Cheltenham Town 1-0 Port Vale Player Ratings: Raglan impresses

Luke Varney celebrates the first half winner –

Luke Varney’s first half strike proved enough for Cheltenham Town to win another relegation six-pointer at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium, beating struggling Port Vale 1-0. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Cheltenham Town

Scott Flinders – the long-serving stopper made one decent stop, a first half save from Whitfield’s drive, although his distribution left something to be desired. Took his time over goal-kicks in the second period, perhaps understandably. 6

Charlie Raglan – the Oxford loanee is best as a right-sided centre-back and we saw evidence of that here; he handled Tom Pope superbly all afternoon and played some accurate diagonal balls, as well as a willingness to carry the ball forward into the opposing half when the moment arose. 9
Ben Tozer – despite being a midfielder by trade, Tozer has adjusted admirably to playing in the middle of a back-three and he put in another solid performance here, whilst posing a threat from long throws. Headed balls away with relative comfort. 7
William Boyle – the former Huddersfield centre-back’s return from injury has been a massive boost for the Robins and we saw here just why; he dominated Whitfield in key areas. 7

Ryan Broom – the wing-back was linked with a move to Burton in January and perhaps his form has since suffered slightly, but here he showed he can provide pace and width, setting up two early chances for Varney and looking lively to occupy the attentions of Montano for long spells. Had to dig in more in the second half but he did that equally effectively, even if one challenge on Montano just after the hour mark might have been stronger than it should have been, whilst relieving pressure on the defence with driving runs down the flanks. 7
Conor Thomas – the energetic midfielder has shown his versatility recently, but it suits him more playing centrally rather than as a wing-back. Thomas tended to stay back when Dawson pushed on, helping to maintain the midfield structure and, when the Robins were under pressure in the closing stages, he showed good composure in tight areas which helped them retain possession. 7
Kevin Dawson – as a wide man by trade, Dawson has adjusted well to a central role; after a man-of-the-match display on Tuesday, he supported the front three in the press here and did not give the opposition a moment’s peace. Drove forward to instigate one or two breakaways in the second half, too. 8
Chris Hussey – the former Bury man has recently switched between a wing-back role and on the left of a back three but, taking the former position last time out, he was able to get forward more and swing crosses in. While not all of them were of pin-point quality, he did assist Varney’s goal in the first half and put in one or two tantalising crosses after the break, including a free-kick that the striker should have turned home. 8

Jacob Maddox – the Chelsea loanee picked up pockets of spaces that allowed him to gain second balls and play passes in behind, linking play nicely at times in the first half, albeit firing over from close range shortly before Varney’s opener. Not quite as strong in the second half though when he had fewer opportunities to receive the ball to feet, so not surprisingly taken off on 78 minutes. 6
Billy Waters – the withdrawn forward, back at Cheltenham for a second spell, fared well against the club he came close to joining earlier in the campaign; he pressed relentlessly. Although Waters did not quite have the physical presence to opccupy centre-backs from long b alls, he did have the quality and intelligentce to link play effectively betyween the lines. The fact he liked the ball to feet, however, meant he found life harder in the second half, when the job was more about getting in behind in a more direct sense; still, his work rate never dropped so it was difficult to begrude him the official man-of-the-match award. 7

Luke Varney – the 36-year-old, surprisingly mobile, pressed vigorously in the first half before linking up with the likes of Maddox and Waters. Although he got his 10th goal of the season, firing home following Hussey’s cut-back, he will feel he should have added to that solitary goal; two early headers were saved by Brown, before the striker fired over from close-range following Hussey’s free-kick early in the second period. Tired slightly in the second period and Cheltenham’s pressing from the front suffered, with the striker handed a standing ovation when taken off on 84 minutes. 7

Chris Clements (on 78) – the midfielder replaced Maddox to try to shore up the midfield. Did that ok. 6

Tyrone Barnett (on 84) – the target man was given a warm reception on his return from injury and acted as a focal point, enabling them to go long in the closing stages. 6

Jordan Tillson (on 88) – the fit again holding midfielder replaced Waters in the closing stages to add extra security centrally. 6

Port Vale

Scott Brown – the goalkeeper, who had spent two enjoyable spells at Cheltenham, got a positive reception on his return. He twice denied Varney in the first 10 minutes, but could not get more than a hand to the striker’s effort for his goal. 7

James Gibbons – the right-back has played well in recent weeks but here he did not get forward with as much intent in recent weeks; the willingness we often see from him to get forward was not so much in evidence, at least not in the first half. Looked for Pope with his diagonal passes. which were of mixed quality. 5
Leon Legge – the experienced centre-back, who won promotion from this level with Gillingham in 2012-13, looked dominant in the air, although clearly he is not the quickest. Arguably posed the biggest threat in the opposition box in the second half out of all Vale players on the pitch. 7
Nathan Smith – the centre-back put in a steady enough display, but maybe did not pose quite as much of a threat in the opposing box as Legge. 6
Adam Crookes – the Nottingham Forest loanee struggled to handle Broom when isolated against the wide man, which is partly because he is a centre-back and thus is more likely to lend his opponent more space. In the second half, he went on one or two good runs through the lines, but could not pick the right through ball to match. 6

David Worrall – the winger was rewarded for a good display from the bench against Tranmere with a first start under Askey here. Busy in the early stages without quite propducing the quality of crosses, then turned home Montano’s low cross only for the first half goal to be ruled out for offside. Was on the receiving end of an elbow early in the second period and took his time to come alive. 5
Manny Oyeleke – the former Aldershot midfielder, back from injury and perhaps it showed in his performance. The 4-4-2 system did not alend him much freedom to press into the opposing half with the bviour he often likes, but one or two technical aspects of his performance went awry as well. It was understandable, therefore, that he was taken off with just over a quarter of the clash to play. 4
Anthony Kay – the holding midfielder was positionally disciplined, but did not offer too much mobility or quality in possession. Picked one good diagonal balls in the closing stages, but that was the one positive point in an otherwise limited performance from the veteran. 5
Cristian Montano – the winger made an impression after coming on as a substitute against Tranmere and was rewarded wit ha start here; although Montano enjoyed one or two bright moments, namely Worrall’s goal that was ruled out for offside, he struggled to get into the contest as a fairly diminutive player. Found himself on the receiving end of one or two strong challenges, too, which might be why he was taken off on 73 minutes. 6

Tom Pope – the target man looked slightly burdened by the responsibility of being such a crucial component of Vale’s long ball play – and it can easily be forgotten at times that despite his height, he also has a reasonable touch when the ball is on the deck. 4
Ben Whitfield – the diminutive forward had Vale’s best first half effort, stinging Flinders’ palms with a long range drive on 15 minutes, but otherwise he struggled to hget into the contest. Because he is a verty diminutive performer, his impact depended almost entirely on whether Pope could win those initial ball. Had a free-kick blocked by the wall just before the hour-mark. 5

Tom Conlon (on 67) – the energetic midfielder was brought on to replace the injured Oyeleke and found accuracy with his free-kicks, earning some praise when manager John Askey was asked about him post-match. 7

Ricky Miller (on 73) – the individualistic forward was brought on to link up with Pope in the closing stages, but found himself shoehorned on the left. 5