REPORT AND REACTION FROM CHELTENHAM SITES
Jamie Victory celebrated his 300th starting appearance for Cheltenham Town by scoring the first goal as the Robins achieved a vital win at Mansfield Town to lift themselves off the bottom of the Division Two table.
It was a gritty, determined performance but most of the better football in the game and the majority of the good scoring chances came from Cheltenham. The goals took a while in coming but when they did it proved another building block in the steady improvement shown by the team over recent weeks.
Cheltenham manager Graham Allner named one change to the team which defeated Swindon Town 2-0 in midweek, Antony Griffin replacing the injured Neil Howarth at right-back.
Mansfield went close on two occasions during the first five minutes when Craig Disley shot high from a cross by Colin Larkin and Liam Lawrence headed wide after some clever play by former Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers midfielder Scott Sellars.
Following that early burst of pressure from the Stags the rest of the first half was quite even, although Cheltenham created the better chances. However, the quality of the football reached nowhere near the lofty heights of the vintage meeting between the clubs last season.
Both teams worked extremely hard to cover ground and close down space, making it very difficult to get any time on the ball. The result was a scrappy first half in which both teams were unable to keep meaningful possession for very long.
Cheltenham missed an early opportunity when Mark Yates lofted a quickly-taken free-kick over the bar then, shortly afterwards, Hugh McAuley volleyed high when a long throw-in found its way to him.
The Robins put together the best move of the first half when a build-up of several passes resulted in a cross from Victory. Julian Alsop nodded the ball down for Tony Naylor who spun on the edge of the box but was unable to keep his volley down.
At the other end, Lee Williamson fired over the bar from 18 yards and saw a shot blocked from the edge of the area, but Alsop went closest to a goal when his volley rattled the top of the crossbar.
That chance resulted when the big man won another ball in the air from a clearance originating deep inside the Cheltenham half. With both sides attempting to pass the ball but finding it increasingly difficult, the more direct approach appeared to be a way that could pay dividends. Cheltenham had the advantage in this respect with not only Alsop's height as a factor, but also the presence of Michael Duff at the back. The Northern Ireland international was in superb form in the centre of defence, anticipating one attack after another and getting into position to make important clearing headers and interceptions.
Injury-hit Mansfield had struggled in attack during the first period with midfielder Scott Sellars playing up front alongside the half fit Colin Larkin. Youngster Andy White replaced Larkin for the second half in order to add some height to the attack, but it was Alsop who again proved the main aerial threat at the other end.
When McAuley crossed from the right eight minutes after the break it was Alsop who won it with a clever knock-down. The ball fell to Russell Milton on the left but he rushed his shot and it flew disappointingly over the bar.
Duff headed just wide from a Milton free-kick moments later but Williamson was soon going even closer with a long-range effort. Mansfield were building a momentum and when Sellars combined with Lawrence wide on the left, White was left with a great chance only six yards out but he side-footed his shot wide.
Cheltenham went on to enjoy a spell of heavy pressure on the Mansfield goal mid-way through the second half. Victory saw a shot blocked in a goalmouth scramble then John Finnigan went close after a neat one-two with McAuley.
More chances came and went with Naylor seeing a volley deflected wide after a good move and Richard Walker heading just over the bar after Yates had flicked on a Milton free-kick.
Mansfield goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington made a superb save from a Naylor drive and from the resulting corner McAuley had another shot deflected wide. Then, finally, when it seemed that Cheltenham could not score no matter what they tried, a goal finally arrived.
McAuley delivered the corner from the left and the ball dropped into a hole between several players inside the area. Victory reacted quickest to get in a shot and although his effort was booted clear by a defender, the assistant referee indicated that the ball had already crossed the line.
Mansfield immediately sent on attacker Wayne Corden for right-back Jamie Clarke, but Cheltenham held firm during a barrage from the home side and added a second goal six minutes from the end.
The move that brought it about certainly deserved a goal, Michael Duff's long ball being knocked down by Alsop to Naylor. He shuffled the ball across to Finnigan, the former Lincoln man threaded a perfectly timed ball through for the onrushing McAuley and his low shot skidded past Pilkington and in.
