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Great Escape? Cheltenham Town fans 'are starting to believe'

All Areas > Sport > Football

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Tuesday, 9th January 2024, 09:00

Cheltenham Town host Carlisle United a week on Saturday Cheltenham Town host Carlisle United a week on Saturday

Cheltenham Town fans are starting to believe that their club could pull off the greatest of Great Escapes.

Their 2-1 win at home to table-topping Portsmouth on Saturday – the most eye-catching result of the League One campaign so far – made it 10 points from their past five games and long-time season-ticket holder Brian Cosgrove told The Local Answer: “It would be staggering but I think it could be on.”

And if Darrell Clarke’s side do avoid the drop – they are three points away from safety  in 22nd place – it would surely be one of the great achievements in English football.

Eleven games into the season they hadn’t won, hadn’t even scored a goal and had just one point to show for their efforts with Cosgrove admitting: “If you’d have gone into Ladbrokes to bet on them staying up you could have named your own odds.

“I’d be staggered if it would have been less than 100-1.”

Fast forward three months – Clarke was appointed head coach in place of Wade Elliott ahead of the 11th game – and the mood is very different.

“I think the fans are starting to believe,” said Cosgrove, who was one of the 5,000-plus supporters at the game on Saturday. “Whaddon Road was absolutely bouncing.”

So what has Clarke done to bring about such a dramatic upturn in the club’s fortunes, an upturn that has seen them claim 22 points from their past 14 games.

That’s promotion play-off form and Cosgrove, who lives in Gotherington and is a lifelong football fan, said: “He’s kept us tight at the back, he wants to win the 50-50s in midfield and we press the opposition.

“We’re not being outfought. Win the midfield battle, get the ball out wide and then get it into the middle.

“You can see the guys are being coached, they know their jobs and there is total commitment to what they are doing. Everyone is giving 100 per cent.”

This is Cheltenham’s third season in League One and only once before have they played three consecutive years at this level.

Cosgrove will renew his season ticket whatever level the club are playing at in 2024/25, of course, but he reckons the stats suggest Cheltenham could pull off the Great Escape.

“After 25 games we’ve gained 0.92 points per game,” he said. “Over the last 15 games we’ve averaged 1.48.

“We need to average 1.1 point per game over the final 21 matches to reach 50 points and in the last two seasons all four clubs went down with 46 points or less.”

It doesn’t get any easier for Cheltenham, however, because on Saturday they travel to second-placed Bolton Wanderers.

Cosgrove will be at the game and he said: “If we could just sneak a point…

“If you’d have offered me two points from the Portsmouth and Bolton games I’d have bitten your hand off.

“Our next home game is against Carlisle who are below us in the table.

“If we can get 12 or 13 points from our next 10 or 11 games, that will take us up to Easter and I think 12 points from our last 10 games will see us safe.

“Hopefully we get a fair share of the luck that’s going around.”

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