Cheltenham Town 2-1 Grimsby Town Six Things: Robins fortuitous in victory

Ryan Broom celebrates the opener – @CTFCOfficial

Conor Thomas’ injury-time penalty gave Cheltenham Town a valuable 2-1 victory over Grimsby Town, who will feel unfortunate not to have taken all three points themselves. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Grimsby’s strong left side

Michael Jolley’s side started on the front foot and their play down the left flank was a major feature of their first half performance. Andrew Fox got forward well to support attacks while the energetic Wes Thomas made selfless runs into the channel, with the duo allowing highly-rated Sunderland loanee Elliot Embleton to make third man runs in behind to cause problems; after setting up an early chance that Luke Hendrie blazed over, he then curled wide from just outside the box. Their bright start also highlighted one weakness in Cheltenham’s defence; the naturally aggressive right-sided centre-back Jordon Forster was suspended, so the more conservative Johnny Mullins played instead and was a tad slow to close down, needing help from wing-back Ryan Broom and at times Nigel Atangana.

Broom sweeps home

It was the hosts though who grabbed the opening goal, even if they had not threatened too much until the half-hour mark. After an initial long throw from Ben Tozer was dealt with, Ryan Broom fired inside the far post from outside the box via a deflection. From that goal, the Robins grew in confidence; Tyrone Barnett struck the side-netting from close-range, before skilful attacking midfielder Jacob Maddox had a shot deflected behind as the football began to flow.

Cheltenham’s treble blow

Cheltenham pressed well in the opening 10 minutes of the second half with Luke Varney closing down valiantly, but the intensity of their play then dropped off before a treble-blow landed in the space of three minutes. It had been the tenacious Atangana, perhaps more so than partner Chris Clements, who had dictated proceedings in midfield before being forced off through injury on the hour mark; Maddox then had to be replaced by Alex Addai. Another minute later, Grimsby capitalized when Thomas got in behind a tiring Chris Hussey; the controversial former Robins striker’s effort was parried by Scott Flinders into the path of Elliot Embleton, who capped a fine individual performance by tapping home the equalizer.

Flinders the hero

That Embleton leveller triggered a 20-minute period of Grimsby dominance, with the Sunderland loanee and former Rotherham technician Ben Pringle breaking forward at will; the energy drained from Cheltenham’s midfield while Harry Clifton and Jake Hessenthaler took control. Pringle was denied one-on-one by Flinders, who also denied Thomas from close-range in a string of stops to preserve what looked an appealing point for Cheltenham. Instead, the former Hartlepool stopper’s heroics gave them the platform to win it; after Tyrone Barnett did superbly to control Broom’s heavy cross, substitute Sam Jones was tripped by Harry Davis in the box, allowing Thomas to slot home with assurance from the spot.

Mariners have potential

Although this was a defeat for Grimsby Town, their performance highlighted the fine progress they continue to make under Michael Jolley. Amid the off-field strife between fans and chairman John Fenty, he has built a technically accomplished side boasting some of the brightest talents in the division. Embleton and Pringle look a class above this level while Thomas’ willingness to create space for others means their attack has a very appealing blend. Replicate this performance consistently and a top half push could be on the cards.

Robins re-vitalized

For Cheltenham, this was a hugely important victory which lifts them four points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand; a run of 10 points from five league games edges them closer to a position of relative comfort. The performance re-emphasized the need to lower the squad’s average age, not only to sustain the intensity of their displays but also to produce saleable assets. However, the display also highlighted a spirit and togetherness within the camp which was not necessarily evident in the back-end of the previous regime. Duff knows he needs to carry out an extensive re-building job over the next 18 months; in the short-term though, he needs imperfect victories like these to gain the mandate to enforce those changes. The Robins have plenty of work ahead – but they are moving in the right direction.