Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Going or staying?

Around 48 hours after the disappointment of Wembley, the fall-out has begun in earnest with the fate being decided of the 11 out of contract players in the CTFC squad.
There were no surprises, with the Whaddon Road careers of Josh Low, Junior Smikle and Theo Lewis coming to an end, while Danny Andrew, with a year left on his deal, has effectively been freed as well.
He lost his place in October to Luke Garbutt, went to loan to Mansfield, and can leave on a free with Mark Yates on the hunt for a left-back this summer.
The other eight, Luke Summerfield, Alan Bennett, Steve Elliott, Bags Graham, Harry Hooman, Keith Lowe, Scott Brown and Jeff Goulding, have been offered new deals - but will they all stay?
You get the feeling this isn't like past close-seasons, where the out of contract players sign their deals automatically as they don't have a lot of choice.
I sense this time around that Yatesy and Paul Baker might have to work a bit harder to keep some of these lads on board, especially the likes of Bennett, Summerfield and Goulding - and maybe Brown and Elliott too.
I am sure there will be a few clubs who have seen what we have done this season and will fancy nicking a few of them from us.
Benno's post match interview at Wembley said that he wanted assurances that the club was ambitious for another tilt at the top three next season - at 30, he doesn't want to see out his career in the backwaters.
It was good to see passion and emotion from our skipper, and I fervently hope he gets those assurances and that he is impressed with Yatesy's plans and recruitment enough to sign on again.
Summers' future has been up in the air for a while (see what I did there..?... if you didn't, I'm not going to explain it) but it was good to see him come out in today's Echo (http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Cheltenham-Town-Luke-Summerfield-keen-remain/story-16217242-detail/story.html)  and say that he wants to stay with us.
I am not going to get on my high horse about it, but having given him the chance to resurrect his career and remind managers and clubs that he still can do a job, it would be a shame if he does head off again.
Footballers are not exactly renowned for their loyalty - but it would be nice to see some payback once in a while.
Jeff Goulding was linked on the Sky Sports website yesterday with Brentford, Crawley, Orient and Gillingham - of course this may be nonsense, but three of those are League One clubs and are all in the South East, where he hails from, so it might appeal - especially if he is a fringe squad player again next term.
I am sure some clubs will be looking at Browny. His detractors will not believe it, but I am sure that televised display against Torquay will not have gone unnoticed, and also he is only 27 - a good age for a keeper.
Keith Lowe is another interesting one. Started in the team, then left out, back in and out as injury cover before his crushing disappointment of missing Wembley after playing in the play-off semis.
As all-round defensive cover, he is excellent, but he will be weighing up whether he wants to perform that role again and settle for sporadic appearances as I suspect that is the best he can hope for here, or whether he can get regular games elsewhere.
I would expect Bags and Harry to sign on, and next season will be very big for them as they look to push on and stake a claim for a regular place. Maybe last-chance saloon time.
In Bags' case, I would expect a loan move somewhere along the line, to a level where he might get knocked about a bit.
He needs to work on his self-belief and upper body strength - we have seen flashes of his talent, but a lot of his appearances have had the look of a rabbit caught in the headlights, especially Swindon away.
Harry was excellent in the JPT games against Torquay and Wycombe, less so against Barnet, but stood out at Plymouth on the last day of the regular season.
The management team rate him, as do Elliott and Bennett - next season he needs to be pushing them for their places assuming they stay - or doing the same to any other centre-backs we might need to bring in.
Steve Elliott says he wants to stay, and is settled down in Bristol, so I would say we hold the cards to keep him.
However, at 33, I can only see us offering a one-year deal here and he might be holding out for two with his feeling possibly being that this could be his last deal and he would want to maximise it.
On now to the released trio, and as I said at the top, no surprises here.
Josh Low is the longest-serving of the trio, and leaves Scott Brown now as the sole survivor of the pre-Martin Allen era as Josh was signed by Keith Downing in 2008.
Martin Allen tried to get rid of him by transfer listing him and sending him on loan to Forest Green, but Josh was having none of it.
As so many players do, Josh divided the Whaddon fans down the middle. Some loved his gliding style, others called it lazy and accused him of cruising through games. It is true he didn't always make the maximum impact.
I will always remember that game against Bury in April 2010 when he scored two and made two in a 5-2 win, and this season at his old club Northampton, when he came off the bench, set up the leveller for Darryl Duffy then scored a coolly-taken winner.
Those are the two most memorable games in his time with us - and maybe he won't be long away from Whaddon Road as the whispers that I hear are that Gloucester City are interested in asking him to combine his law career with a Blue Square North contract with them next season. Watch this space...
Junior Smikle was 50-50 for me, the only one I had a doubt about.
But on reflection it is a no-brainer to me that Yatesy has let him go. Three starts all season, and while he has mostly done a good job off the bench, the gaffer will be looking for better competition in that midfield and wide area.
The main thing which let Junior down in his time with us I feel was his lack of goals, He scored a lot for Kidderminster but never rediscovered that with us.
