Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Season 2010-11 ... a review

Cheltenham Town's 2010-11 season was one of two very distinct halves.
Up to Christmas, it was superb - the team was playing good football, and we all thought, as 2011 dawned, that we might have a chance for the play-offs.
But the form fell away alarmingly as the New Year progressed, and we went to Lincoln on Easter Monday with relegation as a big worry.
However, that was only for 90 minutes, as we beat Lincoln 2-0, staved off the drop, and as it turned out the Red Imps went down with Stockport.

Best performance of the season

Most of the best CTFC performances this season came away from home, and three of them were especially good in my opinion, the games at Accrington, Aldershot and Bury.
I am going to choose the 3-2 win at Bury as the best display of the campaign, as it came at a time when the side were hopelessly out of form, and the win came totally out of the blue and it was against a side who ended up going up in second place.
It was orchestrated by Josh Low, who scored two superb goals, one a first time drive for the edge of the box, and the other an excellent lob from the re-start straight after Bury brought the game back to 2-2.
Andy Gallinagh had headed the first goal, then Low made it two before Ben Futcher headed a goal for Bury.
Andy Haworth netted an equaliser then Low put us ahead again straight away.
We showed great resilience that day and soaked up Bury pressure, kept Ryan Lowe quiet and deserved the win.

Worst performance of the season


A lot of competition here I'm afraid - home displays against Hereford, Lincoln, Southend, Accrington and Macclesfield come to mind - but let's face it, there is only one winner.
It was that grim day at Gresty Road, when CTFC suffered their worst defeat in a league game since 1992 and conceded 8 goals for the first time in 40 years.
I was covering the game for BBC Gloucestershire, and it felt like I was on the air every five minutes.
From the opening minute to the last, we were terrible.
One down after four minutes, two down after 11, and the writing was on the wall.
There was no fight, no heart, no battle, no commitment.
The worst of the goals was the fourth, when goalkeeper Rhys Taylor caught a corner. threw it out to Shaun Miller, who ran 60 yards without a CTFC player anywhere near him and pass the ball to Joel Grant, who scored. No challenge, no closing down, nothing.
A black day - and one I never want to see the like of again.

Goal of the season


We scored a few decent ones this year, most of the best ones being free-kicks.
Danny Andrew's strike at Aldershot and Frankie Artus' bullets at Barnet and Morecambe were in contention, while from open play Josh Low's two at Bury were up there.
But I am going to plump for Marlon Pack's thumping strike at Southend which saw him hit the ball from 35 yards straight through the Southend keeper and in to set us up for a 2-1 win on January 3.

Player of the season

When Mark Yates signed Keith Lowe in the summer, I was sceptical, and I am sure I was not alone among CTFC fans.
Keith had been with us on loan, and not pulled up any trees. He had gone away, played at Hereford and again not pulled up trees.
So when we signed him, my reaction was not one of great joy - but I was delighted to be proved wrong.
Keith made the right back position his own, and every week he was a 7 or 8 out of 10 performer, and made very few mistakes. He missed the last few games of the season through injury, and we definitely missed him.

