Top ten Club has en­joyed so many highs down the years

To mark the 20th an­niver­sary of Chel­tenham Town’s first pro­mo­tion to the Foot­ball League, Jon Palmer has picked his top 10 Robins achieve­ments

Gloucestershire Echo - - FOOTBALL -

1998/99 Con­fer­ence ti­tle tri­umph

The 1997/98 FA Tro­phy tri­umph and the in­ter­est it gen­er­ated paved the way for Chel­tenham to go one step bet­ter in 1998/99 and bring League foot­ball to Glouces­ter­shire for the first time.

Rush­den & Di­a­monds were al­ready full-time and had spent a lot of cash try­ing to reach the Foot­ball League, but Chel­tenham made them wait by win­ning a mem­o­rable ti­tle race.

The de­ci­sive win was the fa­mous come­back at Nene Park on Easter Satur­day, with Mark Free­man and Grayson scor­ing in the fi­nal sec­onds to de­liver a ham­mer blow to Rush­den’s chal­lenge from which they failed to re­cover..

It was 19 days later that the ti­tle was won, af­ter a 3-2 home vic­tory over Yeovil Town, with Duff scor­ing the 97th minute win­ner from Keith Knight’s cross to spark scenes of cel­e­bra­tion not seen be­fore or since at Whad­don Road.

FA Tro­phy win, FA Cup third round and Con­fer­ence run­ners-up in 1997/98

Ja­son Ea­ton’s 79th minute header from Russell Mil­ton’s free-kick de­liv­ery se­cured Chel­tenham’s first ma­jor non­league honour on May 17, 1998.

The whole town was gripped by foot­ball fever with around 18,000 fans mak­ing the trip to the old Wem­b­ley.

Chel­tenham had knocked out En­field (af­ter a re­play), Rush­den & Di­a­monds, Ash­ton United, Hayes and Dover Ath­letic (over two legs) on their way to the fi­nal.

As well as lift­ing the Tro­phy, they took Reading to a re­play in the third round of the FA Cup af­ter a run which started in the first qual­i­fy­ing round at Thatcham Town.

Chel­tenham also fin­ished sec­ond be­hind Hal­i­fax Town in their first sea­son back in the Con­fer­ence af­ter pro­mo­tion from the South­ern League in 1996/97.

2001/02 play-off win and FA Cup fifth round

Chel­tenham did it the hard way, but the best way, win­ning pro­mo­tion to what is now League One for the first time with a play-off fi­nal vic­tory over Rush­den & Di­a­monds in 2001/02.

They faced Hartle­pool in the semi­fi­nals and both legs ended 1-1, but Chel­tenham pro­gressed to the fi­nal af­ter a penalty shoot-out.

Chel­tenham-born Martin De­vaney in­spired them to a 3-1 win over old non-league ri­vals Rush­den.

The pro­mo­tion was Cotterill’s third in five-and-a-half years in charge and he departed to take over at Stoke City but he en­joyed a fit­ting send-off.

2005/06 play-off vic­tory and FA Cup fourth round

John Ward’s team clinched pro­mo­tion to League One for sec­ond time in the club’s his­tory.

Ward’s team over­came Wycombe over two legs in the semi-fi­nals to set up a Mil­len­nium Sta­dium meet­ing with Grimsby in the fi­nal, where Steve Guinan’s goal set­tled the game.

Ward’s men had also pro­gressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup, los­ing 2-0 at home to New­cas­tle United in a tele­vised tie, as well as reach­ing the area semi-fi­nals of the Foot­ball League Tro­phy.

2011/12 play-off fi­nal and FA Cup third round

This Chel­tenham team should have won pro­mo­tion un­der Mark Yates, but in the end one bad month dur­ing an oth­er­wise out­stand­ing sea­son cost them a re­turn to League One.

Yates had taken over in test­ing cir­cum­stances in De­cem­ber 2009, keep­ing the club in the Foot­ball League and hav­ing to re­build from scratch.

A switch to 4-5-1 early on the 2011/12 cam­paign re­sulted in one of the most flu­ent teams seen at Whad­don Road for many years.

The cen­tral mid­field trio of Mar­lon Pack, Russ Penn and Luke Sum­mer­field proved par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive, with Kaid Mo­hamed en­joy­ing the best sea­son of his ca­reer on the left.

Jack But­land, Luke Gar­butt and Jimmy Spencer shone dur­ing loan spells and the goals were shared around well, with Mo­hamed, Spencer and Duffy all reach­ing dou­ble fig­ures.

An FA Cup third round ap­pear­ance at Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s White Hart Lane brought in some valu­able ex­tra funds and Jer­maine Mcglashan was signed for a club record equalling £50,000.

