Sunday, 29 January 2012

Top of the league...

When I left Gresty Road last April, after Cheltenham Town were smashed 8-1 at Crewe, if someone told me that nine months later I would leave Moss Rose with the Rubies top of League Two, I would have got the men in the white coats over immediately.
The transformation from that day to this really has been nothing short of remarkable - and after the impressive way we bounced back from last week's defeat, it seems that we are back on course again.
There were a few questions to be answered before the game, after the loss to Bristol Rovers, mainly about the mettle of the side, did they have the determination and the will to bounce back etc - and they answered them in style.
But I am sure the questions intensified when Marcus Marshall scored on the half-hour to put Macc ahead - or did he...?
I know it doesn't matter now in the grand scheme of things, but having seen the replay on the Football League Show I am not convinced it crossed the line, and with the assistant's view blocked by Scott Brown's body, I don't know if he could have seen it clearly.
A small point I know, but it was given and the question was then if we could respond to it positively, or, as we have seen a few times in the past, we would react badly and start to panic.
Once again we answered the question, and Sido popped up with equaliser, showing he is lethal from two yards.
Before going behind, we had started well, as if we were intent on making a statement, and going out to impose ourselves on the game straight away.
Mark Yates shook things up a bit with his team selection - three changes, a rest for Russ Penn, which he needed, and a seat on the bench for Jimmy Spencer and Darryl Duffy, without a goal for eight and seven games respectively.
Jermaine McGlashan was always going to start and it was good to see Junior Smikle and Jeff Goulding getting a go - and it would also be the est of the depth of the squad.
I thought Junior took his chance well. He was buzzing around, especially in the first half, finding space and making runs off the ball to free up space for others.
Jeff (and he admitted as much after the game) was a bit ring-rusty in the first half but he grew into the game and his goal was a superb finish.
It also poses a question to Yatesy for Wimbledon next week - it would be harsh to drop Jeff after his goal, but does he go to 4-4-2 against another side likely to come and park the bus for 90 minutes? We shall see...
Jeff's goal capped a brilliant 25 minutes at the start of the second half which was probably our best spell of play since the Southend game.
Kaid and Jermaine were tearing them to bits every time we could get them running on to the ball and we created some great chances, one for Kaid and one for Luke Summerfield especially should have been taken, and Jermaine had a penalty shout when he went down in the box. Think the ref got it right though.
But credit to Macc for the way they came back at us, and Browny had to make a fantastic save from Ben Mills' header to keep it at 2-1, and they had a couple of half-chances, so you always felt we needed the third to be absolutely sure.
We got it right at the end with Luke Garbutt's (deflected) free-kick, but he is having that goal if only for the one in the first half which Jose Veiga turned round the post.
It was great to be live on BBC Glos describing that goal, and the moment we went top of the league at the final whistle!
So here's a question - when was the last time both CTFC full-backs scored in the same game? Having racked my brains, it might be a certain game against Yeovil back in April 1999, which meant we finished top of a league and went up...
That is, of course, if you think Michael Duff scored the winner and not Jamie Victory - but anyway, it would be a lovely omen wouldn't it...
So on we go. Southend could knock us off the top on Tuesday against Swindon of course, but there are going to plenty of twists and turns to come in the next three months or so.
What we have proved with that performance yesterday and the way we responded to the Rovers defeat is that we have the stomach for a fight - and we are going to need it.
In the pub last night, we worked out that if we maintain our points average for the remaining games, we will have 93 points in May.
If that doesn't win the league or finish in the top three, it will have been a monumental effort for someone else to have got more points.
We all know about the run in March, but first we have February to go through, with six games - one against Crawley as we know, but the others - Wimbledon, Burton and Torquay at home and Dagenham and Hereford away - are not exactly ones to fear.
As March is so tricky on paper, we have to take advantage of these games and make sure we go into that five-game run in good stead.
Before that, we have the transfer window, and after the game Neil Howarth said he was 'hopeful' Jack Butland would be back, knocked back rumours about Torquay's Chris Robertson (until the summer at least...) and said Matthew Barnes-Homer was 'a possibility' - maybe more so as he was sat in the Moss Rose stands with Danny Andrew, Theo Lewis and Bags Graham yesterday...
Let the speculation continue...

Player by player
Scott Brown - Not sure their goal was over the line, and made a superb second-half save. The Jack Butland speculation continues, and it would be a bit rough on Scott if he lost his place again.
Sido Jombati - In the right place at the right time for his goal and defended well, coming forward as well to back up Jermaine McGlashan.
Luke Garbutt - Good to see him on the scoresheet and put in a good performance after being a bit 'off' last week. Was out of position however for the cross which set up Macc's goal.
Alan Bennett - Back to his best. Was superb in the first half and soaked everything up in the second. A great leader for the team.
Keith Lowe - Has done well since coming into the side and proving a good deputy for Steve Elliott. Header across goal set up the equaliser.
Marlon Pack - Some great passes, to try and get the wide men going, but sometimes over-plays. Gave the ball away to Colin Daniel who went close to scoring, but still makes us tick.
Luke Summerfield - Thought he had a good game, his best for a few weeks. Should have scored in the second half, but seemed to pop up everywhere.
Junior Smikle - Did well in Russ Penn's role, finding space and making some good runs. A useful squad player to have around and never lets us down.
Jermaine McGlashan - Started with a pirouette and a run down the right and gave Carl Tremarco a tough time. Will be a threat when we get him running on to the ball.
Kaid Mohamed - A threat all game I felt. Got the ball down and just ran at them, and got the defenders backing off. A couple of decent chances to score but did well to set Jeff's goal up.
Jeff Goulding - Grew into the game after a shaky start and it was a great finish for his goal. Should keep his place for Wimbledon next weekend.

Russ Penn (for Jermaine McGlashan 76) - Needed a rest to nurse his injury, but a good player to bring on to shore us up.
Jimmy Spencer (for Jeff Goulding 86) - Also needed a breather, but came on fresh and played a part in seeing the game out.
Darryl Duffy (for Kaid Mohamed 90) - Gets his win bonus! Almost charged down a clearance to score.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Flying the nest