Some of the ones he did score were important, including the winner at Port Vale in January, but those goals didn't come along enough.
I remember that game at Morecambe when we drew 1-1 and he must have missed three or four one on ones.
Where will he go? To be honest, I am not sure another League club will look at him, but I am sure he would do a job for the likes of Kidderminster, Hereford, Tamworth or Mansfield in the BSP.
Theo Lewis, having not started a League game until Plymouth at the end of the season, must have known the writing was on the wall.
I remember the excitement when the 16-year-old Theo came on the score an equaliser in a pre-season game with Southampton, and we all thought a star was born.
His debut came at the end of the Martin Allen relegation season, and under Yatesy he made a few appearances, scoring once in the FA Cup.
But his main problem seemed to be his lack of a designated 'best' position. He played in central midfield, off the main striker and out wide without really putting a marker down in any of those roles.
What I did like about him was how, despite his relatively small frame, he never backed out of anything.
I remember that bad-tempered game at Lincoln under John Schofield in November 2009 when Barry Richardson was sent off from the bench along with Ian Pearce and Chris Sutton.
Theo was clattered by Aaron Brown, whose red card sparked the shenanigans on the bench, and after that he came in for some hefty whacks, but never flinched - giving as good as he got.
He impressed at Gloucester City on loan last season, and I would not be surprised if they wanted him back, and I am sure he could do a job at that or BSP level, but, like Junior, I doubt if he would attract a League club's attention.
But if he does, good luck to him, and he might prove us wrong, like our old youth product Sam Foley has a chance to do, having signed for Yeovil from Newport today.
So that's the outs and maybes - and we know that Sido Jombati, Jermaine McGlashan (until 2014), and Russ Penn, Marlon Pack, Darryl Duffy and Kaid Mohamed (until next summer) are under contract and will be here barring offers this summer.
Marlon is the obvious candidate here, and there have been so may rumours. I have been told at least four times he is off to club X or Y, but let's wait and see.
Player, gaffer and chairman have all said he is staying, (see Marlon's post Wembley view here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/18234371) so if clubs do want him, it's time for them to stump up the cash.
On to the summer bargaining then, and the areas Yatesy will surely be looking at to bolster our numbers.
Of course, that scenario will depend on the out of contract eight signing up, otherwise the gaffer will have more work to do, and the same goes for offers for Marlon and/or others, but I will work on the best-case scenario - they all sign and other clubs keep their distance.
Now, my information is that the league will revert to seven substitutes from five next season - so that will bring back the need for a regular number two goalkeeper on the bench, so that will be one area to address.
Another is left-back with Luke Garbutt gone and Danny Andrew surplus to requirements, but with Keith Lowe and Harry Hooman around, I would not expect any more defensive cover to be needed - although remember we did lose Andy Gallinagh mid-campaign, so Yatesy may err on the side of caution.
In midfield, the departure of Junior and Theo, added to Dave Bird during the season leaves us light there with only the Three Musketeers, Pack, Penn and Summers, so expect something to be added here.
In the wide areas, we have Mo, Jermaine and Bags, now Junior and Josh are gone. Mo and Bags and predominately left footed, and I cannot see us signing a leftie.
It would seem pointless having kept Bags to then stunt his chances of games by bringing someone in ahead of him, and if the seven subs thing is brought back he will get more opportunity.
But with only Jermaine on the right, we might need cover here - potentially a right-sided Bags, another youngster we could bring on.
In attack, we are reduced to Jeff and Darryl as it stands, with Steve MacLean, Jimmy Spencer and Ben Burgess having gone, so we need a couple of replacements.
Whether we will look to get Ben in permanently as Notts County have released him remains unclear. He lives in Blackpool and his County wages are way beyond our means.
Hard bargaining and some lowering of expectations might be needed, but it's worth a try I think. If it doesn't come off, we will be looking for a similar sort of player to him as he gave us a new dimension which we had been missing all year.
I would not expect to see Steve MacLean again, as he started three games and was not involved in the play-offs at all, while Jimmy Spencer is under contract at Huddersfield and his prospects there are unclear.
He did well for us I felt, with 10 goals but his form was up and down.
But 10 goals at 20 years old in League Two is not bad. There is a player in there somewhere, and someone will get the benefit of that eventually. Maybe it will be us, but that is up in the air for now.
Besides a target man, we need a poacher, an out-an-out goalscorer, who can get close to that elusive 20-goal figure. This will be the hardest thing of all to find - and the most expensive.
We had three players in double figures, Duffy and Mo with 11 and Jimmy with 10, but none of them were consistent goalscorers, all going for weeks and sometimes months at a time without a goal.
Duffs, for instance, ends the season having not scored since Morecambe on March 6. I concede that he may not have started many game since then, but you get my point.
The top scorers in the division all got 18 goals - our mate Bayo Akinfenwa for Northampton, Lewis Grabban of Rotherham, Jack Midson of AFC Wimbledon and Izale McLeod of Barnet - the teams who finished 10th, 16th, 20th and 22nd. We need someone to get this tally, and maybe more, to go for that top three.
Over to you Mr Yates and Mr Baker...

