Saturday 9 July 2011

Under way at last

So, after two months of waiting, hoping and - let's face it - utter boredom, Cheltenham Town are finally back in action.
The result against Cirencester at the Corinium Stadium was a 1-1 draw but that is the least important part of these pre-season games.
It certainly does not mean, like someone ridiculously commented as they walked past me after the game, that 'we will be in the Conference if we play like that'. Fool.
We saw 43 players over the 90 minutes, and only Cirencester's goalkeeper Danny Greaves got the whole game, so it is nowhere near the time to be making stupid, rash judgements on anything, or anyone - especially how the season will pan out with a month to go before the real kick-off.

Mark Yates watches the game at Cirencester with
injured centre-half Steve Elliott sat behind him.

Mark Yates was without Steve Elliott (knee injury), Ethan Moore (illness) and Kaid Mohamed, who took a knock after a kick from Marlon Pack in training.
We saw six traillists, while ex-Forest Green goalkeeper Ryan Robinson played for the second half, but Yatesy stressed he will not be signing - he is just doing us a favour (and vice versa, as he is looking for a new club).
The first half line-up was Scott Brown in goal, Kyle Haynes, triallist Harry Hooman and Alan Bennett and Sido Jombati across the back, traillist Luke Bottomer on the right, Marlon Pack and Russ Penn in the middle and Josh Low on the left, with Theo Lewis and Jeff Goulding up front.
The star of the first half was undoubtedly Marlon Pack. He was pinging passes from left to right, and linked up very well with Russ Penn, which augurs well for he season, even at this early stage.
Both were taking turns to get forward while the other took on the holding role, Penn doing so to good effect in the 23rd minute when he was in the right place to tap in a goal after Jeff Goulding's shot was saved.

Russ Penn (far left) has just scored for us

Down the right hand side, Kyle Haynes linked up well with Luke Bottomer, who made up for what he may lack with height by showing plenty of feistiness and effort.
The former Coventry player could have had himself a couple of goals in the first half but looked to take players on and may be worth another look.
Alan Bennett looked very strong in the air and composed on the ground, but the former Shrewsbury player Harry Hooman alongside him made one big error (yes, a Hooman error - copyright James Young) which nearly cost a goal but for two good Scott Brown blocks.
Down the left, Sido Jombati got forward at every opportunity and looks a good athlete. He and Josh Low linked up well with Josh showing his skills to fool his full-back a couple of times and get some decent crosses in. He also hit the post just before half-time.
Theo Lewis buzzed about with some purpose alongside Jeff Goulding, who looked a bit isolated as Theo looked to drop off and Jeff also fell victim to a few offsides.

Marlon Pack gets ready to play a crossfield ball
Alan Bennett plays a forward pass

The second half saw us line up with Ryan Robinson in goal, David Bird at right-back, Keith Lowe and Andy Gallinagh in the middle and Danny Andrew at left-back. Junior Smike started down the right, with Michael Pook and triallist Ben Evans in the middle and another triallist Bagasan Graham on the left.

Triallist Bagasan Graham
Two triallists were up front, the tiny Keir McSorley and the giant Nathan Elder.
Midway through the half, Smikle and McSorley swapped, with Junior supporting Elder up front.
The back four were solid enough, although Keith Lowe got the ball stuck under his feet a little to allow Tyler Sheppard to finish for Cirencester's equaliser with 15 minutes left.
Bagasan Graham, who used to be on QPR's books, looks to have good physique and bags (no pun intended) of pace, as he showed when he ran at people, but the doubt may be about the end product.
In the centre, the game seemed to pass Ben Evans and Michael Pook by a little, while Junior Smikle was busy, and set up some chances for Nathan Elder, but headed a good chance over.
Keir McSorley was also a bit-part player and missed a good chance from a good Danny Andrew cross, while Nathan Elder was more prominent.
Elder, who is a giant figure with a look of the Damian Spencers about him, had a good penalty shout turned down, then forced a save from Danny Greaves after Smikle set him up.
After Cirencester's equaliser, he was saved embarrassment after missing a sitter by the offside flag after a good move involving Graham and Smikle, but he showed decent touch and held the ball up well to bring others into play.
Triallist Keir McSorley with
Nathan Elder also in the picture
 After the game, Yatesy said he was very pleased with what he had seen, especially in the first half, picking out the partnership between Russ Penn and Marlon Pack as a highlight.
On the triallists, Mark said he would be taking a decision on some quickly, so we may not see a few of them again on Tuesday at Stourbridge.
In my opinion, Luke Bottomer, Bagasan Graham and Nathan Elder are the ones I would have another look at.
Mark added that he hopes to tie up a loan signing for a striker on Tuesday or Wednesday this week "providing everything went well at his club today" - so hopefully we might see him next Saturday at Telford.
On the goalkeeper, Mark said the player he wants will not be here until very close to the start of the season, but will be "good competition" for Scott Brown.
The next game is on Tuesday at Stourbridge, and Mark said that he will again be looking to give players 45 minutes each, before things step up a bit, starting at Telford on Saturday.


  1. Two things-

    where dud you find out that it was Packman who injured Mo?

    Secondly, I know your comment is far less rash than the extreme early example but it's a contradiction to say that guy can't think we are getting relegated based on his judgment of the the performance and result yet you are saying how well Pack and Penn linked up well and it bodes well for the season.

    Keep up the good work. It's nice to read other fans point of view.

  2. Cleeve Comment10 July 2011 at 10:29

    Not sure I completely agree with your assessment of the triallists. I thought Hooman was really composed besides Bennett who looks a great acquisition...and the back pass should not be allowed to be the only thing we judge him on. Think you got Graham spot on, and Bottomer may well be worth another look, but Evans and McSorley were anonymous and don't have the physique for League 2, same concern would be Bottomer.Every CTFC fan i spoke to compared Elder to Damien..enough said, and I would hope to see more from Theo this year, than last or indeed yesterday.

    Still feel it was a useful exercise, and the spine of the team GK excepted is starting to look promising.

    Good blog, keep up the good work !

  3. Thought Saturday was good work out and apart from viewing the trialists could not be taken as anything more than that. Of the trialists, I thought that Hooman and Bottomer showed promise, but of the second half trialists none did anything to make me excited for them to join.

    As for the guy who based our forthcoming season on the game, we just seemed to attract that type to Cheltenham. Last season I saw a pre-season game at Tamworth and saw an uninspiring team, Chesterfield, who went on to win the league; I say no more.

    Thanks Mark, and good informaative article as usual