It is that time in the season when owners, fans and indeed managers start to take stock of how they have started the new campaign. Luke Saunders, our Cheltenham Town Correspondent, gives you his take on the start the Robins have made in League Two…
The last three matches have completely changed the mood for everyone connected with the club.
After a poor start with just one victory in seven league matches, fears of falling away and being cut adrift at the bottom of the table were starting to circulate. But convincing back to back home victories against Colchester and Mansfield as well as a good draw at Accrington have lifted spirits and provided real optimism for Cheltenham Town.
We stayed up by the skin of our teeth last season but the way we are dominating matches this time around shows that the Robins aren’t far from taking off and flying up the table now that the players have found a clinical edge in front of goal.
In that respect, 16th position is a great place to be in. What’s more, nobody expects us to compete in this very tough division so there really is no pressure on the players unless we slip into another relegation battle!
With local rivals Forest Green Rovers sitting bottom, that will crack a few smiles in the red and white half of Gloucestershire too.
Who has been Cheltenham’s best player so far?
Ten games in and there are plenty of contenders for this accolade, but both Joe Morrell and Taylor Moore have been excellent loan additions from Bristol City in recent weeks and can clearly play at a higher level. They have both started all six of their games since arriving at Whaddon Road and performances have been on the up ever since.
While the whole team deserves credit for the upturn in form, Morrell has made a noticeable difference in the centre of the park. The Welshman can weave in and out of opposition players with ease and despite his small size, the 20-year-old does not shy away from a tackle or aerial challenge.
But one thing Cheltenham significantly lacked before he joined was a consistent and able set piece taker. Morrell’s deliveries have been dangerous whether from corners or free-kicks which caused havoc against Mansfield Town most recently.
It’s a shame that we couldn’t snap him up on a permanent deal. Robins fans are already drawing comparisons with former fan favourite “magic” Marlon Pack who is currently a member of the Bristol City first team.
On this evidence, you can see Joe Morrell following in his footsteps when he returns to Ashton Gate.
Who has been the Robins’ most surprising player?
For me this was a straight shootout between two players, Mohamed Eisa and Jordan Cranston.
Eisa has shocked everyone by handling the step up from the depths on non-league football with relative ease, and while he may not be the finished product, the former Greenwich Borough front man has produced glimpses of pure class.
The 22-year-old has scored six goals in 12 appearances since Gary Johnson gave him a chance in the EFL. A respectable return from the Sudan-born striker who was initially bought in as a squad player and as a result he has been tied down on a new three year contract.
But Jordan Cranston has also shocked most supporters with his cameo at left back so far this term.
The 23-year-old told local media that he was on a “mission to prove people wrong” after doubts were cast over whether he should have been offered a contract extension at the end of last season.
A more mature player has emerged during the first 10 games of the 2017/18 campaign as Cranston has so far nailed his position down with ease, only losing his place in the team in the last game due to the birth of his child.
The former Gateshead and Notts County man has improved defensively and also provides an attacking threat with an excellent crossing ability, which has lead to three assists, including two at League One Oxford United in the Carabao Cup.
I admire how he has taken responsibility and pushed on, so Cranston just pips it over hot-shot Mo Eisa as the most surprising player in the squad for me.
How have we done against my expectation
Despite the fact results don’t matter in pre-season, poor performances in friendlies had many (including myself) worried about this season.
But even when losing, apart from the 3-0 thrashing at Carlisle, Cheltenham have been in every single game and have often enjoyed more possession and goal scoring chances than the opposition. Now that we are starting to get the results our hard working players deserve, we look like a better team than last year and goal contributions are spread out far more evenly than when Billy Waters kept us up in 2016/17.
Right now we are just where I expected, and I would be more than content with finishing in 16th place come the end of the season but after seeing what the squad can do when on form, like every supporter I’m quietly confident that a top half finish is possible.
For that to happen though we have to improve on the road, having not won away from home in the league since February.
Therefore a win at Chesterfield this weekend would really do the trick!