abundance and ready to silence the doubters once more when Dagenham come to town on the opening day. Bring it on.
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
No really, we’ve forgotten. It’s been over 8 hours and since March 3rd since we last had that celebratory feeling when Daryll Duffy gave us the lead at Morecambe so very long ago. Ever since then Cheltenham Town have hit a torrid run of form, and the fears are it’s here to stay.
Looking back, my blog posts have been nothing short of optimism and delight, for supporting the Rubies this seaosn has been a fantastic experience, up until March anyway. Mark Yates has done an incredible job in constantly defying the bookies, winning games “we shouldn’t be winning” and topping the league. The majority of the season we’ve led comfortably in the top 3 or at least the play-offs. So where has it all gone wrong?
The fixture calendar dealt us a huge test with the month of March and from as far away as December us fans had pin pointed it as the month that will define whether we are good enough to go up or not, sadly it seems the latter occurs. Just a solitary point was gained in the whole month and coupled with a run of simply no luck, profligate finishing and some dire quality has led to all our promotion rivals gaining the upper had on ourselves. From being 6 points into the top 3 and 15 points into the play offs at one stage we now lie just 3 points ahead of Crewe (what should’ve been 1 if it wasn’t for some last gasp goalkeeping heroics from a debutant Northampton Goalkeeper, thanks for that!)
Daryll Duffy’s goal gave us a deserved lead at Morecambe back on March 3rd but having let slip a sloppy equaliser to Kevin Ellison there only looked like being one winner. Morecambe attacked with vigour and purpose and thoroughly deserved their win. No worries, we only had Swindon at the County Ground lying next. What was ironically one of the finer displays of March still yielded no points or goals. Duffy, the lone striker once again, was guilty of missing 4 guilt edged chances including a penalty which Wes Foderingham saved impressively. Paul Benson, however, had 2 chances all game. He scored one and forced Butland into a fine save for the other, there was the difference. An impressive display desperately unlucky to gain nothing but at this stage of the season it’s a results based business.
Gillingham at home looked like it couldn’t come at a better time. A team who had so many injuries and suspensions they could field a whole team of them, and have one left over. It was a great chance to react and show the home faithful the blip was a minor one. Oh how it went oh so wrong. Yates confirmed the thoughts on the terraces post match: “that was the worst performance of the season by a country mile”. It was dire and we lacked heart, passion, fight and most importantly we were devoid of any quality. Enough said!
Things were looking up though, we only had Shrewsbury away 3 days later – hopefully you detected the sarcasm there. The Shrews had just passed the milestone of going a year unbeaten at home and considering some of the positions they’d gotten themselves out of that was even more impressive. Crawley and Oxford in particular will look back and wonder how they didn’t win at the Greenhous Meadow. The cries from the 400 travelling army from Cheltenham was to just keep it tight and give ourselves every chance. You could understand our joy that we were breached after just 43 seconds by Nicky Wroe! More sarcasm by the way. Despite another display that showed signs of quality the tactic of 1 up front was fast fading from a stroke of early season genius to an over used tactic that every manager in the league had figured out. Changes were needed and the lack of chances created that day proved that.
Cue two loan signings just 48 hours later, both strikers, both from League 1 clubs. Ben Burgess and Steve MaClean came to Cheltenham with pedigree from higher divisions and their differing qualities gave Cheltenham fans cause to be optimistic. The return to 4-4-2 for the visit of play-off and local rivals Oxford pleased the home faithful further. The game itself once again proved fruitless but a display that showed far more heart, quality and endeavour than the previous home one left Mark Yates and the fans wondering quite how Cheltenham didn’t not only win, but win by a comfortable margin, even Chris Wilder admitted so. So we’d turned a corner then, the goal was around the corner? Wrong again!
A month of crazy twists and turns led to Cheltenhams heaviest defeat of the season. The Rubies outplayed Southend at home in early December and with yet virtually the same team this encounter could not have been anymore different. Granted Sido Jombati’s early red card didn’t help proceedings but this was a game Southend only ever looked like winning, and winning at a canter.
Freddy Eastwood’s homecoming after 5 years was a delightful one for the Essex club, he along with 3 others gave the Seaside club the easiest win they could imagine and the 160 travellers leaving for the long cross country journey home wondering what an earth they’d just witnessed. Jack Butland had a game he’ll never forget conceding 3 goals normally he’d save with consumate ease. The team hid away after Sido’s red card Yates claimed, he was right.
