Five league games without a win. Bottom of the EFL League One table with zero goals scored. The only team alongside Everton that have not scored a single goal in the top four divisions of English football. Cheltenham Town fans have every right to be angry and deeply concerned.
Another defeat at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium on Saturday, a 1-0 defeat to Northampton Town, and there is a sense of anger and discontent amongst the Cheltenham Town fanbase. It has been eight hours since the Robins last scored a goal and the player who last scored a goal for the club left to join Charlton Athletic 52 days ago. Whilst it is still very early into the season and a lot can change in that time, it is not very positive to be a Cheltenham Town fan at this moment in time.
Once again, there is no cohesion between the Cheltenham Town players during their game against Northampton, a team that won automatic promotion last season from League Two. The Cobblers looked more like a side that had played League One football for the past two seasons than the Robins did – knocking the ball around with such precision whilst Cheltenham struggled to keep hold off the ball and only being able to make 2 or 3 passes before throwing possession away cheaply.
Aidan Keena, a man who looked confident towards the end of last season and was expected to fill the void left by the departure of Alfie May, looked like a player who was not interested at all and is someone who is struggling to connect with his strike partner – whether it be Rob Street or Will Goodwin. Injuries have not helped the Robins either, with seven first-team players out which has lead to the likes of 16-year-old striker Tom King and 19-year-old Adulai Sambu making appearances off the bench.
Curtis Davies, tipped to be one of the inspirational signings made by the club this summer, has looked rash and nervous in the middle of the back-three, with loan signing from Bournemouth Owen Bevan making the bench for the first-time on Saturday. Rob Street has shown promise since joining on a three-year deal but personally I feel needs to work that bit harder in pressing the opposition backline. Will Goodwin needs to show more when he’s given minutes at this level, as does George Lloyd when he eventually returns from injury.
The Transfer Window
There are four more days for Cheltenham Town to bring in additional players before the transfer window slams shut on Friday 1st September at 11pm. The club desperately needs an attacking midfielder in the Callum Wright style mould. A player that is able to turn away from markers, link the play between the midfield and the attack and most importantly contribute in the final third with goals and assists. The strikers we have are currently lacking any sort of service which is a huge problem. We also need another striker – someone who is good in the air and can hold the ball up as well as someone with a little bit of pace that is able to get in behind defences. I would also say another two central midfielders would be required.
The reason I say this is because as soon as you take Curtis Thompson, Liam Sercombe and Elliot Bonds out, you are left with Dan Adshead, Ellis Chapman, Oli Hammond and James Olayinka – we lack someone with a little bit of strength that can win the ball like Bonds cand and progress the team up the pitch quickly.
With only two more arrivals looking likely, it seems like it will be two loan players (one attacking midfielder and one striker), but any extra permanent additions would be much welcome. If more quality is not brought in, we will be staring down the barrel.
Wade Under Pressure?
Once again, Wade Elliott is under pressure – and not for the first time. The football at times is frustrating to watch – goalkeeper to defender, defender to midfielder, midfielder back to defender, defender back to goalkeeper – long ball which opposition win back. Hoofball up to Aidan Keena is not the way forward or the way to win football matches. Neither is for our midfield players who decide instead of progressing the ball forward to slow the game down and pass back to our defenders. You could hear shouts of “forward” from sections of the Cheltenham support and groans of frustration whenever the Robins passed the ball backwards instead of forwards.
Not all of it is Wade’s fault of course – some of the defending and mistakes from players have been atrocious – but the style of play does need to change – and a part of me feels whether it may be time to move away from the five at the back system that was first implemented when Michael Duff took charge. The football isn’t great, our strikers are not getting the service they need to score, we are losing games – what does need to change?
I think some of the post-match interviews that Wade does also does not help with the discontent amongst supporters.
“I feel for them as a group because in terms of effort, I don’t think they could have given us anymore. It’s pretty obvious where we are a little bit deficient at the minute.”
There was only a decent 10-15 minute spell in the second-half of the Northampton game where you could really say Cheltenham were on top. The entire first-half was dominated by the Cobblers and they should have been ahead at half-time with a free-header which looped up onto the crossbar.
With games coming up against Barnsley, Exeter and Stevenage (all in the top-half of the League One table) – it is not going to be easy and could very easily turn toxic once again.
The question on most Cheltenham Town’s fans lips is not where the next win is coming from – it is where is the next goal coming from?
As a Cheltenham fan writing this, I was trying to be as impartial as I possibly could – but we are in real trouble as we lack any sort of quality going forward. We clearly need more additions to our lightweight squad due to injuries whilst I still hold the belief that there are players in this current Cheltenham squad who are not League One standard and should not be here. It is down to Russell Milton to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the next four days – otherwise we will sleepwalk back into League Two (if we aren’t currently doing it already.)