No really, we’ve forgotten. It’s been over eight hours and since March 3rd since we last had that celebratory feeling when Darryl 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 six points into the top three and fifteen 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 three 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
Maxi tweets at @maxihobbs