It leaves Cheltenham in a position still in their own hands but with ourselves and Crewe both going opposite directions many Ruby fans believe we’ve already blown it. A small squad seems burnt out, struggling for ideas and having the same sinking anti-climactic last season.
Barnet at home lie in store next in what simply must be a Good Friday for Cheltenham. One things for sure, we don’t care how we do it, we just want a goal to celebrate.
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
So what exactly defines a successful season? That is the current question that has enraged debate between Cheltenham Town fans after a run of games which has seen the club pick up just 1 point from a potential 12 and, since the Tottenham FA Cup game, win just 4 in 13 games.
Rewind back to August and Cheltenham Town were relegation favourites with the usual suspects, Macclesfield, Hereford, Barnet and the like. Therefore in that sense, what a season we’re having. Take away the recent dreadful run and we’ve been living the dream in reality. On the flip side the other fan rightly states that the club has led the league at points this season, been in the top 3 for the majority of the season and been as far as 15 points into the play-offs at any one time, so it is therefore unacceptable if the club now fails to finish inside the top 7. A very realistic possibility at present.
I spoke earlier in the season about the C word, consistency. At present we have that in abundance, but sadly with games going against us. A certain section of fans have been very quick to turn on Mark Yates. Shouts from the terraces on Saturday (a dire 3-0 defeat to Gillingham) led to Yates being branded “a bottler”, “someone who can only last half a season” and someone with “no plan B”. These fans seem to forget very quickly the achievements we have made and the progress we have made. However, they have every right to shout don’t they as the performance was unacceptable, the tactics were wrong and we were dire beyond belief? All these questions are swirling around the heads of Cheltenham fans and with there being no right or wrong answer fans are having to agree to disagree as we continue through the typical rollercoaster that is Cheltenham Town FC.
Ruby fans all knew, and feared the month of March, for the fixture computer dealt us a heavy blow playing teams all with ambitions of League One football next season. We did ourselves proud at Swindon, just forgetting to hit the net. We were utterly humiliated and embarrassed at home to Gillingham, our worst display of the season by a country mile. Shrewsbury, Oxford and Southend lie ahead next in a run of games that will surely define our season.
Clubs usually wish for steady progression. If you stick to this, the only way is up surely? However, our progression this season has been rapid beyond belief to the extent that even the most positive Cheltenham fan has been pinching themselves this season. Did we peak too early or is this a blip that will be ovecome with 9 games still to play?. We got to a stage where we’ve simply been awaiting this bad run and now it’s here fans seem to be unable to accept it. Players don’t become bad overnight. Remember the old adage “form is temporary, class is permanent”.
There inlies the question, what exactly does make a successful season for us Rubies? It seems every single fan has a different opinion on this matter. Some would still be more than content with a top half finish, others deem that utterly unacceptable stating our season has been so good, why should it be thrown away due to a second half season collapse (something we’re more than familar with here). Maybe the best answer lies in the hands of the neutrals… so what do you think?
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
What a season this is turning out to be. For the Ruby Cheltonians the 125th anniversary season couldn’t have gone better thus far at least. Another eventful, yet ultimately successful month ends with Cheltenham Town now TOP of League Two for the first time in 12 years. Couple that with a day out to remember at Tottenham Hotspur and months don’t get much more eventful than this one.
There had been whispers of the wheels coming off however. Performances had dropped slightly, yet our ability to still grind out results in the majority of those matches points to a sign of champions right? The performances against Port Vale, Aldershot and Bristol Rovers were far from the swift, stylish best that Cheltenham have to offer but the return of 6 points was a healthy one considering.
2012 began with a trip to Port Vale who Cheltenham brushed aside at Whaddon Road back in Autumn. This was a different test though and the Valiants, for the first half in particular gave Cheltenham as good as they had and were perhaps unlucky not to have scored through the ever present Marc Richards. However, Cheltenham made their quality show and were rewarded when captain Alan Bennett stooped to head home from Marlon Pack’s free kick. Junior Smikle sealed the deal late on with a neat chip and despite Port Vale’s resilience to pull one back the defence, once again never surrendered, and the Rubies started the year as they ended the previous. Winning.