Days after we said farewell to Andy Gallinagh, the other flag bearer for the Cheltenham Town youth policy, David Bird, has today left the club.
I remember being at Cinderford's Causeway ground covering a game for the Citizen one dank Tuesday night when Steve Cotterill and Mike Davis walked in.
The 16-year-old Birdy was playing for his home-town club, where his dad Alan used to run the youth team, and a few games before Dave had scored a hat-trick against Evesham in a 4-1 win.
I wondered why Steve and Mike had ventured so far into the wilds, and found out soon after when Birdy joined our youth set-up in 2002.
And so today marks the end of an era - and severs the final link in the squad to those days, as the only player left at the club who was here under Cotterill's management departs.
At only 27 years old, Bird played 329 times for Cheltenham after Bobby Gould gave him him much-documented debut at Huddersfield when Antony Griffin was injured in the warm-up.
That was at right back, and he played most of his early games there but played his best football in the 'holding' midfield role, twice being voted player of the year, in 2007-8 and 2008-9.
He only scored eight goals, but some of them were memorable - one at Elland Road and a last minute winner against Bournemouth spring to mind.
He will have a testimonial which I hope will be well supported, and he leaves with thanks and will be remembered as someone who always gave 100 per cent for the shirt - and it is a shame to see the only really 'local' player in the squad depart.
But if we are honest, the writing has been on the wall all season as Dave has struggled to get into the side, kept out by the form of Russ Penn, Marlon Pack and Luke Summerfield, and the cut to five subs also meant that avenue was closed to him as well.
The same can be said for Gallinagh, who, like Bird, was a whole-hearted performer every time he pulled on the red and white.
But he too struggled this season with Steve Elliott and Alan Bennett, and with Keith Lowe and Harry Hooman backing them up, and was left in the same limbo as Birdy.
Last season, they were regulars in the side, and the fact they are not this time around is an indication of how Mark Yates and Neil Howarth have looked to move to the next level - nothing against the pair of them, but this is the reality.
Time moves on, and I am afraid there is no room for sentiment these days, sad though it is to see loyal club servants move on.
Both have been with the club a long time, and so would no doubt be on decent money in relation to the rest of the squad - and in harsh economic terms, that money should not be being paid to players who are sitting in the stands.
With a week of the transfer window to go, Mark Yates needs that money freed up to try and bring in players who are going to threaten the first 11 or the 16 a bit more.
Despite Gallinagh's departure, we are OK for cover at the back with the four I mentioned above - but Bird's departure does leave us short in the centre of midfield.
We now have no one who could come in and play the 'holding' role - for example if Pack or Summerfield were to get injured or suspended (or sold...) we would surely be forced into a change of formation to 4-4-2 as there is now no like-for-like replacement.
Penn's absence at Barnet saw Josh Low play in his role - but we have Junior Smikle, Theo Lewis or even Kaid Mohamed who could stand in.
So while Mark Yates is clearing the decks, he may now find he needs three players - a goalkeeper to succeed or back up Scott Brown - well, to challenge him at the very least - a midfielder to cover the central trio and a big, powerful target man.
The postponement of the County Cup game tonight meant we were denied the chance to see Matthew Barnes-Homer, who trained with us on Monday and was a star for Yatesy and Neil at Kidderminster and earned them a £75,000 fee from Luton.
It didn't work out for him at the Kennel or Rochdale on loan and he is now a free agent, so we could wait until after the window ends to make a decision, and hopefully we will be able to give him a trial game soon.
The departure of these two players, while a shame, may give us the breathing space to further strengthen our squad for the challenges ahead.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Foot off the Gas

It had to come along eventually, and maybe it was a defeat waiting to happen.
As I have said before, I don't think we have played well since we demolished Southend at home, and despite three wins and two draws since then, we have not looked convincing.
But before the doom-mongers start enjoying their moment, remember that this was our first defeat in 10 league games, and our second in 16, so it's not the end of our promotion challenge.
We were not at the races, that's true, but you also have to give credit to Rovers, and the way they set up to stifle us.
That's a sign of the respect we have got after our good run of form this season, and if teams are going to come and 'park the bus' as Rovers wanted to, then we have to find a way of combating it.
The Gas came with three big centre-halves, so it was hard for Jimmy Spencer or Darryl Duffy to get any joy against them, strung five across the middle which stopped Kaid Mohamed getting any room and also kept our midfield trio pushed back, and two quick men up front.
The first half was attritional and we were not able to create any sort of clear-cut chance, while Scott Brown saved from Chris Zebroski - rumoured to be a target for us earlier this month - and he also shaved the post with a header.
The turning point of the game came arguably in the opening minute of the second half.
Marlon Pack put Darryl Duffy away down the right, and his cross was deflected just out of the reach of Russ Penn, and went for a corner.
I feel that had Penn been able to get on the end of that, we might have gone on to win the game as it would have forced Rovers to open up, and given us more space.
But it wasn't to be and Rovers got the first goal with a good finish from Zebroski, although our defence was caught square by the through ball and there are question marks about Scott Brown's positioning.
Just before that goal, Mark Yates had made a double change, with Jermaine McGlashan coming on for his debut and Jeff Goulding sent on as well.
The system was changed to 4-4-2 and within seconds we were a goal down - coincidence maybe...
But soon after we were two down, and that was utterly avoidable.
We lost the ball in midfield, then Browny made a good save but what Alan Bennett was thinking I don't know as he tried to chest it back and Eliot Richards nipped in to score.
Benno has been brilliant this season, so we will let him off this one - but he nearly did the same again but the ball was headed wide after he and Brown got in another muddle.
I am sure today will re open the Scott Brown debate, but I don't feel he was to blame directly for either goal - and I also saw a tweet saying that people were singing about Jack Butland.
If that is true, then what is the point? Butland is not our player, and most probably will not be coming back, so surely it would be better to get behind the players we do have?
He is our goalkeeper at the moment, and deserves the backing of the fans.
Since he came back into the side, Browny has done very well, and still I am struggling to think of more than one goal which was directly down to Scott (MK Dons, back in August...), or any game this season that we have lost directly because of him.
Basically, people need to get off his back.
Ok, rant over...
The goals meant that the double change we had made a few minutes before the goals was more or less nullified as we were then chasing the game.
Our record buy (let's face it, he is...) McGlashan had a few decent runs, showed his pace a couple of times and could have scored.
I am sure he will be a crowd favourite, but in equal measure he will frustrate and now we have a weapon on the right hand side who will try and beat a man and get crosses in, we need someone on the end of them.
Duffy and Spencer are not that sort of player. They are not target men, and for his extra height, Jeff Goulding is not either - so if we are to bring someone else in this January, a powerful target man is what we need. That is the priority - not a goalkeeper.
As soon as the two goals went in, Rovers dropped even deeper and were able to contain us with ease.
We need to be little cuter when we are trying to break down these blanket defences but we went a little bit too direct and, let's face it, we never looked like scoring one, let alone two goals.
But as I said at the start, let's put this defeat and performance in perspective, take it on the chin and move on.
Some will see it as an opportunity lost as Southend and Crawley dropped points and even a draw would have seen us take over top spot.
That is true, but also maybe this loss will be a blessing in disguise - a little wake-up call for anyone who thought the rest of this season was going to be a procession.
There is still a lot of work to do, starting at Macclesfield next weekend, and this will be another test for Mark Yates and the squad - how will they bounce back?

