Part two of our 2013-14 season review.
Read Part One of the 2013-14 season review here.
If Cheltenham’s end to 2013 had been largely positive (despite the Mansfield result) then January and February couldn’t have been much more disappointing.
Not a single win in January and just the one (away at Newport) in February didn’t inspire the Whaddon Road faithful and dreams of the play-offs were fast becoming a distant vision.
The January transfer window itself proved to be a busy period for the Robins with both Keith Lowe and Russell Penn leaving the club for York City. David Noble, who was becoming an integral part of the club’s midfield, saw his loan deal extended despite injury. Other inclusions came in the form of Michael Ihiekwe, Mitch Brundle and Lee Lucas (short-lived) but the impressive Connor Goldson was recalled and Kemar Roofe opted to return to West Brom. A mixed bag for Cheltenham Town certainly.
Ashley Vincent, who had been largely sidelined for various reasons throughout the season, had returned in dramatic fashion during the Newport win with the winger scoring the winning goal and his return to the team did coincide with an improvement in the team’s form. A ‘self destruct’ style loss at home to Chesterfield was followed by two hard working draws at Portsmouth and Oxford sandwiched between solid wins at home to Bury and Torquay in March but Cheltenham’s party trick reared its ugly head once again away at AFC Wimbledon.
The Robins had been leading 2-0 comfortably away at the Kingsmeadow Stadium before a six minute period of head loss saw Wimbledon take a 3-2 lead. Jason Taylor’s deflected effort restored some pride for the Robins a late winner from Jack Midson condemned the Robins to an unsettling defeat.
It wouldn’t be the last time that Cheltenham threw away a lead before the end of the season but they did pick up an important win away at Hartlepool United to end March on a more positive note.
Defeats to Southend and Fleetwood plus a draw away at Exeter (which saw the Robins lose a 100% record over the Grecians) prompted some nervy looks amongst supporters as Mark Yates’ side drifted ever closer to the relegation dogfight. The manager kept the faith and a confident 2-0 win away at Mansfield Town ended all fears that Cheltenham Town’s 15 year stint in the Football League was about to come to an end.
In the end, Cheltenham had done enough but two defeats to end the league season was alarming and certainly signalled a squad makeover was to be expected in the summer with assistant manager Neil Howarth already departing following backroom staff re-modelling.
The positives? Young prospects in the form of Joe Hanks, Harry Williams and Zack Kotwica were pushing for first team spots and the club’s decision to offer contracts to four scholars was promising. The lessons that needed to be learnt? How to hold onto a lead and make it count because if that had been the case then 2013-14 could have been a very different story for Cheltenham Town Football Club.
Player of the Year: Byron Harrison
Top goalscorer: Byron Harrison (15)
Most appearances (all comps): Byron Harrison (50)
Sky Bet League Two: 17th with 55 points
League Cup: 2nd Round – West Ham United
FA Cup: 1st Round - Tamworth
Johnstone's Paint Trophy: First Round – Plymouth Argyle