Then came the special day out, and what a day. Every one of the 5,500 Ruby fans had their own special story to tell. Mine beginning on the 8.59 to Paddington, through Liverpool Street and onwards to White (sorry Ruby) Hart Lane for kick-off, already more than half cut! The game unfortunately didn’t show the magic of the cup with Tottenham in truth coasting to an easy 3-0 win. However, we did ourselves proud and the celebrations of the day out continued long into the night leaving thousands of heavy heads the following Sunday. It has been confirmed since that the Spurs game alone had funded our new signing (Jermaine McGlashan) who has already shown real promise on the wings. Baker and Yates have claimed there is more to come with a potential return for young starlet Jack Butland and maybe more. Thanks for the memories Tottenham, it was quite a day and the funds now allow a solid financial foundation to be built. It’s why we love the cup.
Bouncebackability was therefore the order of the day when Aldershot came to town and funnily enough McGlashan turned in a man of the match display for the away side but their inability to find the back of the net was shown up big time here. Neat build up play but fruitless in the final third meant we eventually picked the Shots off despite not finding our feet at all for the majority of the game. Luke Summerfield’s blockbuster gave the Rubies a lead they barely deserved and we had to wait until stoppage time for the ever present enigma Mohamed to finish off a lethal counter attack emphatically to seal another win. Little did we know the opposition’s best player would later sign for the Rubies later that week! Funny old game.
New manager syndrome was the buzz word in town the following week with Bristol Rovers appointing Mark McGhee mid week. We knew what was coming, we were due a bad day and here it came! Once again, Cheltenham struggled to get going and the Gas had clearly done their homework. Proving difficult to break down all game and then 3 crazy 2nd half minutes handed the points to Rovers with Zebroski and Richards the goalscorers as Cheltenham lost the plot for 5 minutes. That was all it took. In truth Cheltenham never tested Poke in goal and the strong travelling army sang loud and proud down the streets of Cheltenham. I zipped off home as quick as possible and hit the drink… It’s days like that you want to forget and after Saturday’s display at Macclesfield that is now thankfully long forgotten!
With Crawley and Southend out of action only a point was needed for the Rubies to hit the summit for the first time in 12 years! We did it, the hard way, but we did it! Marcus Marshall’s (did it cross the line?!) opener had the travelling Rubies scared a possible double defeat was on the cards for the first time this season. Thankfully Sido Jombati stabbed Cheltenham level and 1-1 at half time was a scoreline most were relieved with. For much of the season Cheltenham have simply upped the gears in the second half to blow teams away, yesterday was a classic example. Jermaine McGlashan and Kaid Mohamed were electric on both wings and Jeff Goulding showed brilliant striker touch to fire Cheltenham in front. Luke Garbutt’s first ever professional goal sealed the points and Cheltenham were in dreamland. WE ARE TOP.
We may go into the next game 2nd again if Southend beat Swindon in a big promotion clash on Tuesday but once again Cheltenham showed resilience of the highest order, boucebackability was once again achieved and as we enter February we are in a position that we could only have dreamt of after last April’s 8-1 loss at Crewe.
Mark Yates, hat’s off Sir.
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
That’s how the old adage goes isn’t it? For Cheltenham Town 2011 has without doubt been a year of 2 halves, a quite bizarre turn of events from this very day last year. Our yearly record is a very modestly average Played 54 Won 22 Drawn 11 Lost 21. However, the story is a slightly more bizarre one. If you split this into their various seasons between January-May then August-December you get this:
January to May: Played 26 Won 5 Drawn 7 Lost 14
August to present day: Played 28 Won 17 Drawn 4 Lost 7
Could you ask for a bigger swing? So what’s changed? Going by the team line-ups, on New Year’s Day of this year just 3 of the line-up remain in first team contention. Another overhaul in the summer of 2011 was needed (not quite so to the extent of the season before but still necessary); there was a basis there but this needed building on, and how Mark Yates has so far succeeded.
