Cheltenham v Pompey: The opposition view

It has been a tougher than expected start for Cheltenham having stepped up from the National League.

Saturday, 19th November 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 12:06 pm
Cheltenham boss Gary Johnson

However, things have picked up and last weekend’s 2-0 defeat was a first loss in 10 matches in all competitions.

Encouragingly, that was followed by a 4-1 win at Crewe in an FA Cup replay, leaving everybody extremely optimistic.

That was a completely one-sided game, it should have been more to the Robins, with the home side terrible and their fans chanting for the head of manager Steve Davis.

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Having taken the National League title with 101 points last season, Gary Johnson felt there could be another promotion push in them.

He has never been a mid-table manager and took Yeovil to the Championship not so long ago.

I don’t believe all supporters were demanding promotion at the start of the campaign, but there has certainly been optimism.

However, it was a poor beginning to the season, with six defeats in the opening 12 matches in all competitions, with some of the loan signings not really coming off.

There was a 4-2 thrashing at Yeovil in September, after which the good run kicked in to raise spirits.

But before that there were a few worried faces around Whaddon Road and people looking over their shoulders.

Certainly Johnson was questioning whether some of the players were good enough for the Football League.

The resurgence can partly be put down to defender Aaron Downes, who has returned from the cruciate injury he collected midway through last season.

He has brought a confidence back to the team and the captain is playing well, making them look more like the old Cheltenham.

While some loans haven’t come off, Rob Dickie has been excellent from Reading and is the pick of them.

Everton’s Russell Griffiths has done well in goal, even if he did have a little bit of a wobble after a good start.

Of the side which started on Tuesday at Crewe, only Griffiths and Daniel O’Shaughnessy were not part of the title-winning team.

If Jordan Cranston hadn’t been suspended, all the outfield players would have been part of that side, which is pretty impressive.

With some of his loan signings not coming off, Johnson has returned to those who did so well for him last season – and they have responded superbly.

Take Danny Wright, who at 31 had never played in the Football League before, while midfielder Kyle Storer is aged 29 and previously played just non-league level at clubs like Bedworth United and Nuneaton Town.