Cheltenham Town: Southend away fan's view with Peter Fielding
Sitting in a layby outside Oxford as it was announced that the supporters coach doors “wouldn’t shut”, one would not have been forgiven for thinking that it wasn’t going to be our day. This premonition couldn’t have been more wrong!
An admirable 86 of us Cheltenham Town die-hard fans populated the away end at Roots Hall, a stand with more heritage than leg-room, hoping to dispel the memories of our 4-0 loss in the same fixture last season. Essex twang from one side of the ground mingled with west-country dialect from the other, producing a suitably raucous atmosphere, as the realisation dawned that this could be a turning point in our season.
From the very first minute, it was evident that Cheltenham Town were going to play with more composure. Experienced centre-back Steve Elliott marshalled his 20-year-old defensive partner Michael Hector effectively, taking the ball out from the back, instead of the more rustic ‘up and under’ witnessed at Dagenham. The new strike partnership between Paul Benson and transfer deadline day signing Byron Harrison was particularly effective, with the former AFC Wimbledon man using his height and power effectively against a potent Southend defence. The most pleasing aspect of the performance was the Cheltenham central midfield partnership, with Marlon Pack’s skill complimenting Jason Taylor’s grit, with captain Russ Penn playing with the tenacity and desire that optimises everything good about football at this level.
It was to the delight of our travelling contingent that Pack, who has been a model professional, stroked a 13th minute penalty home, following good work from Penn. Shortly before half time, joy turned into delirium as new signing Benson doubled our lead after a freak Southend back-pass, the biggest cheer coming from his mother who was watching with us! Southend’s late consolatory goal could not spoil the evening!
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In arguably his best performance this season, Pack showed why he has been subject of an offer from League One Swindon Town. Playing with the confidence and passion that we all know and love, Marlon was undoubtedly our man of the match, bowing out on a high, should that be his final game for the Robins. I believe that if Pack does stay, he could be the difference between playing League Two or League One football next season. He does however deserve to play at a higher level and we cannot not stand in his way. On a personal note, I would like to thank Marlon for the captain’s armband at the end!
The scenes at full time were certainly memorable, as the first team squad shared in the celebrations with the 86 of us. We are now back in the top three and have the perfect chance to make it two wins in a row on Saturday against rapidly declining Aldershot. Maybe that victory on a cold February night in Essex will prove to be the result that rekindles our season.
Come on you Robins!