My monthly updates are starting to become a tedious love-in for Gloucestershire’s only Football League club, but as I stated a month ago, When times are good, SHOUT; we still are don’t worry about that. Not only that but we have one of the most exciting days in our history to look forward to on January 7th 2012. A day that will live long in the memory of all Cheltenham Town fans no matter what the scoreline, for the scoreboard at White Hart Lane (or as us Chelties have decided to rename it due to the hefty nature of the away support, Ruby Hart Lane (see Twitter #rubyhartlane!)) will show the visitors as being Cheltenham Town. After winning impressively at Tranmere, we eventually negated our way past an impressive Luton side at Kenilworth Road who never gave in. Thankfully, our quality shone but Luton can proudly boast to being one of Cheltenham’s sternest opponents all season, proving just how tough the Blue Square Premier is to get out of. Having led twice, Aaron O’Connor twice levelled for the home side only for 2 of Cheltenham’s midfield trio to strike and seal the Hatter’s fate. Luke Summerfield scoring a measured effort from the edge of the box and Russ Penn bagged his first Cheltenham goal having stepped away from his man before curling into the top corner. The draw awaited, and we got our reward.
After the draw for the FA Cup 3rd round was made obviously all eyes went straight onto planning the day, or even weekend out. However, the players and management had to immediately switch focus to the following game; a blockbuster home clash with the then league leaders Southend. A true test to how far Cheltenham had come, could we match the big boys? You bet. Yet another scintillating display of pass and move had the Cheltenham faithful purring and the eventual final score of 3-0 was thoroughly deserved. Key players such as Marlon Pack, Daryll Duffy, Jack Butland and Sido Jombati, already writing themselves into Cheltenham folklore with many fans believing the current squad as a whole being the best we’ve ever had in terms of quality.
Can we keep them all together in January? This remains to be seen. With success comes interest and there is no doubt scouts from clubs in the three higher divisions will be sniffing around our prized assets however the current squad togetherness seems at an all time high. With the winning nature and mentality of this squad only silly money or a big club could tempt our stars away.
After winning manager of the month in November, Cheltenham fans were all too aware of the curse that followed… not this time. Another unbeaten month with 3 wins and 2 draws in all have lead the Rubies to just 3 points off the summit and already 5 points INTO the automatic promotion spots and even more impressively 9 points into the play-offs.
Mark Yates has also moved quickly to sign impressive loanees Jimmy Spencer and Luke Garbutt on extended deals and the jury remains out on whether England U21 goalkeeper Jack Butland will return. There will no doubt be business in January, not excessive, but the sending out of fringe players on loan seems inevitable, and the inclusion of maybe 2 more new faces could be on the agenda but providing this squad remains together and untouched come February 1st, the sky’s the limit and the unthinkable, may just become a real possibility.
Who knows, by the time the next post comes along Cheltenham could well be in the hat for the 4th round of the FA Cup… Okay, getting ahead of ourselves a bit, but what’s that about the magic of the FA Cup?
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
It’s been a month to the day since I ranted joyfully about the happenings at Whaddon Road and I must admit I expected a downturn in form, my post proving somewhat of a curse after praising Cheltenham Town to the bitter core – in fact it has done completely the opposite!
I will no doubt be one of the Football League’s most positive bloggers around at present. Whilst fans of Northampton, Chesterfield and Doncaster will rant about their woes and tales of hatred and heartache on a Saturday afternoon, at Cheltenham we are cruising along beautifully and have now spent over a couple of weeks in the top three, it’s ever so nice up here!
A quick glance at the fixtures for November proved the Robins had a difficult but ultimately decent set of fixtures to play with. Home games against Barnet in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and Port Vale saw Cheltenham play to teams struggling to find any sort of form, while away games at Bradford City, Oxford United and Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup were classic examples of “if we could nick the first goal, the home fans would get on the backs of the home players.”
In each of those three away games Cheltenham did nick an early goal, in fact before the clock hit 3.10pm in all of these fixtures Cheltenham led 1-0 and in all of these fixtures the lead was never relinquished, the only goal conceded a quite wonderful free-kick from Oxford’s Peter Leven. At Bradford Kaid Mohamed struck in the eighth minute, at Tranmere Daryll Duffy’s solitary penalty won the game in Birkenhead and at Oxford Sido Jombati’s cross-cum-shot found the corner to help Cheltenham onto a 3-1 win at the Kassam Stadium.
The home games come with a bigger weight of expectation, but against Port Vale, patietience was a virtue as Mark Yates’ side eventually saw the Valiants off 2-0 in one of the most comfortable wins of the season. Unfortunately, even at Cheltenham, things can go wrong and the manager’s decision to tinker with the team for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy game at home to Barnet backfired miserably with a dire display, devoid of any quality – the fringe players had the chance to stake a claim, none of them did. However, that defeat is long forgotten now and although a potential trip to Wembley was lost, no league points or places were.
