Sunday, 24 March 2013

Two minutes with… Cheltenham Town

Despite the weather and playing conditions, promotion-hopefuls Cheltenham were the visitors to Underhill this weekend. Rubies fan and journalist Mark gives his thoughts in this instalment of Two Minutes With.

Had you been to Underhill before?
This is my fourth or fifth visit, and it is a little sad that it will be my last. I saw Cheltenham win 1-0 there in 1987, the last win we had there, and have seen three league meetings between the sides, resulting in one defeat and now two draws.
How did you get to the game?
Drove through the snow.
The match
Whereabouts in the ground did you sit/stand?
Main stand, in the press box. Had Rob Nothman of BBC Five Live next to me and Talksport’s Moose, Ian Abrahams a seat further on.
What did you make of the game?
It was a farce. It should never have gone ahead, to be honest. Neither side could pass the ball, players could not stand up and the conditions took away any sort of creativity. I cannot remember either side stringing more than three passes together at any point. In the end, I was pleased it ended in a draw as neither side deserved to go away with nothing after trying to play in those conditions.
Who (from either side) do you think deserved to be man of the match?
Michael Hector for Cheltenham was our best player by quite a long way. For Barnet, John Oster was quite influential and I thought Kyle de Silva on the right did quite well when he came on – and the left back Elliott Johnson looks a prospect.
Was the score line a fair reflection on the game?
Yes, as neither side strung anything together. Cheltenham hit the post and Sam Deering went close, but neither keeper really had a shot to save.
Who do you play next, and how do you think you’ll get on?
We now have a massive Easter. We play Port Vale away on Friday and Northampton at home on Monday, and we need to get four points from six to still be in the hunt for a top three finish I think.
Cost of match day ticket
I had a press pass so it didn’t cost me anything... ––– 10/10
Purchases made at ground
I didn’t buy anything, but others did and said it was ok and good value ––– 7/10
Good, as we were in the front row, but the snow got in the way ––– 8/10
Quality of football
Terrible, but the conditions were to blame. Sides deserve a 10 for going out and doing their best, but will have to be ––– 4/10
Overall experience
I love Underhill and I will be sad not to go there again. But I have to say the weather and conditions ruined the day for me and I will have to say ––– 5/10
Total ––– 34/50

Be sure to follow Mark on Twitter @MarkHalliwell1 and check out his blog ‘Cheltenham Town Chatter.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