Player by player
Scott Brown - Maybe a slight question mark over his positioning for the first goal. Good save initially for the second but then he nearly got punished for a poor clearance as Rovers went close to a third.
Sido Jombati - Our best player, despite trying to play in every position bar the one he is picked in, popping up at centre forward at one point in the first half.
Luke Garbutt - Steady enough game, and defended well, but when he got forward his crossing and set-pieces were poor.
Alan Bennett - Has been superb for us this season but a bad mistake for the second goal, and then nearly made another error which could have led to another goal.
Keith Lowe - Was caught out by the through ball for the first goal as Chris Zebroski outpaced him to score, otherwise did okay.
Marlon Pack - Some delicious passes, but also got caught in possession a number of times as he tried to over-elaborate. Set-piece deliveries poor.
Luke Summerfield - Thought this was his poorest game for a while as Rovers did a good job of stopping him having an influence on the game.
Russ Penn - Does not look fit to me. For the second week running, his drive and energy has been lacking and he only seems to be able to last an hour of games at present.
Kaid Mohamed - Started well but faded out of the game as Rovers denied him any space. Tried to take an extra touch a few times, and lost possession which caused problems a few times.
Jimmy Spencer - Cut a frustrated figure all afternoon and was no surprise when he picked up a booking. Usual effort, but got no change from Rovers' three centre-halves.
Darryl Duffy - Also unable to have much of an influence on the game. Looked unhappy at being taken off but could have no complaints.

Jermaine McGlashan (for Russ Penn 58) -
Some decent runs and crosses, and nearly grabbed a goal, showing promise for the future. But we need to get someone on the end of his crosses.
Jeff Goulding (for Darryl Duffy 59)  - Struggled to get into the game. Was meant to give us more height and presence in the box, but it didn't work out like that.
Junior Smikle (for Kaid Mohamed 82) - Was on for less than 10 minutes, and didn't have much impact as we were chasing the game.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Splashing the cash

Today is going to be a more exciting day than usual for CTFC fans as we should get our first look at new signing Jermaine McGlashan.
I first heard of our interest in him on Wednesday and - to be honest - never thought it would happen this quickly, firstly as there were other clubs interested and also because we would have had to pay money for him.
But Paul Baker and Mark Yates have managed to pull the deal off, and now we can look forward to the prospect of a player who has impressed twice against us this season lining up in Ruby!

How much has he cost?
The fee has been called 'undisclosed' which happens most of the time these days.
My theory on that is that I think clubs don't want to admit how much they have paid for a player as they are worried they will get stick if the signing does not work out.
Also, they might want to relieve the pressure on the player a little, so fans don't expect him to be a world-beater straight away.
The selling club also like it kept quiet so their fans don't think they have sold the player on the cheap, or they don't want other clubs to know they have now got lots of money, so any deals for targets they want will see the price go up, and the same for fans who see they have a windfall and expect it to be spent.
However, there can be no doubt that we have broken our transfer record, which was £50,000 for both Brian Wilson and Grant McCann, as he is a young player and had 16 months left on his Aldershot contract.
The figure I have heard is £75,000, which is a significant chunk of the Spurs money - and we have given him a two and a half year contract, so add the wages on top for that length of deal, and the whole package could set us back around £250,000.
That all adds up to a significant investment by Paul Baker and the board and a real sign that they want to take the club to the next level - it's a bit of a shock too, as Paul said he didn't expect us to pay a fee this month...!
We paid small fees for Sido Jombati and Wes Thomas, and used to pay fees regularly under Steve Cotterill, mainly to Hereford, but the last player we paid a 'significant' fee for was the £25,000 John Ward shelled out on Paul Connor.
Some fans I think are more excited about the signing just because we have paid a transfer fee, but it is no guarantee that the signing will work out in the long run.
For every Kayode Odejayi, Wilson, McCann and Neil Grayson who we have paid money for, there is a Hugh McAuley, Antony Griffin and Connor, who did not prove to be unqualified successes at Whaddon Road...

Is he any good?
On the evidence of the two games he has played against us for Aldershot, yes he is.
Up at the Rec, he was the game's outstanding player in the Shots' 1-0 win, and his display that day probably went some way to losing Danny Andrew his place in the side as he took him to the cleaners.
He set up the goal for Michael Rankine and also hit the bar.
Then, last weekend, he was also influential and was again Aldershot's best performer but his efforts were in vain as the Shots had absolutely no presence in the box at all.

Are Aldershot fans upset to lose him?
Yes and no it seems.
On Twitter, @RisingPhoenix said "He isn't all that - has pace & looks dangerous, but NO end product. Would be happy to get some cash for him."
Whether that is sour grapes, I don't know, and he added: "He runs fast & looks dangerous, but falls over a lot & rarely scores/assists. Like him tho, so I wish him well."

Is he what we need?
Yes I think so.
The one position in the side where we have looked a bit weak is on the right flank.
Josh Low's performances have been, by and large, a bit disappointing and we have used a striker, Jimmy Spencer or Darryl Duffy, out of position, so it will be good to have a natural player in that position.
A right-sided version of Kaid Mohamed is what most fans think we have been short of, and so it seems that is what we have got.

Will he fit into the system?
I don't see why not.
He will give us balance on the right hand side, which will be key, and give us a real threat down that side of the pitch.
He is quick, can beat a man, and can get crosses in, so the key to his success will be whether there is anyone on the end of those crosses.
It also gives Mark Yates some interesting dilemmas.
His arrival probably sounds the death knell for Josh Low as a regular starter, and pushes Junior Smikle further down the list, and if we keep the system we have used so successfully, one of Jimmy Spencer and Darryl Duffy will miss out.
My slight worry is that neither of them will be able to convert the crosses which will come in, and if McGlashan gets down the flank, that the support in the box might be a bit sporadic.
To be honest, I would say Jeff Goulding is the best player in the squad for getting on the end of crosses, especially in the air - hence hy I would like us to go for a big striker.
It would be a shame if the arrival of McGlashan meant a change of system to 4-4-2 as I don't feel that would work - I would hope we stay with the system we have as it has been so successful.
As for the player himself, his success will also be judged on how he buys into the work ethic that exists in the squad.
The spirit in the dressing room is the best it has been for years I hope McGlashan fits into that.

Is that it for the window?
I suspect not. As I said above, I would like us to try and bring in a big, powerful forward to give us a different option in games, and the goalkeeping situation is still a small concern for me.
Scott Brown has done well recently but what if he gets injured or makes a major rick...? I am sure we are still monitoring the Jack Butland situation but I would hope there are other irons in the fire in case that door remains closed.

In summary, this is an exciting signing as sends out a big statement not only to our fans but also to our rivals at the top of the table that we mean to do everything we can to stay up there and really go for it.
I am confident that we have not over-stretched ourselves financially due to the FA Cup money, and I know the board have learned their lessons after the Allen shenanigans.
My final hope is that the fans give him time to settle in.
He might not hit the straps straight away as he settles into the club, gets to know his team-mates and the system and so on.
As a winger and a real flair player, he might have on days and off days - I can see him being a player who might have one good game in three or four so I hope the fans have patience with him and don't write him off if he has a bad game or two.