Monday, 28 May 2012


Today was a strange day.
I went to work as usual for a Monday, but it wasn't a normal Monday.
There was this horrible sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and throughout the day my concentration would wander and it was always the same question running through my head. What if?
What if Jeff's shot was a couple of inches lower?
What if Jeff had delayed his run on to Ben's flick?
What if Mo had hit the target after Ben's knock down?
What if that guy on the post had not been there to stop Steve's header?
What if the other guy had not flung himself across to stop Mo's shot?
I could go on.
All day these thoughts have been running through my head as I tried to put together bits of tomorrow's Worcester News.
I tried to kill them by listening to the Test Match commentary but it was no good, even though England won. They kept coming back.
Why did Steve Phillips have to tip over Jeff's header and stop Mo's shot?
Why couldn't Marlon's shot have curled the right side of the post?
Why did Nick Powell chose us to score that wonder goal against?
But these are the small margins that both enthuse and frustrate us football fans in equal measure - the margins which can define our club's destiny - and our mood for the forseeable future, well, the next few weeks anyway.
While I am deflated, my mind also wanders to the group of Crewe fans I spoke to on the train from High Wycombe on Sunday morning. Hope they had a good party.
Now we know how the Southport supporters felt in '98, the Rushden fans in '02 and the Grimsby hordes in '06. This time it was our turn for the tears and the early exits.
More pertinently, we know how the Torquay fans felt 10 days ago, having dominated much of the game, created chance after chance, and got nothing.
The deflation has only kicked in today if I am honest. It's a strange one.
Last night, I travelled back with a feeling of resignation. It wasn't as if we played badly, not as if we froze, not as if we were rolled over. It just wasn't our day, simple as that.
Let's face it, we were due one after our last three finals. Law of averages says runs like that don't go on for ever.
In 98 and 06 we didn't play well and won. Yesterday, I felt we played better than in those two finals.
No one could legislate for Nick Powell's fabulous strike. Yes, quibble all you like about whether we defended the throw-in well enough, or could have stopped the ball getting to him, but it has to be conceded that even Jack Butland might have struggled to save that one.
The second goal was conceded by a team who were chasing the game, and had shot their bolt in withering heat.
Losing was something I had not really planned for. It's always a nagging thought in the back of your mind, but something you don't want to contemplate. You go there thinking you're going to be having a big party.
When it doesn't happen, it's hard to take, and today, it has hit me.
But what a good day it was overall - it was great so see so many make the effort to travel down and give the lads fantastic backing.
If even 500 or 1,000 of those who aren't regulars came to Whaddon next season, it would make such a difference.
I hope we have converted some of them as Yatesy and his team, the players and those behind the scenes who work so hard for the club deserve it.
The new Wembley is fantastic. The Bobby Moore statue, Wembley Way, the arch, the fantastic views and the lunch.
All great - but a horrible place to lose.
The team sheet was the next much-awaited part of the day, and there were three big decisions on there, Luke Garbutt coming back, Russ Penn left out and Jeff Goulding put in.
On Garbutt, I thought that was the right choice, harsh as it seems on Keith Lowe, who has never let us down all season, and I can understand how disappointed he must have been.
But that was the back four which has seen us through much of the season, and also Luke is left-footed and gives us the balance down the flanks, and an extra set-piece option.
Russ Penn left out - not sure that was the right decision in hindsight. On the day, I felt central midfield was the weakest part of our side, with Marlon Pack and Luke Summerfield starting sluggishly and struggling to hit the heights of earlier in the season.
They gave the ball away a lot and were outbattled and outpassed for much of the game by Luke Murphy and Ashley Westwood, and we also battled to contain Nick Powell.
Jeff's inclusion was the biggest surprise as he has been a bit-part player in the closing weeks of the campaign and had not even made the 16 on some occasions.
But I thought he did well, linking up well with Ben and using his strengths of link up and hold up play to help fashion out some of those opportunites - and with a bit more luck he could have walked off at half-time with the match ball.
The Powell goal was special, and it served to wake us up, and from then until the time Marlon's shot flashed inches wide in the second half, we were pretty dominant.
All those chances I listed at the top of this blog came and went, and by the time Mo went through and was denied by Phillips, we could still be there now and not score a goal.
Ben was causing problems for them, and we were a threat every time we went forward with Jermaine McGlashan, and were dangerous from corners, where Jeff's header, and the two off the line from Steve and Mo could not have been any closer.
We started the second half well, with those chances for Marlon and Mo, but Crewe had drawn the sting out of us as gradually the heat and the disappointment of those chances going begging took its' toll on us.
We looked more and more dejected, more resigned to our fate and the long season gradually seemed to creep up on a few of us.
The other problem was that having picked the side he did, Mark Yates had left himself very limited in the impact his substitutes could make.
With Burgess and Goulding starting, it meant that when we were chasing the game, he did not have a 'battering ram' to bring off the bench to help us get a head of steam up late on.
The two big men were tiring and had to come off for Jimmy Spencer and Darryl Duffy and with Russ coming on as well you never got the feeling the changes were going to impact the game positively.
It meant that we could not really go gung ho, and if anything the result was somewhat inevitable with around 15 minutes left, even before Byron Moore put the seal on it.
The final whistle saw the lads crumple to the turf. Garbs was unconsolable as Steve went to pick him up, and Scotty was prostrate in his penalty area for a few minutes.
But you have to give Crewe some credit. From 18th in November to League One, a run of 19 games without defeat, and playing some decent football on the way.
Yes, they may have had a bit of luck on Sunday thanks to some bad luck and poor finishing from us but you make that luck yourselves and their name seemed to be on the cup, rather like Chelsea's in the Champions League - and Powell's goal was worthy of winning any game.
As for us, we dust ourselves off and we go again, and I would echo the words of our fantastic skipper Alan Bennett in his post match interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/18234370 - passion and emotion, what every football supporter wants from their players, and a challenge to Yatesy and Paul Baker.
We cannot rest on our laurels now. The club has made great strides on and off the field this season and it would be disappointing to see this squad break up as I think we have the nucleus of something special.
I would hope that Yatesy could add some more quality to what we have here, and if we can keep the likes of Marlon, Summers, Mo, Benno, Sido and co, why can't we be up there again next season?
League Two will be tough again. Moneybags Rotherham, big-spending Fleetwood and this season's fellow bridesmaids Oxford, Southend, Gillingham and Torquay will all fancy their chances.
Northampton, Plymouth, Bristol Rovers and Bradford will surely come good now their recently-appointed managers can shape their own squads.
But why should we fear anyone after what we have done this season? We have proved we are as good as or better than most of these sides.
So yes, we have that feeling of despair now, in the wake of yesterday. But there should also be feelings of pride in a fabulous campaign, and hope for a bright future.
Now to see what the summer brings, and we will dust ourselves down before getting back on the rollercoaster in August.
See you there.

Player by player
Scott Brown - Beaten by a fabulous strike, but little else to do. One save in the second half, then beaten again as we were chasing the game and were exhausted.
Sido Jombati - Quiet game. Defended well but ineffective coming forward. Not sure about the backheel on the touchline late in the game...
Luke Garbutt - Thought he did okay, some good forays forward and some good crosses. Corners dangerous as well.
Alan Bennett - Led the team superbly as usual. After a sticky start, thought he kept AJ Leitch-Smith fairly quiet as his movement is excellent. Was tricked brilliantly by Powell for his goal though.
Steve Elliott - Also had an excellent game and so close to a goal when his header was cleared off the line.
Marlon Pack - Disappointing as he was the one we looked to in order to run the game. Some good set-pieces though and inches wide with his second-half shot.
Luke Summerfield -  Felt he started sluggishly and didn't really recover. Got into some promising positions in Crewe territory and didn't make them pay with wayward shooting.
Jermaine McGlashan - Always looked a threat and forced Crewe to double up on him early on. Only criticism would be his crosses rarely beat the first man.
Kaid Mohamed - Some good runs but missed our two best chances - the shot over the bar in the first half and the one-on-one with Phillips in the second.
Jeff Goulding - Thought he did well and linked up with Ben as he was able to read his flick-ons. With a bit more luck he could have had a hat-trick. Hit the bar, one tipped over and the offside goal.
Ben Burgess - Was a constant threat in the air winning most of his headers although did not have a direct effort at goal.

Darryl Duffy (for Jeff Goulding 75 mins) - Little chance to make his mark. Could make no headway against the Crewe defence.
Jimmy Spencer (for Ben Burgess 83 mins) - Barely got into the game as he came on straight after Crewe went two up.
Russ Penn (for Marlon Pack 83 mins) - First action was a trademark crunching tackle but as we were 2-0 down could not influence the game.

Friday, 25 May 2012

My knees have gone all trembly...