Chel­tenham dis­posed of Torquay over two legs in the play-off semi-fi­nals, with Pack’s free-kick and a won­der­ful dis­play of goal­keep­ing from Scott Brown at Plain­moor help­ing to book a first ap­pear­ance at new Wem­b­ley.

But in Manch­ester United-bound Nick Pow­ell, Steve Davis’ Crewe had the best player on the pitch.

Pow­ell scored the opener in the 15th minute with By­ron Moore mak­ing it 2-0 in the 82nd minute as Chel­tenham were sec­ond best on the day.

2015/16 Na­tional League ti­tle success

Chel­tenham suf­fered rel­e­ga­tion from the Foot­ball League af­ter a dis­as­trous 2014/15 cam­paign and there was con­sid­er­able pres­sure to bounce straight back.

They did so in em­phatic style, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing 101 points and end­ing up 12 points clear of run­ners-up For­est Green Rovers.

Gary John­son built a team from scratch in the sum­mer of 2015 and his re­cruit­ment, in con­junc­tion with younger brother and head of re­cruit­ment Pete, was out­stand­ing.

This Robins side were ut­terly relentless, se­cur­ing an im­me­di­ate

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re­turn to League Two and em­bark­ing on a club record un­beaten run of 22 league games.

1984/85 South­ern League ti­tle win

Cur­rent board mem­ber John Murphy led Chel­tenham Town into a na­tional divi­sion for the first time in their his­tory in 1984/85 as they won the South­ern League ti­tle.

They went into the fi­nal game at home to Alvechurch need­ing a vic­tory to se­cure a place in the Al­liance Premier League (now Na­tional League).

Murphy brought in Mark Boy­land and Brian Hughes ahead of his first full sea­son in charge and they scored close to 60 be­tween them in all com­pe­ti­tions.

It was no sur­prise when they scored the goals that se­cured the 2-1 win they needed over Alvechurch in front of 1,199 fans at Whad­don Road.

Among the other play­ers to shine dur­ing the pro­mo­tion success were Paul Col­li­cutt, Stuart Cornes, Clive Box­all, Steve Scar­rott, Nick Jor­dan, Steve Ab­b­ley and Ray Baver­stock.

Chel­tenham had to play 12 games in the last 25 days of the sea­son, hav­ing also reached the South­ern League Cup fi­nal, los­ing 6-2 to Fisher Ath­letic.

2007/08 League One sur­vival and dou­ble over Leeds United

As­sis­tant man­ager Keith Down­ing took over as care­taker boss fol­low­ing John Ward’s de­par­ture to Carlisle United in Oc­to­ber 2007.

He had a ma­jor job on his hands to keep the club in League One, but he achieved it with an tense fi­nal day vic­tory over Don­caster Rovers in front of 6,787 fans.

Down­ing, given the job on a per­ma­nent ba­sis in the Novem­ber, also over­saw an im­prob­a­ble dou­ble over Leeds United, bat­tling to a 1-0 home vic­tory and then play­ing the fallen gi­ants off the park in a 2-1 tri­umph at El­land Road.

Among Down­ing’s key ad­di­tions were Bris­tol City loan trio Richard Keogh, Alex Russell and Steve Brooker. Russell added a stunning sec­ond at Leeds af­ter David Bird’s opener had stunned the home fans.

Steven Gille­spie had net­ted the win­ner at home and Chel­tenham ended 18th in the third tier - their sec­ond high­est fin­ish of all time.

2006/07 League One sur­vival and high­est ever fin­ish

Af­ter guid­ing Chel­tenham into the third tier via the play-offs, Ward be­came the first man­ager to keep Chel­tenham up at that level.

They ended up 17th, which re­mains the club’s high­est plac­ing.

Safety was as­sured on the penul­ti­mate day, com­ing back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 at Rother­ham United’s Mill­moor with goals from Kay­ode Ode­jayi, Gille­spie (2) and Mel­li­gan.

1933/34 FA Cup run

Be­tween 1934 and 1998, Chel­tenham’s FA Cup was un­der­whelm­ing to say the least.

Their only ap­pear­ance in the third round had been in 1933/34, when they beat Bar­net (5-1) at home and Carlisle United (2-1) away to set up a high pro­file clash with Black­pool at the Chel­tenham Ath­letic Ground.

The crowd of 10,389 re­mains the high­est to have wit­nessed a home match for the Glouces­ter­shire club.

Black­pool won 3-1 de­spite trail­ing 1-0 at half-time af­ter Ho­race Payne’s fifth minute goal.

The Seasiders’ scor­ers were Wal­ter Bussey, Phil Watson from the penalty spot and Peter Do­herty.

Gary John­son led Chel­tenham to their 2015-16 Na­tional League ti­tle success

Goalscor­ers Martin De­vaney, Ju­lian Al­sop and John Fin­ni­gan af­ter the 2001-2 play-off fi­nal win over Rush­den & Di­a­monds at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium

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