For the statto’s that leaves Town already 8 points into the play-off zone, just 4 points from the summit. It leaves the Rubies with 10 wins in 12, 7 away wins on the bounce and the last draw, a 0-0 stalemate with Hereford, seems an absolute lifetime away.
It all sets itself up quite nicely for a possible Cupset this weekend. Luton Town are the opposition and funnily enough, when most fans watch the draw unfold they are baying for the home fixture, yet at Whaddon Road the news of an away draw was greeted with smiles, times are that bizarre! The tie is ultimately winnable, but a definate banana skin. Luton have already dumped out League Two Northampton (although Cobblers fans will hardly call that an achievement) and they have also dispatched of higher league opposition in recent seasons so the Ruby players need to keep their professional heads on this weekend.
They are no doubt their own worst enemies. The prize of a win – not just financially – could be huge, on the other hand it could throw up a miserable trip to Ipswich or Hull in the next round. All Ruby fans will tell of how the club are due a good cup draw and if Luton can be surpassed, could it be their year?
Cheltenham’s finest hour in recent history came in 2006. A team of hungry players who possessed plenty of quality, togetherness and a will to win from bizarre positions. That season saw the club win promotion to League One via the play-offs and gain a moneyspinning cup draw at home to Newcastle United – their biggest fixture to date – shown live on the BBC. This season there are stark similiarities to that season and many believe this squad possesses even more quality.
The Robins have crept quietly up the league so far but now teams are starting to take notice. Heck, let’s enjoy this brilliant time to be a fan of Cheltenham Town and SHOUT ’til our hearts content. It’s bound to end soon, right?
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
Everyone loves a good comeback – except the team on the receiving end of one! They tend to be few and far between in football and that’s why they’re so special. When the chips are well and truly down and all seems lost, sometimes being several goals down can galvanise teams to achieve the impossible. Comebacks are a joy for the neutral and the team doing them, whilst they leave their opponents in a state of disbelief.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find something more enthralling and dramatic than a great turnaround on the football field and this week Toppo’s Top Ten looks at some of the most memorable from the Football League.
10: Watford 4 Bolton Wanderers 3 1993
Vicarage Road played host to one of the most unforgettable games in its history in October 1993, as Watford staged a remarkable comeback against Bolton in the old Endsleigh Division One.
The Hornets were lanugishing in the bottom half of the table while Bolton, under the management of Bruce Rioch and Colin Todd, were a side looking to secure promotion into the Premier League. For the first 71 minutes of the game the Trotters looked every inch promotion contenders, as they opened up a 3-0 lead with Watford not offering much and home fans beginning to stream out of the stadium.
However Glenn Roeder’s side got themselves a goal when striker Gary Porter netted with their first shot on target in the game – some pride salvaged at least. However two minutes later they were back in it, Porter scoring his second after bursting into the box, chesting down the ball and smashing it into the net. With around eight minutes to go, a flick-on saw Ken Charlerey pick up the ball and the midfielder let fly from 25 yards, his shot finding the bottom corner of the net and the turnaround was complete – or so Watford fans thought.
With a minute to go, Watford had a corner which was swung in towards the back post. With Bolton defenders attempting to head it clear it struck an arm and the referee awarded the hosts a penalty. Gary Porter stepped up, sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and thus sealed an amazing comeback for the Hornets as their fans went mad in celebration.
9: Sheffield United 4 Nottingham Forest 3 2003
The game which started Nottingham Forest’s love-affair with the play-offs. Having finished 6th in Division One during the 2002/03 season, Forest hosted 3rd placed Sheffield United in the semi-finals, the first leg at The City Ground ending 1-1. The Blades were favourites going into the Bramall Lane return a few days later and it would prove to be an incredible match.
The hosts fell behind when David Johnson gave Forest the lead on the night midway through the first half and on 58 minutes, the Reds doubled their lead when Andy Reid struck Mathieu Louis-Jean’s deep cross into the net at the back post – Forest, it seemed, were on their way to the Cardiff play-off final.
However United stirred themselves and got a goal back two minutes later when Michael Brown’s deflected free-kick crept over the line and Steve Kabba equalised not long after, volleying the ball high into the net after a flick-on fell to him. With the scores level at 2-2 the match entered extra-time where United went in front through Paul Peschisolido, before a Des Walker own-goal extended their lead further. Jon Olav-Hjelde pulled a last-minute consolation back for Forest but it was Neil Warnock’s side who would go on to face Wolves in the final, after a rollercoaster 120 minutes of football.