League Two round-up: 16.03.13

Things are hotting up at both ends of the table, with the gap at the top closed to four points over the weekend; while at the bottom, a single point now separates York in 19th from the rest of the following pack. This weekend’s round-up begins with those teams currently down among the deadmen: Barnet’s visit to Accrington and AFC Wimbledon’s trip to Aldershot.
A 26 minute first half hat-trick for Accrington’s Lee Molyneux left Barnet with it all to do, and Stanley ended up seeing off their rivals for three vital points. They ended the weekend still rooted to the bottom of the division though. Molyneux’s first came as early as the eighth minute after a mix-up between the Bees’ defenders allowed him to slot past Graham Stack. He doubled the hosts’ lead on 25 minutes, through a powerful long-range effort before completing his treble from the penalty spot after Chiro N’Toko fouled Francis Jeffers. Barnet managed to pull one back before half time, with Elliot Johnson netting his first senior goal for the club. A comeback looked likely when Ross Jenkins’ spectacular overhead kick went in with 25 minutes remaining, but the Bees were reduced to 10 men when player/manager Edgar Davids was shown a second yellow card. Both Barnet and Accrington now sit on 40 points.
As do Aldershot, who occupy the second relegation spot following their narrow defeat to AFC Wimbledon. The Dons took the lead through top scorer Jack Midson’s chip with 72 minutes played and their win was their third in succession.
Of the other teams down in the basement, Plymouth beat play-off hopefuls Fleetwood – victory moving them out of the bottom two – and struggling Torquay earned a valuable point against Southend. Both teams also finished the day on 40 points.  At Home Park, Argyle went into the break with a two goal buffer: Paul Wotton’s penalty handing them the lead midway through the opening period, before Jason Bantam made it two with his low shot from 20-yards. Fleetwood managed to pull one back late on through David Ball, but they ended the game a man light after Paul McKenna was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Meanwhile In Essex, Southend’s late play-off push suffered another blow after they went ahead against Torquay, only to end the game with a solitary point. In the opening 10 minutes the Shrimpers went ahead through fans favourite Freddy Eastwood, but Joss Labadie levelled the scores in first half stoppage time. The Gulls still haven’t won in 11 games.
Moving up to the business end of the table, Port Vale are back to second following their win against out-of-form York. There were also wins for Cheltenham – who beat Rotherham – and Exeter, another of the play-off contenders. A goal in each half for Vale contributed to their first win in six – Jennison Myrie-Williams putting them in front early on. The winger (who hadn’t scored since January) could have made it two had Michael Ingham failed to save his spot kick. Lee Hughes’ close-range effort three minutes after the break sealed the points and puts the pressure back on Gillingham.
Cheltenham’s huge win over Rotherham sees them move up to fourth, the home side going ahead after half an hour through Jermaine McGlashan’s volley. Marlon Pack doubled their lead before the interval, with Steve Elliot later completing the scoring – thanks to a blunder from Millers’ keeper Andy Warrington. Rotherham occupy seventh place with a six point gap between themselves and Southend.
Exeter, too, ran rampant on home soil as they kept their promotion dream alive against Bradford, who will probably have to settle for mid-table after their celebrated cup run. Bantams’ keeper Matt Duke spilt a corner and his own goal put the Grecians in front. The hosts went in at the break with a two-goal advantage with Lawson D’Ath heading home on his debut, after arriving from Reading. Although the travelling side halved the deficit - Kyel Reid from a corner - Exeter killed the game off with two late efforts. Scot Bennett’s close-range attempt restored the Grecians’ two-goal cushion, with John O’Flynn later making it four. Exeter now sit three points from automatic promotion.
Gillingham remain league leaders but they had to come from behind against Morecambe. Jack Redshaw put the Shrimps ahead before half time but his effort was cancelled out by Bradley Dack.
Also at the bottom, Burton slipped to third after their game against Dagenham & Redbridge once again finished a goal apiece. Lee Bell’s deflected shot put the Brewers ahead at Victoria Road, only for Josh Scott to make things level after the break with his solo effort.
Two second half strikes for Bristol Rovers’ Ellis Harrison handed them victory against Rochdale as they continue to climb the table. After firing in from 20 yards out, Dale equalised through Michael Rose, but 10 minutes later Harrison made it two for himself and the Gas: a poorly defended corner allowing him to pounce and slot home. Rovers are now 14th, while Rochdale lie in 17th.
There was also a win for Chesterfield at the weekend with a single goal separating them and Oxford. Marc Richards netted as early as the fifth minute for his first goal since January, moving the Spireites within a place of their opponents – they now sit in 10th and 11th place respectively.
Wycombe and Northampton’s clash at Adams Park had to be postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
There are six games on Tuesday night:
Accrington v AFC Wimbledon
Bradford v Wycombe
Rochdale v Gillingham
Southend v Plymouth
Torquay v Chesterfield
Barnet v Fleetwood (8pm kick-off)

