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
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
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