The sun will be shining and I am determined to enjoy the bank holiday game at the bank, writes Tom Morton.
Cheltenham Town will arrive having pretty much secured a mid-table finish; however, the next three games play out they will likely finish between 12th and 14th. Pretty much the definition of a dead duck? Yes, they can’t get above 12th even with a perfect finish, and they threw away a very outside chance at the playoffs by winning just one in five since mid-March. But this is the Robins’ best points haul in League One, and they continue to have some nice ambition (at least listening to their manager Michael Duff).
With very little at stake for them other than pride & us desperately seeking a win both for safety and reward for our recent form, what does the game look like? One thing potentially hanging over it is the Burnley manager’s job – it’s a move Duff has been linked with by the press and even if it’s a non-starter (according to him) then it will be on people’s minds. On the pitch, you have to fancy ourselves against a team who eked out a draw against Gillingham (one of the worst teams this season)
What I will say about the Robins is; they love a shot from the edge of the box. For example, against Gillingham, they had sixteen shots and the majority were either outside the box or just inside it. They clearly like to work it from range and then follow up for any rebound – which is exactly what happened for one of the goals on Friday. Also watch out for the crossfield ball, going forward I can see they play that an awful lot seeking out players on the edge of the box.
At the back, Cheltenham play with three centre-backs. A lot of teams I see with three at the back seem to stay tight and play as a unit, relying on wing-backs to keep the flanks tidy. But Cheltenham’s defence seems happy to play quite wide and open. Against Portsmouth, for example, that created a lot of space around the corners of the box. Prime territory for Scully cutting in, Fiorini’s fizzers, or Whittakers return. Perhaps we can take a play out of the Robins’ book and give House (who impressed on Friday) a chance to mop up any rebounds.
THe obvious key player for Cheltenham is Alfie May. The striker has played every game so far this season and has hit twenty-one goals. That’s the sort of form we desperately need next season. I’ve watched plenty of clips and will say this – he is one of the best strikers in the League at the moment. Give him the ball in the box and he is dangerous, even at ridiculous angles. He has an incredible first touch and is very calm on the ball. If you get a chance it is worth watching his four goals against Wycombe in February.
I’ll be honest, we have a tough time against the Robins. Out of twenty-two games they’ve taken eleven to our six. Certainly, our League Two clashes in the early noughties generally went Cheltenham’s way. However, more recently (in 2018 and 2019) we’ve come off the better. Cheltenham were promoted into League One this year so it’s the first time we’ve played them for a few years. It wasn’t a classic as we eked out a 2-2 draw, which we probably didn’t deserve.
In some respects, our attention might in part be away from Sincil Bank. There is a key game down in Kent which might leave us mathematically safe (even if relying on goal difference) regardless of the outcome of our game. If that doesn’t come off then in a week’s time you have to fancy the rampant MK Dons against Morecambe. But it would be nice to find a win from these last three games to secure safety ourselves. Certainly, leaving it to Gillingham or the hated Dons would be depressing.