Friday, 1 March 2013

League Two round-up: 26.02.13

There was midweek action again in League Two this week. Shocks occurred up and down the basement division with defeats for the top two – Gillingham still leading the way, with Port Vale two points behind them. Meanwhile, Southend’s play-off dream slipped at the hands of lowly Barnet, one of a handful of teams looking to push away from the bottom two. But the round-up begins with third-placed Burton Albion who made it eight successive home wins and are now real contenders for automatic promotion.
Five goals were scored at the Pirelli where Albion hosted Morecambe, the first arriving in the game’s opening 20 minutes – Jacques Maghoma the quickest to pounce on a loose ball. The Brewers extended their lead on the stroke of half time through Billy Kee’s close-range header and he doubled his individual tally after the break with a 12-yard volley. The visitors pulled one back in the closing 10 minutes via a Jack Redshaw penalty after Damien McCrory was adjudged to have fouled Chris Holroyd. Although Holroyd also netted for the Shrimps in second half stoppage time, it was too late for them to salvage a point.
A late goal for Oxford away at leaders Gillingham gave them a surprise win, also condemning their hosts to a sixth home defeat of the campaign. Six minutes from time, Alfie Potter latched on to a long ball before slotting into the bottom corner to send the travelling fans home happy. The gap between first and second remains two points with Port Vale also losing at home. Although they finished the game a man light, Exeter move into sixth and are four points off automatic promotion. Two first half goals ensured maximum points for the Grecians and Jamie Cureton notched his 19th goal of the season when he gave the visitors the lead. He turned in Matt Oakley’s cross after 10 minutes and Oakley was also provider for their second – this time teeing up Danny Coles to bundle home. Mark Moseley saw red for an off-the-ball incident but with 13 minutes remaining Vale failed to capitalise.
A goal in each half gave Barnet a vital win over a Southend side vying for a playoff finish. After a drab first half hour, the game came to life with 33 minutes gone, when Jake Hyde’s back post header gave the Bees the lead. It was the striker’s 10th of the campaign, more than he registered the previous time he was with the London club. With tickets on sale this week for their JPT final against Crewe Alexandra, maybe Southend had their mind on Wembley already and they found themselves a second goal down late on. Byrne was again provider and Dani Lopez - on loan from Stevenage - prevented Edgar Davids from opening his Barnet account when he made sure the player/manager’s goal-bound effort did, indeed, find the net. The strugglers from Underhill find themselves unbeaten in four matches.
There was also a shock in the North West where Accrington in 23rd faced their neighbours, mid-table Rochdale. After a goalless opening period at Spotland, Stanley ran rampant and three goals in 10 minutes handed them crucial maximum points.  Substitute Lee Molyneux scored twice with minutes to spare: first a long-range effort that landed in the top corner then a 25-yard freekick. Rommy Boco was on the scoresheet minutes later and the victory for Stanley sees them move out of the bottom two, on goal difference.
At the other end of the table, Northampton’s promotion dream continues as a single goal separated them and Bristol Rovers. The deadlock was broken with only two minutes remaining when, from Ben Tozer’s long throw routine, Ben Harding was on hand to finish. While Town sit a point behind third-placed Burton, down in the basement, the Gas find themselves three points clear of danger.
Torquay continued their recent, alarming slump that has seen them unable to pick up a single point in February. Their latest defeat was their seventh successive setback and has seen the Gulls slide dramatically down the table. However, they did go ahead against Wycombe, a side that have been moving in the opposite direction under player/boss Gareth Ainsworth. Ryan Jarvis converted Billy Bodin’s cross to give the hosts a first half lead. The player/manager himself was at the centre of Wanderers’ late turnaround and the leveller came in the 76th minute – Sam Wood making the scoresheet. Minutes later Ainsworth set-up Matt McClure this time and his finish completed the comeback. The Chairboys are now in 12th place, a far cry from their position at the turn of the year.
Elsewhere on Tuesday night, play-off rivals Fleetwood and Cheltenham met, with both sides having to settle for a point. Marlon Pack’s 20-yard effort for the Rubies in the first half was cancelled out by Junior Brown’s 69th minute header.
The points were also shared between AFC Wimbledon and Plymouth – both teams now languish in the relegation places. A frantic two minutes saw Jason Banton’s low finish give the Football League’s bottom side the lead; the Dons replied almost immediately through Harry Pell’s volley. While Wimbledon are level on points with 22nd placed Accrington, Plymouth find themselves three points from safety, with a tough game at the weekend.
Rotherham left it late to secure a point against York. The visitors made the breakthrough midway through the second period when Matty Blair rounded Andy Warrington in the Millers’ goal. In the third minute of stoppage time, Steve Evans’ side levelled when Daniel Nardiello turned in Ben Pringle’s cross to aid their continued search for promotion.
Chesterfield and Aldershot played out a goalless draw.
The points were also shared on Wednesday where Bradford grabbed a late equaliser against a John Still-less Dagenham & Redbridge, the Victoria Road gaffer having departed for Luton Town the day before. The Daggers went ahead in the 69th minute through Luke Howell’s 18-yard strike and would have been winning comfortably had Sam Williams been more accurate with his spot kick. The Bantams drew level with minutes to spare, James Hanson netting from close range.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Southend will hope to return to winning ways against Rotherham, while at the bottom of League Two, Plymouth host Barnet in another six-pointer. Gillingham can extend their lead with maximum points over Aldershot, while sixth meets fourth as Exeter entertain fellow promotion hopefuls Northampton Town.