Cheltenham Town v Exeter City - Howarth hails top performance
ASSISTANT manager Neil Howarth described Cheltenham Town's 3-0 home victory over Exeter City as their best performance of the season so far.
A fine goal from debutant Lawson D'Ath and two from Keith Lowe ensured the Robins moved back into the top three, with leaders Gillingham next up after Saturday's FA Cup first round tie against Yate Town.
The result was made all the more impressive by the fact Cheltenham were without four first team regulars in Sido Jombati, Russ Penn, Darren Carter and Chris Zebroski.
"We've been pretty consistent all season, but I don't think we've quite hit the heights of last season performance-wise," Howarth said.
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"But on the back of a win against Plymouth last Tuesday, having to make so many changes and only having six substitutes available, I'd say it's the best performance of the season so far."
Howarth hailed Lowe for the way he stepped in for the suspended Jombati and not only defended capably, but scored the second brace of his career in the second half.
"Lowey gives you a seven out of ten every week and he's low maintenance, but always does the business," he said.
"He's one of the main reason we have taken Cheltenham from being relegation candidates to being at the top end of the table.
"If he's in the team we know what we're going to get and if he's on the bench it shows we must be doing something right."
Reading youngster D'Ath was also praised by Howarth for a highly encouraging start to his loan spell.
"It was superb for him to score on his debut and he looked like he had a goal in him all game," Howarth said.
"He's a forward-thinking player who makes good runs and he has great energy.
"You have to gamble sometimes and we didn't know what he'd do if he got into a shooting chance, but it was a fantastic finish from him."
Former Exeter City man Billy Jones was the architect of Lowe's goals, both from corners which were headed to him by fellow defender Steve Elliott.
"Exeter knew all about Billy's set piece quality, but when he whips those kind of ball in, they are hard to defend," Howarth said.
"Billy is a good, experienced player who comes off the pitch looking like he hasn't just played 90 minutes.
"We can take pride in the clean sheet and we've been winning by the odd goal, so it's pleasing to defend so well and score three times."
Youth team prospect Joe Hanks was sent on for his senior debut in the 84th minute and did what he had to do well, giving several simple balls and not giving away possession.
Howarth said: "Joe had a good season with the youth and he's stepped up this season.
"His attitude is phenomenal.
"It's easy to look at some of the pros, driving flash cars and the money they earn, but you don't get anywhere without working hard.
"He is a great lad and a real talent and he won't forget this day, that's for sure."
Howarth said Cheltenham have no intention of making wholesale changes for the visit of Evo-Stik League Southern Division One South and West strugglers Yate next week.
"We'll give them the utmost respect," he said. "It's an opportunity to get into the second round so we won't underprepare and we'll be ready."