Finally, as Jermaine McGlashan came in, we heard of the departure to Bath of Andy Gallinagh.
It is always sad to see a player go, especially one who we have nurtured through the youth system, and Andy always gave everything for the club and really played for the shirt every time he went out there.
He played in several different positions and always gave it his all, and I wish him good luck in the future.
Thanks for your efforts Andy.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Money, money, money

Once again, the apparent demise of Darlington and the problems at Kettering Town bring the subject of football finances into the spotlight.
Darlington today sacked all of their players and management staff, and there doesn't seem much hope of a way back, while Kettering are in a similar state of flux.
The problems at Darlington go back to the quite frankly ridiculous decision to build a 25,000-seater stadium a few years back, when surely it was obvious to just about everyone that they didn't need it and would never fill it.
I went to their old ground, Feethams, when Cheltenham won there 2-1 on the day Michael Duff made his Northern Ireland debut and Mark Yates scored from the penalty spot.
The crowd was about 2,000 - so how anyone apart from the egotist who took them over, George Reynolds, ever thought they would get crowds 10 times the size is anyone's guess.
On Twitter I made this point earlier, and was told that no-one stopped him when he built the stadium.
Where were the other board members? Where was the local council - how the hell did they grant permission for such a white elephant that now looks like it will bring the club down.
Someone, somewhere, obviously made some money out of it...
At Kettering, they also have a maverick in charge it seems, in Imraan Ladak, the man who made Gazza the manager then took his side to play at Nene Park, home of their greatest rivals Rushden and Diamonds - who themselves have gone bust.
But do football clubs ever die? We have Accrington Stanley, Bradford Park Avenue, Newport County, AFC Halifax, AFC Telford, AFC Wimbledon - all clubs re-born after their former incarnations went bust or were moved 80 miles north on a whim.
What are the chances of AFC Darlington, AFC Kettering and AFC Rushden in the future?
But it shouldn't be necessary, if only - firstly - those in charge of clubs and looking to sell only did so when they are sure the people coming in are doing it for the right reasons.
It would weed out the Reynolds', the Ladaks and the others at places like Wrexham who have basically asset stripped clubs as a money-making vehicle.
However sad these situations are for the fans (and largely they are blameless in Darlington and Kettering's case) there are times when the fans need to look at themselves.
All over the country, boards come under pressure to spend, spend, spend - speculate to accumulate is the phrase that crops up all the time.
We have heard it at Cheltenham on a number of occasions - in fact, I heard it this week from a fan after the money we have got from the Spurs Cup tie.
After the play-off win over Rushden in 2002, our chairman Paul Baker was lambasted after a piece in the Echo stating that they wouldn't be going out and spending big on the squad in League One.
The reason? The club didn't have the money - ie they were going to live within their means.
It happened again after the Grimsby win - more criticism for the same reasons.
But we have chased the dream on some occasions - there was the loans of Alex Russell, Richard Keogh and Steve Brooker, rumoured to be very expensive at the end of the season which saw us stay up on the final day against Doncaster.
Then there was the Martin Allen reign - 52 players and more expensive loans, none more so than James Wesolowski, which nearly tipped us into administration.
The reaction to that? Not to keep spending and accruing more debt - not to ask for mercy and handouts from the Premier League or anyone else.
It was to slash the wage bill, and rely on Mark Yates to keep us in the League, which he did.
That got the club back on firmer ground, and Cheltenham are reaping the benefits of that prudence with the budget increased this season, and the performances of the side are just reward for that.
But we have got there through living within our means, and not (this time) spending money we haven't got.
We have seen Rushden and Diamonds do that - and look what happened there - and we see Crawley, Southend and Swindon all around us splashing the cash.
Our fans see that, and think we should be spending the Spurs Cup money on a transfer fee or two - but I am glad we are not going to.
All over the country, all I hear are fans moaning about their clubs not spending money.
Most of these clubs are hugely in debt, and their fans are quite happy for them to make that debt even bigger - then when problems come they expect a handout from everyone else. Sorry, no way.
I have no sympathy for fans and clubs like this - sorry about that.
Blackburn fans moaning at Venky's for lack of investment. Everton fans doing the same at Bill Kenwright.
Have they got the money to spend? If not, then they cannot spend it.
In this country, we should have rules that stop clubs running up massive debts, and it should be the same here as in Europe, where clubs are relegated if they have huge debts.
I am sick of well-run clubs like ours being penalised and unable to compete against clubs with huge wage bills they cannot sustain without running up big debts.
Time for a level playing field.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

We are staying up...

So that's that then.
52 points in the bag, and the relief is palpable that we are staying up.
Thank goodness for that.
What? We have still got 21 games to go?
Ah. Ok then. So we can get some more points then...
In fact, for 71 minutes of the 90, we were top of the table - I know we didn't play like a top of the table side, but getting the points is what it is all about.
However, it was nice to hear the Wymans guys singing 'We are top of the league...'
Aldershot had more of the possession and territory, I would wager, but how many times did Scott Brown have a save to make? I can remember only one, in the second half, down by his post.
That was again testimony to the sterling displays of our centre-halves, skipper Benno and the Bilston Cafu himself Keith Lowe, coming in for Steve Elliott and showing that we really do have decent back-up in the squad.
That's now five successive clean sheets at home, with Jack Butland's drop on to Steve Elliott's foot against Plymouth the last goal we let in at home - back on October 29.
Further forward, there were a few more problems.
Marlon Pack's touch and passing was a bit off, and Russ Penn didn't seem to have the same drive - the runs to support the front two were missing, hence we struggled a bit to create much.
Jimmy Spencer and Darryl Duffy were not able to get much change from the Aldershot back four, and were isolated a lot of the time, while the hold-up play was not what it has been, hence we could not bring others into play.
Then there is Kaid Mohamed - the enigma himself.
For 89 minutes, he frustrated the life out of me.
His runs were getting nowhere, he chose blind alleys, got crowded out, and when he did pass, the option was wring and the move broke down and allowed Aldershot to break on us.
When I saw Jeff Goulding and Junior Smikle getting ready to come on, I was waiting for the number 23 to go up. Wrong.
Then, when Josh Low got ready, again I waited for the number 23. Wrong again.
Then up pops Kaid in the last minute with the sort of run and finish we want to see more often, and that we have seen more often away from Whaddon Road and we all went away happy.
So despite the shortcomings, we won the game - and in the position we are in, that's all that matters.
Perhaps we were a bit fortunate to be playing an Aldershot team which looked utterly bereft of confidence in the final third.
A more potent side would have caused us more problems and probably taken something from the game, but we rode our luck a bit and the first goal came at the right time.
Jimmy Spencer will surely win the award for assist of the season as he was sat on his backside when he shovelled the ball for Luke Summerfield to hit another of his piledrivers for his fifth goal of the season.
Marlon Pack would have taken goal of the season with his late free-kick - some people suggested to me after the game that it actually hit the stanchion inside the goal and came out, but having slowed it down about 20 times it definitely hit the upper part of the post - but what a strike!
Kaid's goal ended any lingering doubt, and so we get to 52 points. We are still averaging more than two points a game and I am sure that in any other season we would be away from the rest.
But it shows how well Southend and Crawley have done too, and also the sides just behind, notably Swindon and Shrewsbury, that our start only sees us locked in a tight battle.
Last season, 68 points made the play-offs, and 80 points won automatic promotion, but since we joined the league, the highest points total needed for a play-off place is 78 points and 88 is the highest for third place of higher.
Therefore I would suggest that 80 points has to be our minimum target for an automatic promotion spot, which is 28 more points - ie a minimum of 9 wins and a draw from 21 games.
Sounds easy, but we know it won't be, especially as we have to play the rest of the top five sides all away from home in that programme of games.
We know it's still going to be a bumpy ride from her on in, with lots of twists and turns still to come, but we are in there fighting.
Finally, I have to mention two more things  firstly the attendance - 3,147 was, to put it mildly, pathetic after the number of people who went to Spurs last weekend. This team deserves so much more support.
Secondly, the pitch. I know Terry and his team do a great job, but it was very bobbly and looks very bare in places. I am not going to blame the tenants but it would be a shame if it derailed our bid for the top.

