Step forward Duff happy with clean sheet on the road
MICHAEL Duff said Cheltenham Town’s 0-0 draw at Morecambe on Saturday was a step in the right direction given their previous travails on the road.
The Robins were the better side for much of the game at the Globe Arena, where they lost 4-0 in the penultimate away game of last season.
But they could find a winning goal and had to settle with a draw - thanks to their first away clean sheet of the calendar year 2019, and only their fourth on the road since the start of last season.
“It’s one more point than we normally get away from home,” smiled Duff afterwards.
“I thought first half we were the much better team, getting into good areas and a little bit more quality is all we needed to make the keeper work.
“Gav (Reilly) had one unbelievable chance that just didn’t drop for him and that summed us up in front of goal.
“We moved the ball well and they had to change their shape because they couldn’t cope with us.
“It was just that last 20 yards of the pitch that we couldn’t quite find the cross.
“It shows we can get into those areas and we’ve shown the two sides to us, we can find that end product, but today we didn’t quite, but we were in control for most of the game.
“The second half got a bit scrappy, but I didn’t feel that threatened at any point and towards the end there was only going to be one team who were going to score and that was us.
“We have had two away games and at Leyton Orient we looked comfortable for 70 minutes until the referee got involved and we looked comfortable today, so it’s positive signs.”
Cheltenham were solid at the back, with goalkeeper Scott Flinders making his first save in the 95th minute.
“I felt that we were in control without ripping them open or anything like that. It was difficult in the conditions, because it was blowing a gale and the ball held up.
“We kept the ball and moved it well in the first half and maybe it was a 0-0 game, but we definitely shaded it,” said Duff.
“That is the sort of performance I want away from home.
“We have talked a lot about hard work, running, blood and guts.
“Yes I want us to play, but I have said to them, ‘do I have to remind you to get a clean sheet?’
“It should be a fundamental. You should want to run more and compete more than your opposition number. It doesn’t always work, but it gives you a good chance.
“You can’t always score and particularly if you concede. Too many times recently...you can’t be having to score two goals every away game to try and get a point so it’s a start.
“Hopefully it’s not a false dawn and we’ll be looking to kick on from here.”
With Rohan Ince suspended and Chris Clements ill, Duff fielded a midfield trio of Ryan Broom with loanees Max Sheaf and Jake Doyle-hayes.
Broom put in a man-of-the-match performance while Villa man Doylehayes and Hull’s Sheaf also shone,
before Sheaf went off after feeling his hamstring.
Duff said: “Ryan Broom was excellent, as was Jake Doyle-hayes.
“Sheafy was bright but he can’t seem to shake this hamstring thing.
“He hasn’t pulled it, but it’s not quite right and we had to take him off. In the second half he didn’t affect the game as much as he did in the first.
“He showed what he’s about, he can get into pockets and beat a man, slip people in and we still have Chris Clements, Conor Thomas and Rohan Ince to come in. There is healthy competition for places.”
Up front, Luke Varney started the game alongside Reilly, but George Lloyd came on and did well again.
“He changed the game, if it was going away from us at any point,” Duff said. “The momentum had maybe slightly swung with them and he came in and affected it, wrestling the momentum back.
“He is what he is, Lloydy, he gives you energy, he is a strong little lad and always a goal threat.
“He is pushing for a start. We were disappointed when he got injured when he did, missing two or three weeks. The fact he was on the bench and first on tells you he is.”
Despite the injuries to several members of his squad, Duff says he is not ‘actively’ looking for new faces.
“I have got centre forwards, otherwise you are just collecting people,” he said.
“We scored four goals last week and we got into good areas. We missed a couple of good chances, so we are not actively looking, no.
“Unless anything comes up, we are not searching.
“We are looking obviously, but we are not looking to bring a specific position in.
“I am happy with what we’ve got. With six or seven first team players missing it’s still a decent XI on the pitch.
“Yes we need to create a bit more. It was more the final ball, rolling it into someone’s feet or just taking that bit of a chance. It’s something to work on.”
Ryan Broom had a fine game in midfield for Cheltenham
Jake Doyle-hayes challenges Morecambe’s John O’sullivan