Looking ahead to the visit of Port Vale on Saturday, Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff insisted his side were not yet free from relegation fears.
This comment comes despite the Robins midweek victory over Cambridge United which eased them to a nine-point gap over Macclesfield in the final relegation place.
Port Vale are in trouble themselves and travel to Gloucestershire off the back of a midweek home defeat to Tranmere Rovers and with new manager John Askey still searching for his first win after replacing Neil Aspin at the start of February.
The match appears to represent an excellent opportunity to extend the gap between the Robins and the drop zone. However Duff told the club’s official website he was expecting a tough encounter. He said,
“They’ve got people like Tom Pope in the team, if they’re putting crosses in the box he’s as good as anyone attacking the ball.”
“So we’ll need to cope physically with not just him but with them. It’s about imposing our style of play on them like I think after ten minutes we did against Cambridge.”
The Cheltenham board gave Duff the objective of securing League Two safety when they appointed him in September, and the Robins boss was keen to stress this had not yet been achieved “My remit since I’ve been here is to stay up. That is still the remit because we’re not safe yet. It’s in our hands, it’s up to us where we finish, and it’s not just rolling out the same old lines – it’s what I believe in.”
Cheltenham have recently been in good form, especially at home. The Cambridge victory was their third in succession at the Johnny-Rocks Stadium. In stark contrast, Port Vale’s form has been diabolical. The Tranmere defeat was the Valiants third defeat in a row and left them only four points clear of Macclesfield.
Duff has done an excellent job since he arrived at Whaddon Road and I fully expect Cheltenham to win on Saturday. He may well be saying they are not safe, but I fully expect them to be in comfortable mid-table at the end of the season.
Askey’s task appears thankless, off the field problems are besetting the club and if they do lose on Saturday, they will be in real trouble. The fixture after Cheltenham is a trip to Notts County in what will be a massive relegation six-pointer.