Player by player
Scott Brown - Not many saves to make despite all of Aldershot's territory. Made one fantastic take in the second half, but did have some jittery moments when he stayed on his line.
Sido Jombati - Decent game without really shining. Did his defensive work well, but didn't have an impact going forward.
Luke Garbutt - Had his hands full with Jermaine McGlashan but came out just about even in their battle. Set-pieces not great.
Keith Lowe - Shows the strength of our squad when a player like Keith can come in for Steve Elliott and have a stormer of a game, Won just about every header and got important blocks and tackles in.
Alan Bennett - Usual big game from the skipper. Helped us to our fifth successive home clean sheet.
Marlon Pack - Thought he was slightly disappointing, passing was off and touch not what is usually is, but had that late shot from 40 yards gone in, no one would have cared.
Russ Penn - Seemed to lack his usual energy today. Whether he is carrying a slight injury I don't know, but again came off around the hour mark.
Luke Summerfield - Best of the midfield three. A great strike for his goal and continued his good run of form that got him player of the month.
Kaid Mohamed - To be honest, he was pretty terrible for 89 minutes. Ran up blind alleys, passing woeful, no end product... but what a finish...
Jimmy Spencer - Thought Jimmy was poor today. Hold-up play let him down and when he was out wide, his movement was not great either.
Darryl Duffy - Also didn't have a great game. Couldn't impose himself on the Aldershot centre halves, and was fighting an uphill battle all game.

Jeff Goulding (for Jimmy Spencer 62) - Thought he did okay when he came on. Held the ball up better and helped to set up the second goal.
Junior Smikle (for Russ Penn 62) - Usual energy and usual commitment.
Josh Low (for Darryl Duffy 75) - Barely had an impact as we saw the game out.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Back to reality

Yes, it is really true...

We all hoped, and we all dreamed, but ultimately it wasn't to be.
Our Rubies had their little moments - Kaid Mohamed's run in the first 10 seconds, Russ Penn and Marlon Pack's half-chances, Junior Smikle's nutmeg of Danny Rose among the best - but the Premier League quality shone through.
Yes, Spurs made 10 changes from the side which had beaten West Brom last week, but I suspect if that was their first choice 11, it would comfortably hold its own in the top flight.
Eight full internationals, and three under-21s (Carlo Cudicini has one Italian cap at that level it seems) tells its' own story, and they were just quicker in speed and thought.

The Ruby Army filling up the South Stand

They were clinical too - it was credit to us that they only had two real chances in the first half, and they took them both, with Roman Pavlyuchenko's goal the real killer.
We kept our shape well, showed good discipline and didn't resort to kicking them and hoofing the ball up the field - we tried to stick to our normal game but were not able to impose it on them.
The pre-match line-up
 Our build-up play was neat and tidy, but they were happy to stand off and wait for the errors, and we just couldn't find that killer pass or telling cross that could really have opened them up.
Kaid was probably our best hope for that - he had some decent runs and again it was just that final decision which went awry.
At the other end, Scott Brown made some fantastic saves in the second half, the back four gave as good as they got against their pace and movement of Jermain Defoe, Pav, Aaron Lennon and Giovani, and our midfield competed well.

The press box view of White Hart Lane with the South
Stand packed full of the 5000 strong Ruby Army
The fans were superb - from my vantage point, about four rows behind Harry Redknapp (!!), they made great noise and kept their backing for the players throughout.
Yatesy talks to BBC Gloucestershire post match
It was a great day out. From arriving at the racecourse at 9am, with the tractor bedecked in balloons and the lines of coaches in convoy down the M40 and M25, it was great to see everyone enjoying the occasion.
... and Harry Redknapp faces
the media 
OK, so we didn't win, or get that money-spinning replay, but we can hold our heads high and, I think, say we gave it a decent shot and did not disgrace ourselves.
So we go back to the main aim - promotion from League Two, and Aldershot next week.

Player by player
Scott Brown - the national press gave him the man of the match, and he made some superb saves in the second half especially. No chance with any of the goals.
Sido Jombati - Will have done his reputation no harm. Held his own against pace of Lennon and Giovani.
Luke Garbutt - Wanted to prove he could play against top players, and did well. One moment when he took a corner, then a few seconds later won a tackle in our box showed his pace.
Alan Bennett - Good as ever, and made some brilliant interceptions and clearances.
Steve Elliott - Superb game, and very unlucky to deflect the third goal over Scott Brown's head.
Russ Penn - If only he had taken that chance at 2-0, then who knows... but had a decent game nonetheless.
Luke Summerfield - My man of the match for us. Was everywhere in the first half especially and looked to drive us on.
Marlon Pack - Quiet game by his standards but Spurs had him tightly marked and had obviously picked him as the danger man.
Josh Low - Disappointing game, and in hindsight I might have played Duffy or Spencer out wide, or given Junior a run.
Kaid Mohamed - Good game - tried to run at them every chance he got and had them worried on occasions. Just that final ball...
Jimmy Spencer - Frustrating afternoon for Jimmy as he did not get much service and had to go looking for the ball, but the experience will do him good in the long run.

