Supporter Matt Pegg looks back on our opening league game of the season and this weekend away at Chesterfield.
As I slipped back into my favourite seat in the In2print stand, burger in one hand, tea in the other, I took a deep breath and engaged myself in the familiar surroundings that had been missing for all too long.
It has been a second home for nearly 15 years and it was great to be back.
The atmosphere of the opening day of the domestic season is always exhilarating. With new talent on the field, a large excitable crowd, the sun (usually) shining brightly and endless possibilities, game number 1 of 46 is brilliantly unique.
For Cheltenham, game number 1 came in the shape of Burton Albion, a team whose League 2 stock had risen thanks to last season’s play-off exploits. Armed with prestigious new signing Rory Delap, the Brewers took to the field presumably full of confidence of claiming a point or three.
90 minutes later and the Staffordshire club had managed to grasp a solitary point from our hands, a real disappointment considering our first half performance. However, this seems to be the Cheltenham way. For the last decade, I couldn’t even begin to count the number of points we have dropped from winning positions. It makes it all the more frustrating when the club have yet to find a remedy for this. However, this time, exceptions have to be made, in part thanks to one Mr Fred Graham.
Fickle fans always infuriate me and I do not hope to align myself into that category through this part of the article. However, I think it was clear for all to see at Whaddon Road on Saturday, that certain decisions from the officials contributed to our downfall.
After 16 minutes, new signing Terry Gornell (who incidentally I thought was brilliant) was ‘fouled’ in the area. It looked as though clear contact had been made and a penalty was inevitable but Mr Graham instead penalised the Cheltenham man. The verdict: frustrating but it is common in most football matches…or maybe the ref just didn’t see it – excusable.
44 minutes and we were 2-0 to the good and cruising, before the man with the whistle gave Burton a penalty for a Russ Penn ‘handball’. Now while the laws of ball to hand, hand to ball etc. are somewhat vague, I defy anyone to retract their hand from a ball flying toward them at 60mph from 3 feet away. However, as Billy Kee converted the penalty to make the score 2-1, no anger from the Cheltenham fans could make any difference. While there was no excuse for the poor defending that lead Burton’s equaliser, you couldn’t help but feel that the Robins were hard done by on a day that every fan at the ABS had been looking forward to since May. Still, we must move on…
And that begins with a weekend trip to Derbyshire and one of the favourites for League 2 success, Chesterfield. The Spireites enjoyed pre-season favouritism by the media as well as an impressive opening day victory against the ‘new generation’ at Bury. Without Jamie Cureton, this will be a tough trip for the Robins. It will also be interesting to see what system Mark Yates will command the team to play away from home.
Last season, we were set up more defensively on our travels, while in the 2011/12, we played on the break, attacking our opponents at will, with great success. Now, while it is clear that Yates’ seasonal change in tactics was due to opponents working out how Cheltenham played, there is nothing to stop the man at the helm reverting back to the system that worked so well for the Robins on their travels 2 campaigns ago.
Finally, I am writing this pre-Crawley so do not know how we fared. However, it would be great to have a run in a cup that we have never made much of a impact in. It also gives the youngsters, including the much talked about Zack Kotwica a chance to shine. This, coupled with a win at Chesterfield, would make for a much more positive blog next week. Fingers crossed.
To read more from Matt's blog, click here.