Robins fan Matt Pegg looks back on the previous week through the eyes of a supporter.
Our strength has become our weakness…
It seems just a fleeting juncture since Alan Bennett and Steve Elliott stood stalwart in the middle of our defence, putting their bodies on the line to make sure we came away from every game with our sheets so sparkling clean. Unfaltering, resolute and tenacious, our back five (Scotty included) were perhaps the most feared and respected in the league. Week after week we would leave opposition strikers void of ideas, as our points racked up and their goals never did.
What the Zack Kotwica has happened since then?!
A 3-1 defeat to Plymouth at home, a 4-1 defeat to Bury away, conceding 3 goals at home to both Crawley and Plymouth in the ever so prestigious Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. That is not the Cheltenham I know and love.
The complications that surround the Robins at the minute are available for everyone to see. Like a pack of wolves circling a fresh kill, many are ready to pounce on the players and management and tear them to pieces with ill-mannered criticism that only further heightens the frustrations of everyone associated with the club.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in full allegiance with the unsatisfied thousands who are desperate for our fortunes to change, but exhausting all energies on persecution will only aggravate further. Instead, I am going to use this opportunity to try and uncover why, after such celebrated success, our defence has seemingly crumbled like a Memorial Stadium stand…
2011/12 - Scott Brown, Sido Jombati, Alan Bennett, Steve Elliott, Luke Garbutt
2013/14 - Scott Brown, Sido Jombati, Troy Brown, Steve Elliott, Craig Braham-Barrett
Now while any Junior Robin could spot the difference in names between the two defences, I don’t believe that the two changes to the back line could be the sole cause to our downfall. Braham-Barrett, while perhaps not as naturally gifted, plays a similar style of football to Luke Garbutt; pace to burn, attacking flair and a similar build to his Everton left side predecessor. While Troy Brown has the ability to be faster, bigger and more aggressive than Alan Bennett ever was. It just seems as if something isn’t quite right.
Over the past couple of years, I have rarely felt uncomfortable when Steve Elliott or Sido Jombati have the ball. The former has always got the job done; hoofing the ball up the field or into the stands and away from danger, while the latter has always done the same, although perhaps with a step-over or two in between. This season however, even the old reliable’s have looked nervy and unsure. Sido has self admittedly not had a great start to his campaign, while Elliott looks like he may be heading into his Teddy Sheringham, Kevin Phillips twilight years all too soon.
The key that has to be found once again is the trusting bond between the defence. Benno and Elliott felt like they had faith in one another; if one came forward to clear an incoming attack, the other would drop back instantly, a telepathic bond. While new signing always complicate matters, Troy Brown is experienced enough to fill in for our former skipper and combine with our wily veteran in a similar way.
It will undoubtedly take time and avoidance of injury, something which has hit the club hard these past couple of weeks. However, I would give anything to head down to the ABS this Saturday when we face comparative giants Pompey and watch a relatively dull 1-0 victory rather than an explosive 5-4 win. A clean sheet will give the boys at the back a world of confidence and would hopefully rekindle the kind of clean sheet records we held so proudly 18 months ago.
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