When I started these incessant ramblings back in April last year (not long after we lost 8-1 at Crewe actually) if someone told me I'd be sat here writing this 48 hours before we go to the new Wembley, I would have said they were as mad as Martin Allen.
OK, maybe not that mad, as no one who reads this would contemplate giving Tom Denton a contract, but I think you get the drift.
It wasn't meant to happen, we were meant to disappear quietly into the Blue Square Premier without any fuss and let the big boys get on with their games nicely.
If anything, it is the constant running-down of our team and writing off of our chances at every turn that make this weekend's events even sweeter, and will make victory on Sunday a real highspot in my 31 years of CTFC watching.
But will it beat the 0-0 at Burton, beating Yeovil to go up, the FA Trophy final, the two play-off finals, surviving against Doncaster, winning 6-5 at Burton or the day out at Spurs?
If we do win, then at around 5pm on Sunday it will definitely beat all of those, but in cool reflection by 6pm it will be added to them as fantastic highs in the last 15 years for our club.
In August, we were 'supposed' to be going down. In October and November, we were in the top three, but were 'told' it wouldn't last. In January we hit the top, which was a 'flash in the pan' apparently.
When we hit the wall in March, they said 'we told you so' and we were then going to disappear down the table and finish about 11th.
That was the view of the pundits and experts, and also at various times of some so-called Cheltenham fans many of whom will be heading to the Arch (if that's what you call it) on Sunday.
Sorry to have proved you wrong thus far
That's the way it goes - and in the run-up to this game, we are still flying under the radar, with these experts also expecting Crewe to roll us over.
So as usual, no one seems to want to show us any respect.
Today started with the fantastic news that Jack Butland is going to Euro 2012 (sympathy to John Ruddy by the way) and all I have seen on Twitter is that apparently Jack must be crap as he has only been playing for Cheltenham Town.
None of these twits have ever seen us or Jack play, so more disrespect.
Now, I am not quite at the Kevin Keegan rant level, but I would love it if we beat them, if only so, finally, someone would acknowledge that we are a good team!
I know, it shouldn't matter should it? But I am afraid it has got to me recently.
Apparently, because Crewe have been unbeaten in 18 games and come up on the rails into the play-offs, and have Nick Powell and Max Clayton, who big clubs want to pay a hugely-inflated transfer fee for, they are going to beat us. OK, we'll see.
They also beat us 1-0 twice this season, so apparently that is another reason why they are going to beat us. One was a penalty, another a set-piece. Hardly conclusive proof.
We have every reason to be confident after the run we have been on coming into Sunday as that game at Gresty Road was the only game we have lost in seven outings.
Ben Burgess has given us a new dimension, and the semi-final performances of Jermaine McGlashan and Kaid Mohamed have got us through to this fantastic showpiece.
At the back, Steve Elliott and Alan Bennett are back to their best again and as for Scott Brown, I haven't seen a better individual display from a CTFC goalkeeper than his last Thursday.
So I feel we are peaking at the right time, and we have a number of options, with Mark Yates once again having several big decisions to make this weekend.
4-4-2 or 4-5-1/4-3-3 is one, as is the choice between Keith Lowe and Luke Garbutt in the back four.
On the system, I think it has to be 4-5-1/4-3-3. Russ Penn made the difference on Thursday when he came on, and he could be the man to stop Mr Powell playing.
The system also worked in the first half at Gresty Road when Marlon Pack and Luke Summerfield got the upper hand on Luke Murphy and Ashley Westwood, although the opposite was the case after the break.
In that game, Jimmy Spencer was excellent in that opening 45 minutes, giving David Artell and Adam Dugdale plenty of problems, but that's another dilemma.
Before last week, I would not have said that Ben Burgess could play on his own up front, but in the second half on Thursday he did it very well, and Mark Yates has to toss up whether he can do it on Wembley's big pitch or whether he needs a Jimmy Spencer or Darryl Duffy in that role, buzzing around and running the channels.
The key to which one plays is down to the wide men, Jermaine and Mo, who have a massive role on the wide Wembley pitch, where they have to keep Matt Tootle and Harry Davis on the back foot, and give that support to Ben, Jimmy or Duffs.
I would start with Ben simply for that physical presence to test Artell and Dugdale on what is sure to be a hot day, and tell him to go at it for an hour or so, with Jimmy and Duffs waiting fresh to come on.
As for the defensive decision, I would stick with Keith. Yes, that's rough on Garbs, but Keith was excellent in the two play-off semi-finals and we seem that much more solid to me - plus Keith's better aerial power is an asset.
So my team would be: Brown; Lowe, Bennett, Elliott, Jombati; Pack, Summerfield, Penn; McGlashan, Mohamed; Burgess.
Bench would probably be Hooman, Spencer, Duffy, Goulding, Smikle - with maybe Garbutt for Hooman if he is fit enough.
Whatever happens, it is going to be great day for the club, and the 10,000-strong Ruby Army heading down, and I am especially happy for the hard core. The 88 who went to Wycombe in the JPT this season, the 150 or so who go to every away league game. This one is for you lot.
It all comes down to this - 90 (or 120, or 120 plus pens) minutes away from swapping Port Vale for Portsmouth, the Recreation Ground for the Ricoh Arena. - but nothing can detract from what this group of players has achieved this season, guided superbly by Yatesy and Neil.
They deserve a medal for the job they have done in the face of adversity this season, and let's hope that by 5pm on Sunday, they are wearing one.
Go Rubies!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Que sera sera...