8: Southampton 3 Leeds United 4 2005
Four goals in a frantic final 20 minutes saw Leeds United complete an amazing comeback against Southampton in the Championship six years ago. Saints were in control on home turf as Marian Pahars and a double from midfielder Nigel Quashie put them 3-0 ahead at the break – and the score was still the same with 70 minutes on the clock.
Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell threw on striker David Healy and his introduction sparked a remarkable turnaround. Paul Butler’s looping header gave the Whites hope then six minutes later Robbie Blake tapped in to make the score 3-2 with thirteen minutes of normal time remaining.
On 84 minutes Healy’s attempted chip was handled by a Southampton defender in the box and a penalty awarded. Healy stepped up to rifle his spot-kick into the top corner and it seemed Leeds had salvaged a point. However Liam Miller converted a low cross from the right on the half-volley with four minutes left to set the seal on an incredible afternoon’s football. He and his teammates ran to celebrate in front of the travelling Leeds support behind the goal, who would struggle to forget what they’d just seen.
6: Oxford United 5 Portsmouth 5 1992
In a match against Portsmouth they looked well and truly out of, Oxford United pulled off an amazing recovery in the final five minutes to salvage a point. This Division One encounter got off to the best start possible for Pompey as Alan McLoughlin rose highest to power a header into the roof of the net and striker Guy Whittingham doubled the lead with a first-time volley not long after.
The visitors made it three from a corner as Kerry Evans diverted the ball into his own net, David Penney did pull a goal back for Oxford shortly afterwards, but Portsmouth restored their three goal advantage as Whittingham scored his second. Jim Magilton volleyed Oxford back into it before the break after what had been a shocking first 45 minutes from his side.
In the second half it was Portsmouth who extended their lead again as winger Mark Chamberlain rifled a shot into the roof of the net and at 5-2, the match looked over. With five minutes left on the clock, John Durnin ran onto a flick-on to score, but with home fans leaving the Manor Ground Chris Allen was brought down in the box and Oxford had a penalty. Magilton slotted his spot-kick into the bottom corner to make the score 5-4 but they were not finished and after another ball was hit into the Portsmouth area, a shot was parried where it fell to Allen, who headed home to make it 5-5.
5: Peterborough United 4 Cardiff City 4 2009
During the 2009/10 Championship campaign, Peterborough United and Cardiff played out arguably the league’s game of the season as eight goals were shared at London Road in an entertaining 4-4 draw.
Cardiff, gunning for Premier League promotion, displayed their credentials, going into a 4-0 lead with 36 minutes gone. Joe Ledley scored twice, Jay Bothroyd added a third and Peter Whittingham’s 25-yard free-kick made it four. For bottom-of-the-table Peterborough, a heavy defeat was on the cards as the Cambridgeshire side were battling to avoid relegation.
However in the second half they turned the game on its head. Boss Mark Cooper introduced two substitutes to bolster his midfield and one of them, Josh Simpson pulled a goal back for Posh on 51 minutes. Charlie Lee’s header made the game interesting before George Boyd’s 89th minute top corner effort meant Peterborough needed one goal to equalise with just minutes to go. Incredibly they did it, Simpson’s close range effort making it 4-4. An unlikely, but brilliant comeback.
4: Birmingham City 4 Swindon Town 6 1993
On their way to securing promotion to the Premier League in the 1992/93 season, Swindon Town pulled off an outstanding comeback at St. Andrews against Birmingham City. In the first 45 minutes the hosts established a 2-0 lead through Dean Peer and John Frain, before Shaun Taylor’s towering header halved the defecit going into the break.
Two minutes into the second half Paul Moulden rounded Swindon goalkeeper Fraser Digby and finished to make it 3-1 to Birmingham before Andy Saville struck a ferocious left-footed volley which flew into the top corner of the net to extend the Blues’ lead further.
On 60 minutes Craig Maskell fired a low finish beyond Blues ‘keeper Andy Gosney to give Swindon a glimmer of hope and five minutes later David Mitchell’s diving header made it 4-3. Mitchell then silenced the 18,000 crowd as the ball fell to him eight yards from goal and he made no mistake, equalising for the Robins with 14 minutes left. Maskell gave Swindon the lead for the first time in the game as he headed home a corner and on the stroke of injury time Mitchell completed his hat-trick, beating the last defender and goalkeeper to slot home an easy finish. What a turnaround from Glenn Hoddle’s side, who were 4-1 down with half an hour to go.