Junior Smikle (for Josh Low 58) - Good display from Junior (despite the lime green boots...). He will want a DVD of his nutmeg of Danny Rose! Pushing for a start against Aldershot after last two substitute appearances.
Darryl Duffy (for Jimmy Spencer 62) - Surprised he didn't start, as top scorer and penalty taker (you never know...). Like Junior he improved the team when he came on and hope he starts on Saturday.
Jeff Goulding (for Russ Penn 77) - Won a couple of headers and set up Marlon's late chance.

For my full album of photos from White Hart Lane click the link below:

Friday, 6 January 2012

To dare is to do

Audere est facere is the motto of Tottenham Hotspur, who will line up on one half of White Hart Lane in approximately 17 hours time on one of the biggest days in the history of Cheltenham Town.
Translated, it means to dare is to do - and that could adequately sum up the attitude needed by our ruby-clad boys tomorrow.
Can we win? Of course. Will we win? Probably not, but there is nothing wrong with dreaming.
If we don't carry that belief with us, there is no point in boarding the 56 coaches, trains and cars which will carry us to North London, is there?
I have that belief. My excitement has been growing all week, watching Twitter and Facebook buzzing with people getting tickets, transport, balloons, scarves and everything else sorted.
In my book, this game is right up there, Wembley 1998, Rushden and Yeovil 1999, West Brom and Cardiff 2002 Newcastle and Cardiff 06 - this one joins the list.
On paper, Spurs will be much stronger than us, we all know that.
Even their likely so-called second string side of Gomes, Fredericks, Bassong, Dawson, Rose, Krancjar, Livermore, Carroll, Pienaar, Giovani and Pavlyuchenko includes seven full internationals.
The other four are young English players with a point to prove - but somewhere, there will be an upset tomorrow, and why can't it be us?
But let's face it, the result is the least important thing about tomorrow's game.
In the grand scheme of things for Cheltenham Town this season, it is the least important game we will play.
Call me unambitious if you want, but if we lose 5-0, so what. Everyone will say we were expected to - the bookies certainly think so - and whatever happens the 5,000-strong Ruby Army will still applaud the team off the field.
It is a showcase. A chance for players, club and fans to show what our club is about, and then count the money afterwards.
The week has been fantastic. Everywhere you look, people have been talking about Cheltenham Town.
The national papers have been writing about us, the national TV channels and radio stations have been talking about us - driving to work this morning, I turned on Five Live and Mark Yates' voice came back at me.
This is our shop window, and it's also a chance for 2-3,000 people who do not usually watch us to join our happy band and - hopefully - catch the bug and keep coming back for more.
I hope no one is going to London tomorrow expecting us to win. I'm not. I am hoping this is the one in 100 chance that we could win.
Spurs need to have an off day, and our lads need to have the game of their lives, then we can win.
They have nothing to lose, they can go out there, play without fear and just do us proud.
They need to ignore the reputations of those in white, conquer the inevitable nerves and reproduce some of their football from Southend, Crawley or Oxford. Then it might happen.
All week I have been asked what the score will be, and my answer has always been the same - if we win, wonderful, if we draw, brilliant, if we lose, never mind.
A goal would be nice, but overall it's about our club having it's day in the spotlight.
Enjoy it, savour it.
Days like this don't happen very often.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Cup glory - or the lack of it...

Tottenham Hotspur v Cheltenham Town. I shall keep saying it over and over until it finally sinks in.
In 48 hours time, we will be reflecting on a great day, either hideously drunk in celebration of an upset, hideously drunk and awaiting a money-spinning replay, or hideously drunk as we get ready to concentrate on the promotion push.
Whatever emotion it is, we will be proud of the players' efforts and will have savoured one of the greatest days our club has ever seen.
But it was not always that way, and this game has given me the time to go down memory lane, raid my programme box and recall a time when our FA Cup fortunes were not so good, thanks to Trevor Senior, Matt Lazenby, Chris Yates and Chris Souness.
Who? Well, yes, you might well ask, but they all made me thoroughly miserable in the 1980s.
For less than 30 years ago - reaching the first round of the FA Cup (let alone round three...) was, for us Robins fans, the Holy Grail.
In fact, the final qualifying round was something we very rarely managed.
We got that far, in 1981-2, but an 18-year-old whizzkid called Trevor Senior knocked us out with a hat-trick in Dorchester's 3-1 win en route to a successful career at Reading and a disastrous spell at Watford (I think it was karma...).
The following season, we were even closer o that promised land of the first round proper. I remember the conga on the pitch at Thame United after Jimmy Gough's last minute winner, then we demolished Gloucester 5-1 and beat Trowbridge after a replay.
Weymouth v Cheltenham Town
replay programme
In our way then stood Weymouth. They were a big club - in the Alliance Premier League (Conference to you and me...) and we drew 0-0 at home in front of 1,805 - a big crowd then - and I remember bunking off English for the replay (sorry Mum).
Windsor and Eton v Cheltenham programme
We lost 4-0, well beaten on the night, and we thought, OK, maybe next year...
But we failed again in 1983-4 as well. Glastonbury, Bridgend and Barry Town were the vanquished giants as we headed for Stag Meadow, the home of Isthmian Leaguers Windsor and Eton.
We were in the Southern Premier by now, and they were managed by the soon-to-be Woking legend Geoff Chapple, and it was a scrappy game, heading for a replay until disaster struck, John Murphy stood on the ball and Chris Yates scored the winner.
That was made worse when Windsor drew Bournemouth in the first round. They lost, and two rounds later, on this corresponding weekend 27 years ago, Bournemouth beat then-holders Manchester United 2-0. It could have been us...
Bournemouth's manager that day? Harry Redknapp. An omen? who knows...
I'm glossing over 1984-5 as we got hammered at Merthyr, but the following two seasons really represent the nadir of our FA Cup fortunes during my Robins-watching time.
1985-6 was our first season in the Gola League (still the Conference to most of you...) and this was going to be our time - the FA Cup run was going to happen.
We were drawn at Minehead, of the Western League, and I remember watching us run out at Irnham Road, slightly concerned at the sight of Brian Hughes, our star goalscoring midfielder and now manager of Cirencester, in the goalkeeper's kit...
The Bideford programme

The programmes from our defeat
by Minehead, first game and replay

He only played a half in goal as Neil Hards' car broke down, but Matt Lazenby scored and only a very late own goal by Alan Impey earned us a very fortuitous replay. Never mind, we would do the job this time.
Er, no. We wouldn't actually, as Lazenby scored twice at Whaddon Road and we were out. Again.
The following season was worse as we lost 4-3 at home to Bideford, another Western League side, with Chris Souness scoring twice. That defeat was made worse when I later went to work in Plymouth and Souey became a good friend of mine, along with another Bideford player that day, John Hillson, and they constantly reminded me about it.
The following season we cracked it - thanks to a bloke called Brett Angell, who gave us a memorable day at Wolves - well, for about a minute after scoring a cracker. Then Steve Bull scored a hat-trick and some blond winger called Keith Downing got one as we were well beaten 5-1.
But it didn't matter. We had cracked the first round of the FA Cup at last - but we came down with a bump the following season as Gloucester City beat us 3-0.
We went through the '90s towards our arrival in the Football League with those epic games against Exmouth Town, a narrow loss at Birmingham and replay defeats against Bournemouth and Peterborough, and more recently those Newcastle, Fulham, Burnley, Oldham and West Brom games have given us some good memories to savour.
More will be made on Saturday at White Hart Lane, and I will enjoy it as I am sure every Cheltenham fan will - but I will tip a nod towards Lazenby, Souness, Yates and Senior, who upset the odds against us back then and wondering if there is a hero amongst our lads waiting to be crowned...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Where are they now???

