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 twelve 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 three crazy second half minutes handed the points to Rovers with Zebroski and Richards the goalscorers as Cheltenham lost the plot for five 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, hats off Sir.
Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger
Maxi tweets at @maxihobbs