A look ahead to tomorrow's game
The last time Bristol Rovers took the short journey up the M5 to Cheltenham Town they had newly installed manager Mark McGhee in place. It was on 21 January this season that the Robins in second spot took on 18th placed Rovers. A 2-0 away victory sent Rovers back to Bristol with three points.
In their last game before Christmas the Robins earned their Manager, Mark Yates wrath after allowing Rochdale to move to within a point of the play-offs with victory over his team.
The home team’s Bobby Grant curled in a fine effort from the edge of the area to set the Dale on their way and Ashley Grimes doubled the lead from 25 yards.
Phil Edwards turned into his own net to give the away side hope, but it turned out to be short-lived when Grimes fired in another fine strike. Dele Adebola tapped in to round off the hosts' first win in five matches.
Yates immediately told his players: "Christmas is cancelled." "It was shocking, absolutely shocking, and we got exactly what we deserved," Yates said.
"I'll back them when they play well and lose, but I am not having performances like that because we were an absolute disgrace. It was our worst performance of the season by a long way and at grounds like this you have to roll your sleeves up and dig in and we didn't do that. It was pathetic and totally unacceptable and Christmas is cancelled."
Yates called his squad in for extra training, but goalkeeper Scott Brown was spared the punishment after an outstanding performance. "Browny was outstanding, but the rest have to look at themselves in the mirror. He can have the day off because we could have conceded 15 if it wasn't for him and I was happy to get away with four in the end.
"The ball wasn't sticking up top, we gave it away in midfield and we defended like pansies. We had warning after warning in the first half and I thought we'd ridden it out, but we were not good enough by a million miles.
"I will speak to them all at the training ground because we need to come up with the answers to go into two home fixtures. If we play like that we won't win any matches. We are halfway through season and overall I am relatively happy, but Friday really upset me."
Rovers record at Cheltenham since the Robins have achieved League status is excellent with 3 wins and 2 draws in the 7 games played there. The last victory was a 2-0 win last season on 21 January. The previous success was a memorable 3-2 win on 14th January 2009.
After Jamie Forrester had given Rovers an 18th minute lead the Gas looked to be heading to victory until goals by Gillespie (70 mins) and Odejayi (88 mins) turned the game around. Then a sensational finish saw Craig Disley (89 mins) and John Anderson (90 + 3 mins) score to claw all three points back for Rovers.
Good news for the high flying Robins is that Sido Jombati belives he is back to 100 per cent fitness
"I have felt no pain at all, but I struggled to complete 90 minutes without heavy legs for the first couple of matches after returning," Jombati said, "Having played a few games now my legs are normal and I feel completely right, so I am trying to make more runs forward."
For the second season in succession Cheltenham are well placed at Christmas to make a push for automatic promotion during the second half of the season. Jombati believes they are better equipped to go all the way this time around after being forced to settle for a play-off place last term.
"I think we are doing the job much better than last year," he said. "We were in the top seven a year ago, but now we are in the top three and we know what we need to do to win games. We know we can't concede when we are winning 1-0. Last year Torquay won a lot of games 1-0 and if they scored they didn't concede.
"We have already kept more clean sheets than last year so we've learned about that too. I think we are a little bit better at the back and we know that if we don't concede, or concede only one, with the players we have up front we will win matches."
Meanwhile Boss Yates says the only thing missing from his reign as Cheltenham Town's manager is promotion to League One. Having taken over just before Christmas in 2009 with the club languishing perilously close to the foot of the League Two table, he has undertaken a complete overhaul of the squad, with only goalkeeper Scott Brown remaining from the ailing group of players he inherited.
"I am pleased with where we are after three years, but I'd like to be in League One," Yates said, "The most important thing is that we haven't suffered a hangover or felt sorry for ourselves after missing out last season.
"We are up there again on merit and nearly halfway through the season. I also think we are better for last year's experience, which will stand us in good stead for the next four or five months.
"Success doesn't happen straightaway and when we first came it was a bit of a mess, with a small squad and a strange mix of personnel. We had no money and it was very hard work. But with a lot of effort from everyone at the club, from top to bottom, hopefully things are on the up."
It’s going to take a lot of hard work from John Ward’s squad of players to haul themselves up towards the upper reaches of the Division, but with greater resources than Cheltenham could ever hope for there is no reason that his team should not be able to achieve a mid-table position.
Written by Gerry Prewett