As you all know, I love my stats, and have been wanting to do this for a while.
Thanks to my good friend Phil Ruck, this is a list of all players who have appeared for Cheltenham Town in the Football League, and where they are now (as at Jan 3, 2012).
The list is in order of the number of Football League starts they made/have made for the club
Any mistakes/omissions/new information gratefully received.

VICTORY, JAMIE - Cheltenham Town's Under-16 coach.
HIGGS, SHANE - Northampton Town
BIRD, DAVID - still at the club
FINNIGAN, JOHN - Shortwood United, works at Winchcombe School
YATES, MARK - manager, Cheltenham Town FC (!!)
McCANN, GRANT - Peterborough United
DUFF, SHANE - not playing at the moment, at Hartpury College and working for PA at games.
GILL, JERRY - head of Kidderminster Harriers' Academy
BOOK, STEVEN - Cheltenham Town goalkeeping coach and occasional FA Cup sub
DEVANEY, MARTIN - Tranmere Rovers
BROWN, SCOTT - still at the club
TOWNSEND, MICHAEL - Hereford United
ALSOP, JULIAN - Carmarthen Town (made sub appearance v Aberystwyth, 2/1/2012!!)
SPENCER, DAMIAN - no club (released by Grimsby, Jan 2012)
HOWELLS, LEE - Assistant manager, Bath City
BANKS, CHRISTOPHER - physio, Stoke City
MELLIGAN, JOHN - Solihull Moors
CAINES, GAVIN - Eastwood Town
WILSON, BRIAN - Colchester United
GALLINAGH, ANDREW - still at club
MILTON, RUSSELL - Centre of Excellence Manager, Cheltenham Town FC/Under-15 coach
HOWARTH, NEIL- assistant manager, Cheltenham Town FC
ODEJAYI, KAYODE - Colchester United
LOW, JOSHUA- still at club
ARMSTRONG, CRAIG - player-coach, Hucknall Town
BROUGH, JOHN - Head of Youth, Cheltenham Town FC
GUINAN, STEVEN - Kidderminster Harriers, works at Hartpury College
GRAYSON, NEIL - Carlton Town
McAULEY, HUGH - director of the Innovation Group, a customised luxury car sourcing company
WALKER, RICHARD - works for a car dealership in Nottingham
GILLESPIE, STEVEN - Colchester United
ANDREW, DANNY - still at club
ELLIOTT, STEVEN - still at club
LOWE, KEITH - still at club
RIDLEY, LEE - Gainsborough Trinity
POOK, MICHAEL - Maidenhead United
PACK, MARLON - still at club
WRIGHT, ALAN - centre of excellence coach, Blackpool
CONNOR, PAUL - Gainsborough Trinity
VINCENT, ASHLEY - Colchester United
DIALLO, DRISSA - returned to France
GOULDING, JEFF - still at club
WILLIAMS, LEE - assistant manager, Leamington
LINDEGAARD, ANDREW - Director of Dymond Strength, a fitness company
THOMAS, WESLEY - Bournemouth
RICHARDS, JUSTIN - Burton Albion
SMIKLE, BRIAN - still at club
ARTUS, FRANCIS - Grimsby Town
HAYLES, BARRY - Truro City
BRAYSON, PAUL - Harrogate Town
FORSYTH, RICHARD - PE teacher at North East Wolverhampton Academy
RILEY, MARTIN - Mansfield
BENNETT, ALAN - still at club
MOHAMED, KAID - still at club
WESTLAKE, IAN - Montreal Impact (MLS expansion team)
PENN, RUSS - still at club
HUTTON, DAVID - Boreham Wood
SPENCER, JAMES - still at club
SUMMERFIELD, LUKE - still at club
LEWIS, THEO - still at club
OWUSU, LLOYD - no club (last club Barnet)
THORNHILL, MATT - no club (released by Hibernian, Jan 2012)
FYFE, GRAHAM - lives in Australia
DUFFY, DARRYL - still at club
BROOKER, STEVE - no club (last club Doncaster)
JOMBATI, SIDO - still at club
SINCLAIR, DEAN - Arlesey Town (on loan from Hayes and Yeading)
JONES, DARREN - Aldershot Town
D'AGOSTINO, MICHAEL - Sportfruende Seigen (Germany)
ELITO, MEDY - Dagenham and Redbridge
KENTON, DARREN - Rochester Rhinos
BROWN, SCOTT - no club (last club Morecambe)
GARBUTT, LUKE - still at club
MYRIE-WILLIAMS, JENNISON - Stevenage (on loan to Port Vale)
BELL, MICKEY - manager, Clevedon Town
BUTLAND, JACK - Birmingham City
BROWN, MARVIN - Chippenham Town
AMANKWAAH, KEVIN - Rochdale (signed Jan 2012)
LABADIE, JOSS - Tranmere Rovers
GREEN, MATT - Mansfield Town
SERTORI, MARK- masseur to the England national team
KEOGH, RICHARD - Coventry City
PAYNE, JOSH - Oxford United (on loan at Aldershot, Jan 2012)
HAYNES, KYLE - Hednesford Town
HENRY, KARL - Wolves
MORGAN, ALAN - Musselburgh Athletic
COZIC, BERTRAND - retired May 2011 (last club Exeter City)
JONES, STEVE - assistant manager, Bishop's Cleeve
PIPE, DAVID - Newport County
LESCOTT, AARON - Halesowen Town
MUGGLETON, CARL - assistant manager, Notts County
BERCHICHE, YURI - Real Union (Spain)
MARSHALL, BEN - Stoke City (loan at Sheffield Wednesday)
BLOOMER, ROBERT - works for the Football League
O'LEARY, KRISTIAN - manager, Neath FC
MONTROSE, LEWIS - Gillingham
SHROOT, ROBIN - Stevenage
WYLDE, MICHAEL - Cambridge United
WESOLOWSKI, JAMES - Oldham Athletic
CLARE, DARYL - released by Cambridge, October 2011
BOZANIC, OLIVER - Central Coast Mariners (Australian A-League)
JEFFERS, SHAUN - Coventry City
THOMSON, JAKE - Forest Green Rovers
HAYES, JONATHAN - Inverness Caledonian Thistle
STRONG, GREG - player/manager, Rhyl
ROSA, DENES - Ferencvaros
ROSE, MICHAEL - Colchester United
BROWN, AARON - Darlington
YAO, SOS - Maldon & Tiptree United
REID, CRAIG - Stevenage
JACKSON, MICHAEL - Bishop's Cleeve
CLEVERLEY, BEN - Weston-super-Mare
MADJO, GUY - Stevenage (on loan to Port Vale)
HILL, KEITH - manager, Barnsley
LEE, JAKE - Bishop's Cleeve
HYNES, PETER - Drogheda United
ALMOND, LOUIS - Blackpool (recently finished loan at Barrow)
SMITH, ANDY - Ballymena United
SIMPKINS, MICHAEL - Retford United
TYSON, NATHAN - Derby County
GRAHAM, BAGASAN - still at club
DENTON, TOM - Mossley
ROSE, ROMONE - no club (last club Muangthong United, Thailand)
PUDDY, WILL - Chippenham Town
COX, SAM - Barnet
GILL, BEN- no club (last club Wealdstone)
ELVINS, ROBERT - Worcester City
WALSH, PHIL - Dagenham and Redbridge
DURRANT, JACK - Didcot Town
BRADSHAW, GARY - North Ferriby United
WARD, GRAHAM - Nuneaton Town
DOBSON, CRAIG - Kettering Town
REID, BOBBY - Bristol City
JACKSON, MARLON - Bristol City (on loan at AFC Telford, Jan 2012)
HOOMAN, HARRY - still at club
HEMMINGS, ASHLEY - Plymouth (moved permanently from Wolves, Jan 2012)
EMERY, JOSH - Stourport Swifts
CORBETT, LUKE - Worcester City (on loan at Leamington)