3: Port Vale 4 Queens Park Rangers 4 1997
In 1997 Queens Park Rangers pulled off an astonishing comeback to snatch a draw at Vale Park in Division One, leaving hosts Port Vale wondering how they’d managed to throw away a four goal lead.
In the first half Vale opened the scoring when Dean Glover steered Jan Jansson’s 24th minute corner into the net and they made it two eleven minutes later, the impressive Steve Guppy crossing to the far post where Lee Mills nodded home. Guppy set up Vale’s third when he laid off Tony Naylor’s pass into the path of Jansson, who smashed the ball under the stunned Tony Roberts in Rangers’ goal. Vale’s fourth came before half-time as Matthew Brazier headed Jansson’s corner into his own net.
After a nightmare first 45 minutes, QPR’s travelling support were probably wondering why they’d bothered to make the 200 mile trip north to Stoke-on-Trent, but they had something to cheer on the 66th minute, as Vale debutant Jermaine Holwyn comically nodded the ball into his own net trying to intercept a lofted pass from the right of the area. On 85 minutes, Andy Impey reduced Vale’s lead to two with an outstanding volley which flew in off the bar – then Port Vale went to pieces. Paul Murray chipped Rangers’ third following some great build-up play, then in injury time striker John Spencer rifled in the equaliser after Paul Musselwhite could only parry away Daniele Dichio’s effort. Unbelievable!
2: Leeds United 4 Preston North End 6 2010
When Leeds United hosted Preston North End at Elland Road in the Championship last season, few could’ve predicted the 90 minutes which lay ahead.
It was North End – struggling near the foot of the table under manager Darren Ferguson – who took the lead through Jon Parkin’s tap-in. Luciano Becchio’s header equalised for Leeds and it was another header which put the home side in front, Alex Bruce beating North End goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Lloyd Sam set up Davide Somma to make the score 3-1 to the Whites on 27 minutes before Somma added a fourth. Parkin almost immediately pulled a goal back for Preston before the break, but Preston looked all over the place as the sides headed into the dressing rooms for half-time.
Keith Treacy made it 4-3 nine minutes after the break from a corner as the home defence began to come under pressure. United defender George McCartney brought down Paul Coutts in the box to give Preston a penalty, which captain Callum Davidson dispatched high into the net for the equaliser. Preston completed a great comeback with 25 minutes remaining as Parkin scored his third of the night, a low left-foot shot beating Shane Higgs in the Leeds goal, and with eleven to go Iain Hume made it 6-4 to the away side, heading in Billy Jones’ diagonal cross from the right to cap off an incredible victory for North End.
1: Cheltenham Town 5 Burton Albion 6 2010
A goal-fest from League Two when Burton Albion met Cheltenham Town at the Pirelli Stadium during the 2009/10 season. The game saw eleven goals, ended up 6-5 and included a stunning fightback from a Cheltenham side who didn’t know when they were beaten.
Burton were 2-0 ahead at half-time thanks to a brace from Shaun Harrad but Justin Richards and Medy Elito restored parity early on in the second period. Burton were soon 4-2 ahead after an own goal from Cheltenham’s Michael Townsend, who deflected Cleveland Taylor’s cross into his own net, before a close-range strike from Brewers’ marksman Steve Kabba. With six minutes remaining Cheltenham were back in the game, Michael Pook making it 4-3 from a free kick in the 84th minute, but a minute later Kabba netted his second to put Burton 5-3 ahead and seemingly on course for victory.
Pook got his second of the match in the 87th minute as his strike hit a Burton defender before going in, then Richards grabbed his second goal to make it 5-5. Mark Yates’ side had pulled off an incredible turnaround but they were not done yet, as with virtually the last kick of the game, Pook completed his hat-trick and the most unlikely of victories, his rising drive beating Brewers’ goalkeeper Artur Krysiak from 25 yards out deep into stoppage time.
Within the space of ten minutes Cheltenham had somehow turned a 5-3 defecit into a 6-5 win, leaving the Burton players, staff and supporters shell shocked.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going up podcast member and blogger
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