The second leg of the Stags’ south-western double-header is on the way. The first leg was to become a goal-less draw at Yeovil the other night in a fixture that the Stags were close to win. Now, the second leg takes place at Cheltenham, a side back in League Two after an absence of one season, and a side which have won their two latest fixtures to crucial 1-0 scorelines, the most crucial one at crisis club Leyton Orient last Saturday, also against Carlisle at home a few days ago. And those three-pointers have taken the Cheltenham Robins nine points above the drop zone, where the two sides below, Newport and Leyton Orient, face each other at Newport this weekend.
Earlier this season, the Stags and Cheltenham played out a 1-1 draw at One Call Stadium, and the three latest League Two fixtures between the sides have ended in 1-1 draws. Before the game at Mansfield last August, thw previewer wrote:
“History repeats itself. The proof: When Cheltenham made their debut in the current League Two during the 1999-2000 campaign, their first-ever FL away fixture was against the Stags. On August 14, 1999, Cheltenham won thanks to a Neil Grayson strike midway through the second half, and Grayson also netted the only goal of the game when the Stags travelled to Cheltenham later that season for the very first time.
Now, Cheltenham are back in League Two following a one-season-absence, and their first away fixture this term is, once again, at Mansfield. And this almost exactly seventeen years on nearly exactly to the day from the Robins’ first-ever away FL fixture.
And one player who starred for the Stags in both fixtures against Cheltenham in the 1999-2000 campaign, was later to play for Cheltenham and he did so against the Stags in probably the most memorable of all FL fixtures between the sides. Easy to pick which one. It was on April 9, 2002, with both sides chasing promotion from the old Division Two at Field Mill. The name: Lee Williams”.
At the start of the 2014-15 season, the Stags and Cheltenham Town, had two of the longest-serving bosses in League Two. Then, the respective bosses were Paul Cox and Mark Yates. Cox were to stay three full seasons and seventeen games before resigning in November 2014 (just before the home fixture against Plymouth), while the tenure of Mark Yates (who was a player in Cheltenham's early FL years and played against the Stags on August 14, 1999) lasted almost five years before being axed four days after the departure of Paul Cox at One Call Stadium.
Both sides appointed successors. For the Stags, not unexpectedly, it was Adam Murray, and for Cheltenham, it was Paul Buckle, previously at sides like Bristol Rovers and Torquay. While Murray was Stags boss till mid-November 2015, Buckle lasted only 79 days at the Robins before his departure a few weeks ago. Murray’s first home fixture as appointed Stags boss was in fact the 1-1 home game against Cheltenham in December 2014.
A string of poor results triggered Buckle’s departure from Cheltenham. The Robins started very well with thirteen points from their first five fixtures and were still in the top half come mid-October 2014. From then on, Cheltenham faded badly and were relegated before the final day of that season. By then, Gary Johnson had taken over at Cheltenham. Following relegation, Johnson (who steered Yeovil out of the Conf, later master-minded their promotion to the Championship in 2013) totally revamped the Cheltenham squad and assembled one which managed over 20 games without defeat and sealed the FL return at the first attempt with two rounds to spare with a club record points total of 101, a dozen more than their main rivals Forest Green.
Last time, both sides won at their home venue, was in 2003-04 when the Stags notched their highest-ever win against Cheltenham, 4-0 including two Liam Lawrence penalties, on October 25, 2003 in front of the previewer, and the Cheltenham Robins gained revenge by winning 4-2 at home on February 28, 2004.
The sides faced each other very frequently in the first part of Cheltenham's FL history. Fact is that the Stags and the Cheltenham Robins faced each other in each of Cheltenham's first seven FL campaign, starting in August 1999, and the Robins in fact registered their first-ever league win by scoring the only goal of the game (scorer: Grayson) at Field Mill on August 14, 1999 when the Stags made a very poor start of a topsy-turvy 1999-2000 season. Lee Williams, later to play for Cheltenham, appeared for the Stags in that fixture and no Stags player appearing then was around when the sides clashed in Mansfield on the final day of the 2005-06 campaign. Then, Cheltenham won 5-0 at Field Mill, and a few weeks later, the Robins were promoted to League One for the second time via the playoffs after beating Grimsby, the side which followed Cheltenham back into the FL last season after beating Forest Green in the playoff final.