MANSFIELD TOWN: Pilkington (J.White 86); Clarke (Corden 73), Lever, Moore, Delaney; MacKenzie, Disley, Williamson, Lawrence; Sellars, Larkin (A.White 46). Subs: Reddington, Holyoak
CHELTENHAM TOWN: Book; Griffin, M.Duff, Walker, Victory; McAuley, Yates, Finnigan, Milton; Alsop, Naylor. Subs: Brayson, Higgs, Spencer, Jones, Williams
Allner: Delighted but still a long way to go
Graham Allner gives his reaction to the 2-0 win at Mansfield Town, Cheltenham's second win inside a week."I thought we did well today and it was a thoroughly professional performance. The pressure was building before the goal came and you sensed that it was going to come. The second one was a bonus for us but I said to the lads at half-time that we had done alright first half but we needed to take it on second half and go on to win the game. We did that and you can't ask much more than that."The back four were absolutely first class as they have been all season. Duff and Walker were absolutely outstanding and Jamie put up his usual consistent display. Griff came in and did a decent job as well. He only knew he was playing just before the kick-off so he has done alright for us."What I was most pleased about was the number of efforts we had on goal because one of the few criticisms I've had over recent weeks is that we perhaps have not created enough. We had a good few efforts at goal, some of them were off target but we got midfield men forward at the right times and it means that people like Hugh McAuley are scoring goals. It shows that we have got goals in our midfield.
"I knew that Hughie would give it everything he's got and he has to take it on now. I think everyone accepts that he has got the ability but it's getting the best out of him and he has got to keep doing it week in, week out. There is no room for him to take a breather because there are people like Lee Williams ready to come into the side. He has done really well so far and I have said to him that goals will get him noticed by people. We know there are goals in him from his days at Leek when he was top Conference scorer, but to get those goals he has got to get into the box more and he has started to do that now.
"We are still learning and still building in this division. The lads have obviously gained a lot of confidence from recent games but I still feel there is a lot more to come. It's difficult but I still don't think you will see the best from us for a while yet and maybe not until after Christmas.
"It has been, without question, a very big step up. Speed of thought and movement of the ball is quicker, finishing is better and I think we have learned from all those things and stepped our game up accordingly. We've got to continue to do that because we are nowhere near there yet."
Revenge At Last
By Guttersnipe, http://www.electricrobin.com
I feel very dizzy. We are in 18th place in the league and we just took off faster than Schumacher getting his towel on a sunbed! The first away win of the season came against the team that took the Automatic promotion spot that we had our eyes on last season. Well we just swapped places again!!
Sweet as a nut!
If there is one victory that I will have stuck in my mind for a good while, it will be this one. Not just because this Mansfield team was probably the reason why we had to go through the agony of the play-offs and it was a pleasure to drop them into bottom place.
Not just because of the fact that a lot of their fans who gave stick to use last season were probably among the one's leaving early and not just because it was our first away win.
But it was nice to have a bet with Mackworth on not only the score of the game (which I got right) but I also got the first scorer at double or quits. And if you knew how much it will hurt him prizing the £20 from his sweaty mitts, you'd be pleased to.
It was on the cards that somebody who was starting his 300th game for the club was going to celebrate it in a special way wasn't it?
The first half was nothing special how football matches go, the time was spent sussing out how Mansfield were going to approach the game and there was an air of caution about the Robins, the last thing they wanted in this one was to concede.
Mansfield had a go at Cheltenham from the off, Colin Larkin set up Craig Disley who fired his shot high over the top, then the experienced Scott Sellars gave Liam Lawrence a chance, but his header was no danger as it went wide.
After that it was a case of poor balls or players being closed down quickly as neither team wanted to give anything away, this all achieved it's objective, but it wasn't pretty to watch and hardly an advert for what teams are capable of in this division.
Mark Yates and Hugh McAuley both had chances, but neither caused the Mansfield Keeper Kevin Pilkington to have a heart attack, but put their chances well over the bar.
A good chance of opening the scoring in the first half fell to Tony Naylor who deserved a goal for his skill but his effort went over the crossbar. Jamie Victory got in a cross looking for the big man, he found him and Alsop nodded down to Naylor, who turned well, but fired high.
Soon after, the Robins really should have been in front when Alsop whacked the top of the Mansfield bar with a well hit volley.
Latest | September 2002