Date: 17 February 2007
Someone had already likened this day out to the one at Gillingham in December, because the Exiles’ pub - hidden half way along a quiet back street where you’d least expect to find it - reminded us of the Gillingham one. But who’d have thought the game would end in the same way, with a 93rd minute goal from the opposition robbing us not of two points as at Gillingham, but of all three? Well actually, I guess, everyone would have thought it once the corner was given, because we’ve seen this so many times before.
It was Neil Young who gave away the corner with two of the three minutes of added time played, and the first cross was cleared, but the second was headed in. Bond, Moss, and others are talking about ‘heartbreak’, etc., but when you don’t take chances for ninety minutes such an outcome is always on the cards. And we hadn’t taken the chances. Hayter, Fletcher, and most notably Wilson, had had numerous shots that were all either off-target or readily saved.
The match began with defence and attack unchanged from the previous week (Vokes is still unavailable; the Welsh FA should recompense us!) but with major changes in midfield. Hollands had replaced the injured Browning in the defensive central position; Wilson had switched flanks to take over from the suspended Anderton on the right; and Evertonian loanee Vidarsson had been given his first start in order to take over from Wilson on the left. As a result Cork was the only midfielder playing in the same position as when we’d thrashed Orient 5-0. But this lasted less than half an hour. Then, by a cruel twist of fate, Cork pulled a hamstring and had to be substituted. Purches came on in the right midfield position, Wilson moved into the ‘hole’ (the fourth position in which he’s now played for the club), and so our entire midfield was different from the week before.
From then on, Wilson got into good shooting positions on the edge of the area again and again. Many of his shots were on target - but too gentle to trouble the keeper. Wilson could make this position his own, he just needs to work on the ‘finish’. Meanwhile, I’ve made Hayter my man of the match because he took over Anderton’s role as the ‘brains’ of the team this week. Again and again he advanced on the right or the left of the goal, beating opposition and weaving in and out, only to find himself unsupported. Cheltenham are very good at crowding the defence with red shirts, and a lone striker (whilst Fletcher was still trying to catch up with play) was never going to be any match for them.
Apart from the mandatory early one, Bond surprisingly made no more substitutions. We all expected to see McGoldrick, Bournemouth’s new number 9 shirt wearer, or Pitman, come on some time for the tiring Fletcher - but it never happened, maybe because Bournemouth have another important match on Tuesday and/or because Bond was content with one point. Meanwhile, Cheltenham used up all three substitutions quite early on, and this made the difference - one of them actually scoring the winner. Like the previous Saturday, the winning team moved out of the bottom four and the losing team moved into the bottom four. But sadly, this time, we were the losers.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Cooper (6), Young (6), Gowling (7), Cummings (7);
Wilson (7), Hollands (6), Cork (7), Vidarsson (7);
Fletcher (6), Hayter (8).