Turn­around con­tin­ues Steve­nage are swept aside as home run marches on

Jon Palmer de­liv­ers his ver­dict on Chel­tenham Town’s 4-2 win over Steve­nage at Whad­don Road on Satur­day

Gloucestershire Echo - - SPORT -

» Home turn­around Michael Duff’s finest achieve­ment so far

Chel­tenham looked streets ahead of Steve­nage in the first half and they will feel they should have had more than Gavin Reilly’s su­perb strike to show for their ef­forts at the break.

Their dom­i­nance pro­vided a stark re­minder of just how far they have come since los­ing 2-0 to the same op­po­si­tion on Oc­to­ber 27 last year, which is now viewed as a wa­ter­shed mo­ment.

At that stage, home form was a real is­sue and they had failed to win in nine at their own ground which in­cluded a 6-1 drub­bing.

Since hold­ing a cri­sis meet­ing af­ter that Steve­nage set­back, Chel­tenham have suf­fered only one de­feat on home soil, 3-1 to Tran­mere Rovers on Jan­uary 12.

The un­beaten streak now stands at 14 and ar­guably Michael Duff’s best achieve­ment in his year in charge has been mak­ing the Jonny-rocks Sta­dium some­where fans look for­ward to visit­ing again, rather than the ap­pre­hen­sion with which they were ap­proach­ing matches be­fore he took over.

Robins fans have seen 12 goals in four games so far this term and at­ten­dances will un­doubt­edly con­tinue to creep up if this trend con­tin­ues.

Steve­nage nearly make Chel­tenham pay price for waste­ful­ness

While the first pe­riod had been onesided, Steve­nage im­proved af­ter half­time and lev­elled through sub­sti­tute Danny New­ton’s header from Joel By­rom’s cross in the 48th minute.

Chel­tenham re­gained the lead in the 57th minute when Chris Cle­ments’ ball for­ward was well con­trolled by Ryan Broom, who set up Sean Long for the first goal of his pro­fes­sional ca­reer.

New­ton hauled Steve­nage back on terms again with a low shot that took a de­flec­tion on its way past Scott Flin­ders in the 72nd minute.

But Broom blasted in Chel­tenham’s all-im­por­tant third af­ter a cross from Chris Hussey with 10 min­utes left and Broom then set up an off­side look­ing Alex Ad­dai to com­plete the scor­ing in the first minute of time added on.

Based on the sec­ond half alone, the fi­nal score may have been slightly flat­ter­ing, but there is no doubt that Chel­tenham de­served the points over­all.

Af­ter be­ing so com­fort­able early on, the way Chel­tenham re­sponded to be­ing pegged back twice was im­pres­sive, but Duff called for more of a ruth­less streak.

Bril­liant Broom

With the key goal of the game and two as­sists, there is no doubt that Broom de­served his man of the match award.

Ro­han Ince and Max Sheaf both missed out with ham­string in­juries, while Jake Doyle-hayes was away with the Repub­lic of Ire­land Un­der-21s.

In their ab­sence, all three mid­field­ers per­formed well, with Chris Cle­ments con­tin­u­ing to look a dif­fer­ent player at home and Conor Thomas prov­ing qui­etly ef­fec­tive along­side him.

But it was Broom, be­low, that left the big­gest mark on the af­ter­noon in the at­tack­ing role Hull City loa­nee Sheaf now faces a bat­tle to re­claim as he nears fit­ness.

Chel­tenham are not con­ced­ing many goals away from home, but they are not cre­at­ing any­where near enough chances and the main dif­fer­ence seems to be the way the mid­field ball play­ers op­er­ate in pos­ses­sion.

Doyle-hayes will be back for the trip to Sal­ford City next Satur­day, but if the three that started against Steve­nage can help the team carve out half as many chances at Moor Lane, then there will be cause for gen­uine ex­cite­ment.

Luke Var­ney fails to find net, but Chel­tenham still a far bet­ter team with him

Af­ter scor­ing two in two and then miss­ing two games with a ham­string in­jury, Var­ney re­turned up front with Reilly.

He pro­vided the flick-on from Scott Flin­ders’ long kick which set up Reilly for his sec­ond goal of the sea­son in the 22nd minute.

Var­ney went on to miss a cou­ple of chances he would nor­mally ex­pect to take, fir­ing one wide at the far post from Reilly’s low cross in the 52nd minute be­fore be­ing de­nied by Paul Far­man’s block in the 78th minute.

With Ad­dai, Tahvon Camp­bell, Ge­orge Lloyd and new sign­ing Jonte Smith all on the bench, Duff is cer­tainly not short of at­tack­ing op­tions. Smith went on for his de­but in the fi­nal min­utes, while Lloyd has just agreed an ex­tended con­tract run­ning un­til the sum­mer of 2022.

Reuben Reid took a sig­nif­i­cant step on his re­cov­ery from knee surgery by run­ning for the first time at

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full body­weight in train­ing on Satur­day. He should be back in ac­tion dur­ing Novem­ber if all con­tin­ues to progress as well as it has been.

Chel­tenham’s ar­ray of front men all have some­thing to of­fer, but Var­ney, who turns 37 later this month, re­mains the first name on the team sheet be­cause Chel­tenham look far more dan­ger­ous with him on the pitch and he knows how to make life un­com­fort­able for any League Two de­fender.

Chel­tenham’s best start since re­turn to Foot­ball League

Seven games into their 20th Foot­ball League cam­paign, Chel­tenham have 11 points and lie sixth in the ta­ble.

It is ac­tu­ally their strong­est League Two start since 2014/15, when they had 14 points at this stage be­fore it all went wrong and they ended up be­ing rel­e­gated, high­light­ing how dan­ger­ous is can be to read too much into the open­ing weeks.

But the cur­rent team have brushed aside Scun­thorpe, Carlisle and now Steve­nage at home, as well as giv­ing one of the favourites for pro­mo­tion, Swin­don, a run for their money in an en­ter­tain­ing 2-2 draw.

They have done it with sev­eral po­ten­tially in­flu­en­tial play­ers miss­ing and there is no doubt the squad has more qual­ity, if far less quan­tity than this time last year.

Af­ter see­ing his team win 4-2 at home - and beat Steve­nage for the first time since 2010 - Duff al­most seemed dis­ap­pointed not to have won in more con­vinc­ing fash­ion.

He will not al­low the play­ers to think they have cracked it, but it has been a highly en­cour­ag­ing start to his first full sea­son as a man­ager.

Chel­tenham Town: S Flin­ders; C Raglan, B Tozer, J Greaves; S Long, C Cle­ments, C Thomas, R Broom, C Hussey; G Reilly (A Ad­dai 74), L Var­ney (J Smith 90+3). Subs not used: R Lovett, D Bowry, T Camp­bell, G Lloyd, T Cham­ber­lain.

Steve­nage: P Far­man; S Cuth­bert (D New­ton 26), K Watts, A El-abd; L Wildin, J By­rom, B Kennedy, C Carter, C Stokes; E List (C Mack­ail­smith 73), K Guthrie (J Cow­ley 86). Subs not used: S Bastien, A Iont­ton, P Tay­lor, L Fer­nan­dez.

Ref­eree: Carl Boye­son.

At­ten­dance: 2,708 (146 away).

Star Man: Ryan Broom.

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Alex Ad­dai slides home the fourth goal past goal­keeper Paul Far­man

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