You wrote us off, who gives a ****, we are the Cheltenham and we are going up...
Well, maybe, but you get the idea.
Wembley? Play-off final?
Hang on, that wasn't meant to happen.
According to the so-called pundits (here's one of them... http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/football-league-blog/2011/aug/03/league-two-2011-12-season-preview) we were supposed to be licking our wounds, and digging out the directions for Alfreton's Impact Arena or Cressing Road in Braintree - yet here we sit, 90 minutes away from the Ricoh Arena or Fratton Park.
All quite mad really.
Plainmoor on Thursday night was a little 90-minute microcosm of the rollercoaster that our season has been, emotional, tense and ultimately euphoric.
It was also apt that 14 years to the day from the start of our amazing run of success, Jason Eaton's winner in the 1998 FA Trophy final under the old Twin Towers, we should book our return to the new National Stadium.
There was a link with those days, as Bob Bloomer, an unsung hero of that team and a stalwart of Cheltenham Town until his poorly-handled departure, was stood in front of me in the away end.
He was rubbing shoulders with Jack Butland, a star of the future who could have a European Championships or Olympic Games to occupy his mind in the next few weeks and months.
That night will go down in CTFC folklore. It will join Dover, Rushden, Yeovil, Rotherham, Doncaster and that Southport final and the Rushden and Grimsby wins as days to recall, and say 'I was there.'
Even though we had that 2-0 cushion from the first leg, there was no complacency.
It was all about the first goal ... about those first 15-20 minutes ... about quietening down the crowd ... no silly mistakes ...
It was also about our team selection.
4-4-2 to go for it, pace on the counter-attack, try and nick a goal?
Or 4-5-1, solidity, shape, frustrate them, invite them to break us down, while also having that outlet on the break.
Yatesy went for the former - opting not to change a winning team, putting his trust in those who had got to half-time in fine fettle to go out and finish off the job.
The first half was all about one man, someone who has had far more than his fair share of brickbats to deal with in the past, and after this display will fully deserve his place in CTFC folklore.
His performance was all the more amazing having been in, out, in, out and then back in the side this season - and with Butland standing barely 20 yards behind him, watching on.
Scott Brown made three fantastic saves, each one better than the previous one. There was tip over the bar, a fingertip stop from Ryan Jarvis and then the pick of the crop from Mark Ellis' powerful downward header.
It was a stunning stop and I cannot think of many better from a CTFC keeper in my 30 years of watching us. Ellis was stood holding his head for about 30 seconds afterwards. He couldn't believe Scotty had saved it.
In front of him, Alan Bennett and Steve Elliott were magnificent, while Keith Lowe, after a tricky start against Danny Stevens, and Sido Jombati were equally solid.
After the Brown saves and seeing Kevin Nicholson's brilliant free-kick leave the bar shaking, Torquay might as well just have packed up and gone home. It was going to be our night.
That was rubbed in after half-time when Benno deflected a header and, with the ball looping towards the top corner, there was Browny again to claw it away.
They battered us in that first half, let's be honest about it. I wonder now if Martin Ling regrets leaving Taiwo Atieno on the bench and making the curious decision to play Jarvis down the middle.
Lee Mansell and Eunan O'Kane, backed up by Damon Lathrope, were getting the better of our midfield, winning those all-important second balls and driving forward.
So credit to Yatesy for making that half-time change, with Russ Penn coming on for Jimmy Spencer.
The ball had not been sticking up front and Jimmy had almost been playing as the third man in midfield, so Yatesy opted for solidity with Russ, and it worked.
It gave us more of a foothold in the game, and we were able to get Jermaine McGlashan and Kaid Mohamed on the ball more and relieve the pressure on our back four.
We seemed to have drawn the sting out of them and they threw Atieno on and sent Ellis up front, which opened up the space for Kaid to thread Jermaine through, and just like the first leg he did the necessary off the post.
Finally, that was that, and Jermaine has repaid his transfer fee (whatever it was) with two touches of the ball, whatever he does in his CTFC career from now on.
Atieno's goal was annoying as we deserved a clean sheet, it was a consolation for Torquay and they merited it for their efforts over the two games, but with five minutes and two goals needed just for extra time, the jitters were mild as Sergio Aguero was nowhere to be seen.
Marlon Pack was, and he ended any doubt whatsoever about the winner of the CTFC goal of the season award with a sublime free-kick.
Sky's Don Goodman called it 'Premier League quality' and it is hard to argue with that, and it put the cap on what was a memorable night.
All it left me to do was to try to stick my roving mic under the noses of some happy CTFC players and officials without any of them swearing on live radio, and - despite the jobsworth Plainmoor steward who wouldn't let me out of the away end - I managed it.
Mo gave me a few jitters when he ran over to talk to his dad, but a scream of 'Get in there' on being asked how he felt about the prospects of playing at Wembley saw off that little worry!
So here we go again, off we go to the Smoke.
After the old Wembley, two trips to the Millennium Stadium resulting in two promotions and FA Cup games with West Brom, Fulham, Newcastle and Spurs, the CTFC soap opera moves to the new Wembley.
When we walk out there on Sunday, we will have completed the hat-trick of major stadia in 14 years, and not many sides have done that.
Yes, in among these heady days we have had two relegations and spent some time in depression with mad managers and close relegation calls, but that's all part of being a football fan.
You enjoy the highs and ride through the lows as something is always round the corner, and this club seems to have a knack of coming up with the unexpected.
That's what makes this trip to Wembley extra-special in my eyes - the fact that it is so unexpected, and that we have proved so many people (including some of our own fans) so wrong over the past eight months or so.
I have looked at the odds, and once again we are the underdogs - but at Crewe 11-10 and us evens, you could put a cigarette paper between the sides.
Much is being made of their 18-game unbeaten run, but we go in with six wins out of seven, and an unbeaten record in play-off games.
Nick Powell is the name on everyone's lips, but how will the young players like him cope with the big occasion? We have a bit more experience in our ranks, which may work in our favour.
But as the song goes, whatever will be, will be. Win or lose, the rollercoaster has been a fantastic ride.

Player by player
Scott Brown - Impeccable. His best performance in a CTFC shirt, topped off by THAT save from Mark Ellis' header.
Keith Lowe - Struggled early on against Danny Stevens but got to grips with him and nullified the threat. Brilliant goal-line clearance in the first half.
Sido Jombati - Kept Ian Morris more or less out of the game and defended solidly.
Alan Bennett - Led from the front and has re-discovered his form at just the right time.
Steve Elliott - Another braveheart display. Won just about every header and put his body on the line/
Marlon Pack - What a free-kick. Not sure he should have been man of the match but that goal will never be forgotten.
Luke Summerfield - Grew into the game and was magnificent in the second half as we got to grips with their midfield.
Kaid Mohamed - Not much ball in the first half but caused problems in the second, setting up Jermaine's goal.
Jermaine McGlashan - Runs down the wing for me... Our play-off talisman, with another goal. Can he make it three in three at Wembley??
Jimmy Spencer - Little chance to shine in the first half and was sacrificed as we changed shape after the break.
Ben Burgess - Ineffective in the first half as we knocked it too long but better in the second as we played more to his strengths.