Sombreros and masks

Back in a previous time when Cheltenham Town used to go away from home and win a few times, Steve Cotterill described one such victory as 'a bandit  raid where we put on our sombreros, masks and rode away with the points.'
Yesterday's trip to Vale Park was a similar scenario - we were pegged back for the best part of an hour, broke away, scored twice, and got the victory, before getting on horseback and riding away into the sunset.
After the game, I spoke to some fans outside the ground and they were all of the same opinion - we didn't play well, dug in, and came away with the win.'
Rather disappointingly, one fan told me that there were a few fans booing at half time.
I am sure it was only a few, but even so - come on...!
But let's gloss over that and talk about the positives, as they are plentiful.
Our 15th league win of the season, our ninth game unbeaten, our seventh league away win of the season, goals from a centre-half and a squad player, no red cards... the list goes on.
We were not at our best in the first half, especially from an attacking point of view, this is true.
I am sure there were a few tired bodies around after the Christmas schedule.
Alan Bennett told Radio Glos afterwards that he woke up very tired and stiff before the game. If he plays like he did when he is tired, how good is he when he is fresh...
The pitch looked like a carpet pre-match, but within a few minutes, the central area was very rutted and cut up.
Same for both sides, I hear you cry - yes it is, but it seemed to affect us more and we could not get our passing game going and could not make use of the wide pitch.
But we defended superbly, and Vale, despite having more possession in the final third and more territory overall, did not manage to test Scott Brown with any meaningful efforts.
Marc Richards should have scored with a couple of headers - one was blocked by Captain Marvel Benno and the other went over and was a poor miss.
Junior Smikle told us after the game that the dressing room consensus at half-time was that they would have taken a 0-0 - most of us on the terraces and in the press box would have agreed.
The second half started much as the first, until the hour mark when Mark Yates introduced Jeff Goulding and Smikle into the proceedings, for Josh Low and Russ Penn.
Whether it was an exercise to rest some weary legs or an attempt to change the game, it certainly had the latter effect.
Within two minutes of coming on, Junior had won a free kick, and Benno glanced it in at the far post.
The second goal was all about Junior. A much-maligned figure in his time at Whaddon, Junior is a willing worker and the sort of squad player every club needs.
He may miss a few chances, he may not be the most skilful, but he is reliable and never lets the side down.
His goal yesterday was started by a lung-busting 50 yard run, aided by a decoy run from Marlon Pack, a lay-off from Darryl Duffy, and then a great finish.
Sean Rigg pulled one back to become the only Gloucestershire boy to score in the match (he is from Wotton-under-Edge...) after Browny made his only save of the match but Rigg put away the rebound.
They pushed three men up, we matched them with Keith Lowe coming on, and never looked like conceding a second.
So another win, but maybe a slightly fortunate one - however, as is said so often, the hallmark of a good team is one that can keep on picking up points even though they don't hit top form.
I don't think we have hit top form since Southend, and we have won twice and drawn twice with Barnet, Shrewsbury, Rotherham and now Vale.
At one time yesterday we were within a goal of top spot, which is nothing short of remarkable considering where we have come from.
So on to the next game.
Sorry... who are we playing again...?

Player by player
Scott Brown - Only one save of note to make and was unlucky when the rebound fell nicely for Rigg to score. Protected well by his defence and his handling was much better than in previous games.
Sido Jombati - Unable to get forward as had to contend with first Rob Taylor and then Rigg who pushed him back well.
Luke Garbutt - Had his hands full with Jennison Myrie-Williams, who was a threat but luckily for us has got no better with providing end product than when he was with us. Defended well.
Alan Bennett - Captain Fantastic one again. Won just about every header against Tom Pope and came up trumps with a crucial goal at the other end.
Steve Elliott - Also very solid against tough customers in Pope and Richards. Picked up a booking, but otherwise another excellent game.
Marlon Pack - Unable to run the game as Vale kept him quiet very well. Heart in mouth moment when he went down at the end, but walked to the team bus afterwards.
Russ Penn - Quiet game by his usual energetic standards. Looked a bit leggy to me and good decision to bring him off after an hour.
Luke Summerfield - As with Russ, Luke wasn't his usual self, but still did his bit to keep Vale at arm's length in the first hour.
Kaid Mohamed - Very quiet. Had our best first-half chance but shot wide. No real chances to use his pace and run at Vale.
Josh Low - Also very quiet and also rightly taken off. Did some good work defensively but no threat going forward.
Darryl Duffy - Battled away against two big centre-halves and got nothing from the referee. One chance in the second half was saved and played a part in Junior's goal.

Jeff Goulding (for Russ Penn, 60 mins) - Did well when he came on. Won some flick-ons and was a bit of a nuisance for the centre-halves.
Junior Smikle (for Josh Low, 60 mins) - Won the free-kick which led to the first goal and scored the second. Can't ask for much more than that!
Keith Lowe (for Darryl Duffy, 85 mins) - Brought on when Vale went to three up front to match them man for man. Helped us see the game out.