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Match Previews

🔎 The Opposition: Cheltenham Town

Rundown on the Robins.

4 October 2021

A slice of Papa John’s Trophy action returns this Tuesday as Exeter City travel to Cheltenham Town.

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

  • Founded: 1892
  • Nicknames: The Robins
  • Honours: League Two (2020/21), Conference (1998/99, 2015/16), FA Trophy (1997/98)
  • Home Kit: ERREA Red Shirt with white pinstripes, white socks, red socks
  • Away Kit: ERREA dark blue shirt, plain blue shorts and socks
  • Form: WLLLL (17th in League One)

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.

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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 after one failed play-off attempt, romped home to the League Two title last season to be promoted into the Third Tier.

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.

CheltenhamDuff.jpg

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.

Stadium

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

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.

Jonny-Rocks.jpg

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 of 2020.

CheltenhamSercs.jpg

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 2020, scoring twice.

Head to Head

The billing with Cheltenham Town is always tantalising fixture for Exeter City fans. The Grecians have only been beaten twice by the Robins since 2014, though that came last season in a 5-3 thriller at Whaddon Road and then an agonising last minute loss at SJP. 

That was Town’s first win at St James Park in nearly eight years but go into a division above the Grecians.

Exeter wins: 8

Draws: 3

Cheltenham wins: 11

Recent encounters

Exeter City 0 Cheltenham Town 1 | League Two | St James Park | 14th March 2021

Andy Williams broke City hearts with a last minute winner as Cheltenham extended their lead at the top of the League Two table.

Cheltenham Town 5 Exeter City 3 | League Two | Jonny-Rocks Stadium | 5th December 2020

Exeter City slumped to a heavy defeat on the road when 2nd met 3rd in December. Archie Collins, Matt Jay and Nicky Law were all on the scoresheet for City. 

Exeter City 0 Cheltenham Town 0 | League Two | St James Park | 19th November 2019.

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

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.


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