Russ Penn (for Jimmy Spencer, 45 mins) - Stiffened us up in the second half and looked fresh after his recent rest.
Jeff Goulding (for Ben Burgess, 82 mins) - Did a good job when he came on, holding the ball up and winning the free-kick for Marlon to score.
Harry Hooman (for Jermaine McGlashan, 90 mins) - Got himself on TV...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Halfway there

When you are playing at home in the first game of a two-legged tie, what is the ideal result?
If you had asked me before yesterday's game, I would have said it would be nice to have a two-goal lead and to have kept a clean sheet, so you can say it was job done for the Rubies for the first part of the play-off master plan.
To see Torquay's leading striker and probably their man danger man limp off after 20 minutes, presumably out of the return game, was merely some icing on the cake.
Now, I am trying not to get carried away, count any chickens and other farmyard animals - as we are merely only cutting up the half-time oranges.
We still have a nervy 90 minutes to come in the English Riviera on Thursday night, but we have given ourselves a great chance of a day out in a couple of weeks' time.
In my preview piece, I picked two scenarios for Mark Yates' team selection - the 'let's go for it' 4-4-2 and the more conservative 4-2-3-1, and when I saw the teamsheet, it was possible to work out the approach to the game.
It included some big calls - Jermaine McGlashan given a start, Russ Penn on the bench with Marlon Pack and Luke Summerfield paired together, and Jimmy Spencer given the nod up front.
Such are the options for Yatesy with the 'luxury' of being able to leave your leading scorer on the bench...
Luke Garbutt's absence couldn't be avoided - Yatesy said afterwards he was never going to make it after he came off at Plymouth, Luke himself said pre-match that he aims to try to run on it today, so we will see how it goes for Thursday.
The inclusion of both Jermaine and Kaid Mohamed showed our intentions. We were going to have a go at them, get the ball wide, set the tempo. The right call as we needed a lead to take to Plainmoor.
But the midfield call did worry me. Their trio of Damon Lathrope, Lee Mansell and Eunan O'Kane make them tick, and I was a bit anxious that Marlon and Luke, without Russ, would be outnumbered and so that battle would be lost.
However, Jimmy did a good job of dropping in and keeping Lathrope quiet, and Luke produced a fantastic display, one of his best for us, just at the right time.
He took on Russ's mantle, driving us forward and pulling out some great tackles and interceptions as we more than matched their industry.
For the most part, Jermaine and Mo kept their full-backs from bombing on as they like to do - although Kevin Nicholson did have a few chances to get crosses in, notably when Ryan Jarvis hit the bar just after our second goal.
At the back, we had a few scares, but did look more solid than in recent weeks.
If anything, and this is nothing against Luke, but we did look more compact with Keith Lowe in there and Sido switched over.
This is because Keith is a more defensive-minded player and doesn't bomb forward as often as Sido, and with Sido on the other, more unfamiliar side, he had to concentrate more on his job than on marauding up the wing.
Also with Jermaine and Mo ahead of them, they maybe weren't required to go up and provide that width as often as we had it in the side anyway.
To be honest, if Luke is in any way still doubtful on Thursday, I would be tempted to leave that back four as it is - solidity will be the order of the day down in Devon.
But we did have our scares. The first couple of minutes when Howe rolled off Steve Elliott (quite literally) and fired over, the first corner which Browny flapped at a bit, then he made a great save from Jarvis when he seemed certain to score, and another from Ian Morris, turning it round when the ball leapt up of the turf.
Then in the second half, Jarvis hit the bar and Taiwo Atieno's header at the far post was beaten away.
A clean sheet yes, but it was a hard-earned one, with Benno back to his best and Steve Elliott keeping up his consistent performances.
Keith Lowe was the usual Mr Dependable, and Sido, once he got his bearings on the 'wrong' side, was fantastic, with tackles, blocks, runs and ... you know, the usual box of Sido tricks.
The wide men grew into the game gradually. Both started slowly - I don't think Jermaine touched the ball for about 10 minutes or so - but they gave their full-backs some problems.
Mo, especially in the second half, turned on the after burners a few times to see off Joe Oastler, and we nearly had a Bristol Rovers moment all over again. My only criticism would be the usual one, sometimes he didn't put his head up and use the options around him, and when he did look to pass it lacked some conviction or precision, but he will be a key man on Thursday.
Jermaine made the breakthrough of course - and that was a bit of heart stopper as the ball seemed to take an age to cross the line via the post.
He showed some great trickery and also some bravery, taking one in the chops and also some better delivery, none better than the one straight on to Big Ben's head for the second goal.
The front two were also excellent.
Torquay's strength this season has been in their back four - they have won a lot of games 1-0 this season, but Mark Ellis and Brian Saah had their hands full with Ben Burgess.
He won his first header inside the first 30 seconds and from then on the centre-halves were facing a losing battle, and Jimmy was lively, showing great touch on a couple of occasions to make chances for himself.
All in all, a 2-0 win was everything we could have asked for. Yes, we can be greedy and say it would have been good to have scored one more, and the clean sheet was crucial.
So off we go to Plainmoor, and we know that Torquay will have to come at us so there may be chances for us on the counter attack, with Jermaine and Mo - assuming they are selected.
I suspect they will be - and I would expect us to go for solidity and maybe revert to our usual 4-5-1 away formation, with Russ Penn coming into the side - but who do you leave out?
Ben Burgess was a real handful for the centre halves, but he can't really do that lone role - Jimmy Spencer is the best man for that position, however I would like to see Ben in the side... Decision time.
Ben had an ice pack put on his calf when he came off, so we will have to see how that one goes this week.
Then as I touched on earlier, there is Luke Garbutt. Does he come straight back in, or do we stick with Keith and Sido... Another decision.
Keeping another clean sheet has to be the priority - we do that, and we are off to Wembley... sounds simple but it won't be as Torquay have threats in the air (even if Howe is out) and from set-pieces with Eunan O'Kane and Kevin Nicholson able to pose questions for us.
I spoke to Steve Cotterill after the game and it was great to see him there and he was having a long chat with Yatesy (who still calls him Gaffer...) afterwards.
Steve summed it up perfectly to me when he said 'clean sheet, keep it tight for the first 20, quieten the crowd, try and nick a goal as the team has goals in it.' If he says it, must be right. Now let's just go and do it.

Player by player
Scott Brown - Made three great saves to keep the clean sheet and looked secure bar one slight flap early on
Keith Lowe - Never lets us down. Good to have someone like him to come in, and he was excellent.
Alan Bennett - Back to his best at the right time. Led from the front.
Steve Elliott - Won just about every header as he has all season. Nearly got a goal too...
Sido Jombati - Dodgy first few minutes, but otherwise superb. Linked superbly with Mo.
Luke Summerfield - Outstanding. Drove us on and a brilliant pass for the first goal. Has to stay!
Marlon Pack - Overshadowed by Summers but still played a massive part with his passing and calm ball retention - but did try and over play in bad areas a couple of times.
Jermaine McGlashan - Scored one, made one and can't ask for any more than that.
Kaid Mohamed - Had some great runs, especially in the second half, but if I am being greedy, maybe he could have made more of them.
Ben Burgess - Bullied the centre-halves and scored a fantastic header. Would love to sign him but I think he is out of our price range. Came off with slight injury.
Jimmy Spencer - Dovetailed superbly with Ben. Has great touch - brought down one high ball superbly and created a chance for himself. Unlucky to hit the post too.