Following the 5-0 win at Mansfield on May 6, 2006, and the subsequent playoff final victory, Cheltenham played three seasons in League One and among their oppenents were sides like Bristol City, Swansea, Leeds and last season’s PL winners, Leicester. Among Cheltenham’s finest League One moments were taking six points off Swansea and four off Bristol City in 2006-07, and in the 2007-08 campaign, the Robins took six points off Leeds, 1-0 at home and 2-1 away. In 2008-09, Cheltenham played Leicester, who won both fixtures to a 4-0 scoreline.
And in the 2000-01 campaign, the teams faced each other at Cheltenham on the opening day when the teams drew 2-2, Chris Greenacre scoring a wonder goal and Mark Blake scoring for the Stags as well as putting through an own goal. On February 13, 2001, the Stags registered their first league win over the Robins 2-1, goals Blake and a Book og in front of only 1940, a crowd more than four times less the one when the teams met in a crucial promotion encounter on April 9, 2002, when the Stags won 2-1 thanks to an Andy White strike in the 78th minute, Chris Greenacre opening the account after just two minutes and Yates equalizing midway through the first half. At Cheltenham, Stags went 2-0 up thanks to two Disley strikes, Alsop equalizing after coming on as sub before Corden hit the winner in the 90th minute, in the end proving crucial as well as White’s winner at the Mill. Eventually the teams were promoted together after fighting it out up to the final day. Stags directly and eventually Cheltenham after winning the play-off final against Rushden & Diamonds. And the teams were also relegated together the following term as the Stags lost both games against the Robins after poor displays, Cheltenham drawing no fewer than 18 times. The Stags had needed the six points against Cheltenham to stay up that season, and Cheltenham had needed just ONE win of the 18 drawn games to secure their stay in the 2nd division instead of Chesterfield. Had the two-points ruling applied for a win, Cheltenham had stayed up two points clear of the Spireites instead of the reverse under the three-points-system.
In the 2005-06 season, both sides played Newcastle in the FA Cup. While the Stags only lost to a late Alan Shearer goal at St. James’ Park in the third round, the Robins lost 0-2 at home to the Geordies in the following round.
One former Stags player, James Jennings, played for Cheltenham in their FL comeback fixture against Leyton Orient on the opening day of this season, while one of the Stags’ new recruits, Ashley Hemmings, made his FL debut for Cheltenham on loan from Wolves in a 1-3 home League One defeat against Millwall on February 24, 2009.
Matt Green played nineteen games for Cheltenham without scoring before his first spell at the Stags on loan from Oxford, for which he played against Cheltenham in a League Two fixture on September 2010. His final Cheltenham game was in fact Stockport’ so far last one as a FL club, a 1-1 draw at Edgeley Park on the same day the Stags played the FA Trophy final against Darlington at Wembley on May 7, 2011.
A good test is on the cards. Come on Mansfield!
Played for both sides (since Cheltenham were promoted to the Football League): Danny Andrew, Craig Armstrong, Paul Black, Daryl Clare, Paul Connor, Craig Dobson, Matt Green, Ashley Hemmings, James Jennings, Carl Muggleton, Martin Riley, Richard Walker, Jason White (forward!), Lee Williams. Barry Richardson, a former Stags goalie, was on Cheltenham’s books in 2009-10 without playing.
Prior to Cheltenham's promotion to the FL in 1999, the following players have been traced, courtesy of the centenary book and the history CD: Andy Beasley, George Blackburn, Roddy Collins (later Carlisle manager!), Melvyn Eves, Glyn Jones, Roger McDonald, Christopher Ogden, George Simpson, Alexander Sykes.
Home: P 10, W 3, D 2, L 5, GF 11, GA 16
Away: P 9, W 3, D 2, L 4, GF 13, GA 16
Season Home Date Away Date
1999-2000 0-1 1999-08-14 0-1 2000-01-15 Div 3
2000-01 2-1 2001-02-13 2-2 2000-08-12 Div 3
2001-02 2-1 2002-04-09 3-2 2001-08-25 Div 3
2002-03 0-2 2002-09-21 1-3 2003-03-08 Div 2
2003-04 4-0 2003-10-25 2-4 2004-02-28 Div 3
2004-05 1-2 2005-02-12 0-2 2004-10-19 League Two
2005-06 0-5 2006-05-06 2-0 2005-10-29 League Two
2013-14 0-2 2014-04-21 2-1 2013-12-29 League Two
2014-15 1-1 2014-12-13 1-1 2015-03-07 League Two
2015-16 1-1 2016-08-13 (at Mansfield) League Two