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🔎 The Opposition: Cheltenham Town (H)

Jed Penberthy takes a look at Saturday's opponents

10 March 2021

How about a tasty Westcountry Derby to whet your appetite this weekend? Exeter City host league leaders Cheltenham Town at 3pm on Saturday.

Ahead of the match, here’s a rundown of the Gloucestershire outfit.

  • Founded: 1892
  • Nicknames: The Robins
  • Honours: Conference (1998/99, 2015/16), FA Trophy (1997/98).
  • Home Kit: ERREA Red Shirt with white pinstripes, white socks, red socks
  • Away Kit: ERREA Blue shaded hoops, light blue shorts and socks
  • Form:WWWWL (1st in League Two)

Although a scratch team representing Cheltenham played against Gloucester in 1884, the earliest recorded game for Cheltenham Town FC was a friendly against Dean Close School in 1892. Town played Wednesday afternoon friendlies at a local cricket ground prior to joining the Mid-Gloucester League.

Horses, holidays, and high security are the three things Cheltenham is most notably known for. In 1716 natural springs were discovered in the region, leading the town to be one of largest Spa towns in the country. In 2003, GCHQ moved to the iconic “doughnut” building in the town and boosted the economy in the region.

But of course, the most famous heritage Cheltenham boasts is the Horse Festival which takes place around mid-March. Second only to the Grand National for prize money, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is regarded as the most prestigious of all National Hunt Races and is referred to as the Blue-Ribband of jump racing. 

After spending much of their history in local football, Cheltenham were promoted to the Conference initially in 1985 and 1997. With Steve Cotterill in charge, the most successful period in Cheltenham’s history began. In 1998 the Club beat Southport 1-0 at Wembley to claim the FA Trophy, and a year later they gained Football League status for the very first time. In 2002, Cotterill would claim his final promotion as Robins boss, before joining Stoke, as Cheltenham were elevated into then then Division 2.   

After only a year’s stay in the Second Division, Town were promoted back to League One in 2006 under John Ward. Conference football was briefly sandwiched between then and now when Gary Johnson took charge. Michael Duff replaced Johnson in 2018 and took Town to the play-offs last season, where they were edged out by Northampton.

Cheltenham have hit a rich vein of form ahead of Saturday’s fixture with five wins in the last six, but defeat in mid-week against Mansfield may have rocked the boat for City to capitalise on.

The Manager

Michael Duff

Duff was appointed Cheltenham Town manager in September 2018 succeeding Gary Johnson. The 42-year-olds appointment saw him undertake his first senior managerial role in football having previously managed the Burnley youth squads.

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As a player, Duff was a Cheltenham and Burnley legend, sharing half his career at each club. He netted the goal that took Cheltenham to the Football League in 1999 and has 24 international caps for Northern Ireland.

Last season Duff won two Manager of the Months awards as he guided the Robins to the post-season.

The Stadium

  • Name: Jonny-Rocks Stadium
  • Capacity: 7,066
  • Year opened: 1927
  • Address: Whaddon Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL52 5NA

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Whaddon Road has been home to Cheltenham since 1932, when the club turned professional. The grounds official name is the Victory Sports Ground, but under sponsorship reasons has had a plethora of names in recent years, settling on the Jonny-Rocks Stadium in 2018.

The grounds best attendance was an FA Cup fixture in 1956 against Reading. Over 8,300 people crammed into Whaddon Road that night, yet Cheltenham’s record attendance is actually at the now demolished Cheltenham Athletic Ground when 10,389 people watched the visit of Blackpool in 1934.

One To Watch

Liam Sercombe

Another ‘one of our own’ who has flown the nest and continues to shine, Liam Sercombe is very much a fan favourite at both St James Park and now Whaddon Road. Sercs signed for the Robins after being released from Bristol Rovers in the summer.

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Liam’s scored three goals and assisted two already this season as his new team makes the march up the League Two table. Sercombe began his career at City and was an influential part of the Exeter midfield under Tisdale and helped secure back-to-back promotions in 2008 and 09.

In his time at City, Sercombe scored 23 goals including a wonder strike against next month’s FA Cup opposition Sheffield Wednesday and a couple of memorable derby day goals against Plymouth Argyle.

He flourished at Oxford before his move to Rovers in 2017 for a six-figure sum, then teamed up with Michael Duff in the summer. Sercombe has already pierced the hearts of Exeter City fans this season, putting in a fine man of the match performance against the Grecians back in December, scoring twice.

Head to Head

The billing with Cheltenham Town is always tantalising fixture for Exeter City fans. The Grecians have only been beaten once by the Robins since 2014, though that came in a 5-3 thriller at Whaddon Road earlier this campaign. 

Town haven’t won at St James Park in nearly eight years but go into Saturday top of the pile, hoping to do the double over Exeter for the first time since the 2012/13 season. That year, Cheltenham finished in the play-offs.     

  • Exeter wins: 8
  • Draws: 3
  • Cheltenham wins: 10

Recent encounters

Cheltenham Town 5 Exeter City 3 | December 5, 2020

Exeter City fell to a heavy defeat on the road when second met third in December. Archie Collins, Matt Jay and Nicky Law were all on the scoresheet for City. 

Exeter City 0-0 Cheltenham Town | November 19, 2019

Both sides cancelled each other out at a cagey affair at the Park.

Exeter City 1-0 Cheltenham Town | September 3, 2019

Nicky Ajose’s fifth minute goal was enough for the home side in the Leasing.com Trophy.

Cheltenham Town 1-1 Exeter City | April 6, 2019

Referee Brett Huxtable was the pantomime villain, as Connor Thomas’ second half penalty levelled Dean Moxey’s early goal. Christie Pym was sent off late on.

And Finally…

Cheltenham originally played in a deep red coloured shirt and were called the ‘Rubies’. Two years after the club’s move to Whaddon Road in 1902, Town changed their strip to red and white stripes and adopted the Robins’ nickname.

How to Watch

Whilst we would love you to be there, showing your passionate support for the Grecians, you can get the next best thing by purchasing a match pass at the cost of just £10 in the UK. The stream includes the live BBC Radio Devon commentary, score overlay and replays.

You can watch the match on your laptop by purchasing a match pass and logging on to the website homepage where the will be a 'Watch Now' button near the top of the page.

To purchase a match pass please click here.
 

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