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
Maxi tweets at @maxihobbs