Jeff Goulding (for Jimmy Spencer 81 mins) - Brought on to link up play as he does so well and was effective in helping to see the game out.
Darryl Duffy (for Ben Burgess 84 mins) - Ben had a slight injury so came on to allow him an ovation and to see the game out.
Junior Smikle (for Kaid Mohamed 90 mins) - Time wasting exercise...

Friday, 11 May 2012

Gunning for the Gulls

So here we go then.
After  a season that started in late July with a draw at Cirencester and defeats at Stourbridge and Newport, it all comes down to two - and hopefully three - games to shape our destiny.
What a rollercoaster it has been - a slow start, unbelievable middle bit, big drop then slight recovery to bring us to where we are now.
There is no doubt we deserve to have this play-off chance. 77 points and winning half of our league games is a fantastic return after two seasons of struggle and worry about slipping out of the division at the other end.
I know some will say that we have blown it by not being in the top three, and it is all too easy to go back and think where we might have picked up those extra seven points which were the difference between us and an automatic spot.
We led twice at Torquay and were pegged back; drew at home with AFC Wimbledon and Hereford, and let in that last minute goal at Rotherham. There. Seven points dropped.
But conversely, we scored two late goals at Northampton to win 3-2, and against them at home to save a draw, and had two late strikes at home to Plymouth to thank for a 2-1 win - so it does even itself out.
Torquay also had a slow start, then came with a superb run into the promotion shake-up, their success built on a tight defence and great work ethic - with their main strength, like us, being in midfield.
Of the other three sides, Torquay are the ones I would have picked for us to play.
They come into the shake-up having gone five games without a win, and with the added disappointment of seeing Crawley pick up that third promotion spot.
Having seen what Southend did to us at Roots Hall recently - even though we had 10 men and were totally insipid that night - an away leg in front of 10,000 would not have been a palatable thought.
Crewe have come from nowhere with a superb run, and beat us 1-0 on both meetings this term, so a two-leg encounter with them would also have been a tricky proposition.
But Torquay it is, and in contrast to our last two play-off campaigns, we have the first leg at home first.
That brings a different focus as we are now the side who have to go out there and set the tempo and try to get an advantage to take to Plainmoor.
As they showed when they beat us 1-0 at our place on Valentine's Day, they are very good at hanging on to narrow leads and so we need to be switched on and make sure we do not concede the first goal this time.
It was a poor goal to give away, with Brian Saah winning a header from a corner and Ian Morris tapping in, then they shut up shop superbly as we battered them in the second half, without ever looking like breaching them.
Their likely team on Sunday is Bobby Olejnik, Joe Oastler, Mark Ellis, Brian Saah, Kevin Nicholson, Damon Lathrope, Eunan O’Kane, Lee Mansell, Ian Morris, Rene Howe or Taiwo Atieno, Danny Stevens.
Olejnik is one of the best keepers in the division, while in Nicholson they have a good dead-ball man and he can hit them from long-range as he did for the second equaliser at Plainmoor.
However, I would hope that our wide men - presumably Kaid Mohamed and Jermaine McGlashan - would have some joy against Oastler and Nicholson, and be able to stop them getting forward to much.
But it is midfield where we have to win the battle - Pack, Penn and Summerfield against Lathrope, Mansell and O'Kane.
This will be the dilemma for Mark Yates - does he go 4-4-2 and leave one of the Three Musketeers out (Summerfield the most likely I would think) or does he match Torquay and play all three of them?
Lathrope sits behind the other two and breaks up the play a la Luke Summerfield.
He describes his role like this: "I let the other boys - Lee, Eunan and Ian (Morris) - go and be creative and score goals and I will just try and keep the ball going and stop the goals.
“Obviously the boys give me a bit of banter – teasing me about being the lynchpin – but I like to think I can be a shield to the back four and I like to get on the ball and get things going forward as well, which I think helps Lee and Eunan. It gives them a licence to gamble a bit more if there were just two in there (central midfield). It’s not the most glamorous role in football but I enjoy it and think the boys appreciate it."
Skipper Mansell is their heartbeat and has strong man, like Russ Penn, but unlike Russ he has 13 goals, while O'Kane is the team's playmaker - their Marlon Pack if you like.
Morris and Stevens, a tiny player but one I have always liked and who has irritatingly usually played well against us, provide the width and support for the main striker, who could be Rene Howe or Taiwo Atieno.
Howe is their only doubt and has not trained with his team-mates but been under the care of Gulls physiotherapist Damian Davey.
Ling said: “It’s a groin injury he picked up in the last bit of training on the Friday before the Hereford game.
“He has not trained during the week. He’s been with Damian in the week but we will look to get him training before the game and see how he reacts on Sunday morning.
“It’s an issue. I want him fit rather than not fit but the last time he missed seven games we won all seven games with Taiwo Atieno as a centre forward."
So what of Yates' dilemma - 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1, bearing in mind Torquay's midfield strength weighed up against the need to make the running in the home leg.
I would like us to go 4-4-2 with this team: Scott Brown, Sido Jombati, Alan Bennett, Steve Elliott, Luke Garbutt, Jermaine McGlashan, Marlon Pack, Russ Penn, Kaid Mohamed, Ben Burgess, Darryl Duffy.
This gives us two up front, which would show a willingness to go out and take the game to Torquay, while in midfield Pack and Penn are the pair who work best together in a 4-4-2 system.
McGlashan has not had many chances but did well at Plymouth last weekend and has, I feel, been more effective as a starter rather than coming off the bench, while Mo's inclusion is a no-brainer after his 11 goals this season.
The alternative is to match Torquay with a team comprising the same back 5, Pack and Summerfield holding in midfield, Mo, Jermaine and Russ Penn as the three across the middle and one striker - probably Jimmy Spencer as he is the proved to be the best bet in that role of the forwards we have - up top.
But we need goals, we need to take a lead to Plainmoor, so it's 4-4-2 for me, but equally importantly we need to stop their midfield playing and we need to keep a clean sheet, so Yatesy has a big decision.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Return of the Mac