Player by player review


Scott Brown - Polarises opinions among CT fans. Good shot stopper, but fails to command his box and his kicking remains suspect. Glad to see Mark Yates looking to bring in a keeper this summer to put Brown under real pressure. He needs it.
Keith Lowe - See above - player of the season and missed when he was out injured. Hopefully the Long Necked Pele will come back in pre-season and get that form back.
Danny Andrew - I am a big fan. For a player to have a left foot like he has at 20 years old is very special. 4 goals from free kicks and topped the assist list. But he is a left back, and needs to work on his defending and positioning. If he does, we have a hell of a player. If he doesn't, play him as a left winger, a la Gareth Bale, and we could still have a hell of a player.
David Bird - Not a right back, as the goals at Crewe and the home game with Shrewsbury showed. Has a contract on the table and hope he signs it and stays on. A loyal club man, gives 100 per cent every time, but has to be played in central midfield, as a shield to the back four, and nowhere else.
Martin Riley - Disappointment, and has been rightly released. When he signed I thought it was a good signing, and the fact he bought himself out of Kidderminster showed great commitment. His debut at Gillingham was excellent., but that was as good as it got. Injuries kept disrupting his season, and rumours about his attitude were also worrying.
Andy Gallinagh - Like Bird, a good servant to the club. Played well for several games at centre half when he skippered the side. But had a dodgy end to the season, giving away penalties at Crewe, Burton and Stockport, and looked shaky. Next season is a big one for him.
Michael Pook - Big disappointment. Started the season as skipper, but spent most of it on the bench. Struggling to think of a good game from him during the season, and is available for transfer. But as one of the highest earners at the club it remains to be seen whether anyone takes him on.
Josh Low - So frustrating. A total enigma, who on his day (Bury away, Lincoln away) can control the game and look totally different class. But the problem is that we do not see that day enough. Josh scored 7 goals which was a decent return and made him our third highest scorer. Suspect next season will be his last in football before he takes up his law career.
Wes Thomas - Came to the club as an unknown, having started only 3 games at Dagenham. Ended the season with 19 goals, but lost form in the last few months and scored only 1 goal in the last 12 games - our one in the 8-1 rout at Crewe. Will leave the club in the summer, and should be grateful to CTFC and Mark Yates for turning his career around.
Jeff Goulding - Not a regular at Bournemouth when he arrived, ended with 10 goals and was a good foil for Wes. However, his best form was probably while Wes was out injured, and will now take on an even more important role next season.
Brian Smikle - Effort and commitment not in question. Ability and quality are definitely in question at times. Only scored 4 goals which was a poor return for a player who top scored for Kidderminster in the past. Hopefully he will benefit from a full season in the League and will get better next season and become a more influential player for us.
Dan Lloyd-Weston - Did not get a chance to show what he can do in the first team as obviously Mark Yates did not feel was good enough. Writing was on the wall for him after the 8-1 loss at Crewe - if Mark Yates was not going to drop Scott Brown for Dan after that game, he was never going to.
JJ Melligan - Was welcomed back, and I was glad to see him return, but did not look the same player as we had here the first time. Was not a regular and the writing was on the wall for him early on, when he could not get a regular place in the side.
Kyle Haynes - Played one game, the final one at Stockport, and did well. Would hope that next season he will get more of a look in, and will push Keith Lowe for a place at right back.
Theo Lewis - Never let the side down whenever he played. Theo is strong in the tackle and does not shy away from challenges. But he needs to work out his best position, be that as an attacking central midfielder or a striker, and needs to spend the summer in the gym to build himself up for next season.
Jake Lee - Did not play in the first team, and sat on the bench near the end of the season to make up the numbers. Not good enough and should not have been given a contract last summer. Rightly released.
Frankie Artus - His first loan spell was superb, his second not so good, but I was glad when we signed him. But over the season we have seen that he is not strong enough to play in League Two and does not have enough pace. Highlights were his free kick goals at Barnet and Morecambe, but did not do enough to get a new deal.
Steve Elliott - Our marquee signing last summer. Took time to settle in, was superb around the turn of the year, then sunk to the general malaise of the last few months. Lack of pace a problem, and needs someone quick and dominant alongside him next season. Will probably be captain next season - unless Mark Yates brings in two new centre backs...

Loan signings


Generally, a disappointment. Marlon Pack was obviously a success, and it looks likely that he will sign permanently. I thought Robin Shroot and Shaun Jeffers did well in patches, while I would have liked to have seen more of Jake Thomson, who showed good signs.
But Ashley Eastham was no better than average, Matt Green scored no goals in 18 appearances and Medy Elito did not want to be here.

The summer...

At the fans forum, Mark Yates gave hints over what he needs, and they equate with what I feel is necessary to give us a competitive squad.
With Wes going, we need at least 2 strikers to join Jeff Goulding and the hoped-for signing of youth teamer Ethan Moore.
To serve them, we need 2 wingers, one on each side, who have pace, can beat a man and get crosses in. Almost all sides we have faced have them, and it something we have lacked.
In midfield, we need someone who can get forward and get around 8-10 goals - someone who can be a runner and get beyond the strikers.
We also need an 'enforcer' - a leader in there, who could be a potential captain - a modern day Mark Yates if you like.
A centre-half or two is also needed to complement Elliott and Gallinagh, and also a goalkeeper to give Scott Brown some real competition - or even to take his place as number one next season.
If there is any money left after that little lot have come in, maybe a left back to either cover for Danny Andrew or to take his place and push him forward to become the new Gareth Bale.
It promises to be an interesting summer. Over to you Mr Yates...