TEN years ago, we went to Plymouth for the last game of the regular season with a very narrow sniff of automatic promotion.
They were celebrating the title, and beat us 2-0, and we ended up in the play-offs.
This time they were celebrating still being in existence, and staying up, and we came away with a 2-1 win, our first at Home Park.
After that trip there in 2002, we went on to beat Hartlepool and Rushden en route to play-off glory at Cardiff.
Yes, I am clutching at straws but as little omens go, I will take it as we look forward to two games with Torquay in the play-offs.
In the grand scheme of things, this game was pretty irrelevant.
Most of it was played at the pace of a training match and the only thing which kept it remotely interesting was the sparring match between Steve MacLean and the Argyle fans.
The background to it is that MacLean cost Argyle £500,000 and let's just say that the fans don't feel they got value for money from their outlay.
He was there when the club were starting to struggle financially and, not surprisingly given the size of the transfer fee, was also on a big contract, so he is not flavour of the month.
That was made patently clear by the Devonport End yesterday as he was jeered, and songs like 'what a waste of money' and 'you must be s..t if you've got Steve MacLean' rang out.
In fact, we were not 's..t because we had Steve MacLean' - far from it in fact. We were pretty good.
On the way down, we were discussing the likely side and I must admit I was surprised when I saw the scale of the changes Yatesy had made.
I knew Darryl Duffy was out after the arrival of his baby son and thought Steve Elliott and Russ Penn would sit out as well to keep them in cotton wool.
I was also a bit surprised Luke Summerfield didn't start and that Marlon Pack did, and I thought Alan Bennett might play as well as I must admit I didn't fancy the prospect of a Keith Lowe-Harry Hooman partnership.
But as it was I need not have worried as they were superb, backed up especially well by MacLean, Jeff Goulding and Jermaine McGlashan.
MacLean was like a man possessed. He was clearly very fired up by the stick and keen to prove a point and shut the fans up.
He also wanted to show Mark Yates and us Cheltenham fans what he can do in a striking role, having played twice 'in the hole' at home. The answer is he can do quite a lot up there.
He sent an early shot wide and was straight on the scene when we won the free-kick on the edge of the box. It was deflected and he ran straight to the Devonport End, ears cupped, to a chorus of boos.
Yes, it was maybe a bit childish and provocative and in hindsight he will feel he shouldn't have done it.
However, I can understand why he did it, given the vitriol coming down at him from the stands.
It's the usual question - fans can shout what they like, but sometimes they don't like getting some back, and he answered them in the best possible way, by scoring.
The referee gave him a ticking off, and Yatesy also gave him a bit of an earful, suggesting he might have been better off running to the Rubies fans at the Barn Park End instead.
We deserved that lead at half time, as MacLean and Goulding had linked up well, McGlashan looked a threat as the left-back resorted to a rugby tackle to stop him at one point, and we had been solid at the back.
Argyle only played Warren Feeney up front on his own and that helped Keith and Harry, and they looked composed and won just about everything in the air.
To their credit, Argyle changed it after the break and were more of a threat when the giant Juhvel Tsoumou came on, and he equalised.
The goal came after our central defenders - for the only time all afternoon - lost two headers in the box.
They failed to react to the rebound when Scott Brown saved the first effort as Ladji Soukouna had the first header then was able to retrieve the ball for Oni Bhasera to cross for Tsoumou to score - all a bit sloppy from us.
But there was nothing sloppy about the reaction as we went straight back in front with MacLean's cross being headed in by Marlon Pack at the far post despite a defender's effort to clear it.
No need for goal-line technology - I could see from the commentary position in the Mayflower Stand that it had gone in.
The only slight minus was the withdrawal of Luke Garbutt and we hope that injury isn't too bad.
But it did give us the chance to see Junior Smikle playing at right back as Bags Graham came on, and the youngster did okay, with some decent runs and a couple of nice crosses which could have led to something.
In some ways it was very heartening to see us able to make so many changes and still turn in a decent display.
There were several players out there who enhanced their chances of having a role to play in the play-offs, and some might even have given Yatesy some food for thought for his starting line-up on Sunday - and could even have swayed decisions about new contracts.
So that's the regular season done and dusted, and what a rollercoaster it was. A slow start, unbelievable middle bit, a slump and then a little revival at the end, to finish on 77 points, having won half of our matches, 23, drawn 8 and lost 15.
To put that in perspective, we won 13 League games last season, and 10 the year before, so we won as many games this season as we did in the previous two combined.
Anyone still think it's a disappointing season?
No, thought not.
And so to the play-offs, and Torquay home and away.
I am quite pleased that we avoided Southend, as I didn't fancy Roots Hall on a Thursday in front of 10,000+ if  I am honest.
Our game at Torquay this season was just before they started their great run, we led twice and were pegged back by two long-range efforts, from Billy Bodin and Kevin Nicholson.
At home, we let in a poor goal and couldn't break them down - so it is imperative that we do not concede the first goal next weekend, and we do go into the game in a bit of form at home, with four games unbeaten and nine goals in those games.
The Gulls come into the game having taken three points from the last 15, so let's hope that scratchy form carries on and we can take some sort of lead to Plainmoor on the Thursday, as I think we will need it.

Player by player
Scott Brown - Couple of decent saves but no chance with the goal.
Sido Jombati - Started on the right and ended on the left. Usual rampaging runs and occasionally ill-timed tackles.
Luke Garbutt - Thought he had a good game. Dangerous going forward and defended well. Slight concern when he limped off, fingers crossed.
Keith Lowe - Excellent game, won most of his headers and marshalled Harry Hooman through well.
Harry Hooman - Superb on his full debut, didn't look nervous or fazed by it at all, which is a good sign.
Theo Lewis - First league outing of the season and looked steady enough. Tough battle against the massive Soukouna.
Marlon Pack - Good header for his goal but had a quiet game otherwise. Hope he is saving it all up for a big game next week.
Jermaine McGlashan - Few decent runs and unlucky not to score. He will have a part to play in these two games.
Junior Smikle - Usual steady game without really standing out. Is not a right-back however.
Jeff Goulding - Excellent game, linking very well with Steve MacLean and showed he should have been more involved recently.
Steve MacLean - Relished the role of pantomime villain, and deserved a goal for his effort- touch and work rate. Could be a useful asset in the next few weeks.

Bags Graham (for Luke Garbutt, 61 mins) - Some good runs, used his pace and tried to provide an outlet, but still looks tentative at times.
Jimmy Spencer (for Steve MacLean, 75 mins) - Brought off so Steve could get his standing ovation from the home... oh no, sorry. Jimmy nearly got a third at the end.
Luke Summerfield (for Theo Lewis, 80 mins) - Sentimental change to give Luke a chance to play against his old club. Got a better reception than Mr MacLean...