Robins flying high after four-star victory
MICHAEL Duff says his Cheltenham Town side can compete with the best sides in League Two this season.
Cheltenham beat Stevenage 4-2 at Whaddon Road on Saturday as Duff, who celebrated a year in charge on Tuesday, saw his side move up to sixth in the table.
It is the Robins’ best start to a season n several years, built mainly on their fine home form which has seen them lose three games on their own soil since Duff took over.
“I think we can compete,” Duff said. “The Swindon game (2-2 draw) was a good barometer for that and I think they’ll get promoted.
“We showed we can compete with the better teams.
“Whether we are good enough to finish any way in and around it, too early to say because the way things are going, next week we’ll get beat and it’ll all be doom and gloom again, based on the pattern.
“We need to string better performances together and you never know where it might take you.
“It’s important we always have that underdog mentality because we are a small club, whether the supporters like it or not because that’s how we are perceived.
“That’s from the outside and we are not interested in noise from the outside.
”Let’s just keep giving the players belief and hopefully they’ll pick it up and run with it and you’ll never know where you can go.”
Duff said there is only one secret to the promising start to the campaign.
“Hard work. Nothing else,” he said. “The one thing I can guarantee supporters is that the players will work hard.
“It doesn’t guarantee you results but we won’t come off it and we’ll finish where we deserve to finish.
“I have told the players that if they want to do anything this year, they need to have that killer instinct, that bit more of a streak inside the team.
“We need to get on at people constantly - that’s the culture, so it is ultimately down to hard work.
“We have some half decent players as well so it’s getting them to belief that they are good as what the staff think they are.”
The good start has come with several players unavailable - on Saturday for instance Josh Debayo, Rohan Ince, Max Sheaf, Jake Doyle-hayes, Will Boyle and Reuben Reid were all injured or on international duty.
Duff said: “The one thing we told the players was everyone is here because we want them here.
“The performances at home have been excellent, with Reuben (Reid), Boylo (Will Boyle), Rohan (Ince) missing, who could be seen as nailed on starters.
“We had a midfield three who didn’t play in Jake Doyle-hayes, Max Sheaf and Ince and that’s a very good three.
“You can’t get away with just having a first 11 now, the games come too thick and fast and the game is too quick.
“It’s important and it’s not just the 11 who are playing, whoever comes in needs to know their roles and responsibilities so it’s great when it’s going well.
“This time last week I was spewing as we’d shot ourselves in the foot.”
Many of the unavailable players will be back in the next two or three weeks, but Reid could be longer.
“With the injury he’s had, we won’t be able to throw him in anyway,” said Duff.
“I don’t think Gav (Crowe) will let us get our hands on him yet as he’s been out for a long time.
“He needs to build his fitness and it might be longer than people think, based on he has to do a pre-season when he’s fit, as well.
“Of the injured players, Max Sheaf is the closest.
“Boylo is on the grass. Incey is a couple of weeks away, which we seem to be getting quite a few of.
“Reuben ran in training this week, which is a positive so that’s a good sign that he’s up to running full body weight as well.
“That’s a positive in the background that we are scoring all these goals and we still have him to come in and affect it.
“We want competition for places. When I came in we had too many players at 29.
“We have managed to trim it, but we still had a youth team player on the bench today, but obviously some of that is Chambo (Tom Chamberlain) doing well.
“It’s basically quality over quantity and I think we have that.
“For the level that we are, we are still a small club with a small budget, but they are the facts and it’s not an excuse mentality.
“It’s crack on and see where we go.” The Stevenage win came 11 months after Duff’s lowest ebb - a 2-0 home defeat in the final game before he changed the system from 4-4-2 to 3-52, which helped change the team’s fortunes.
“It has become a watershed moment, that game,” said Duff.
“I said to the players, they beat us twice last season and they battered us.
“They were 2-0, but comfortable and we didn’t hurt them in any way.
“They sort of bullied us and ran over the top of us.
“We are happy with the progress we’ve made.
“We don’t think we’ve become a really good team all of a sudden.
“We think we can be competitive and that’s the key.”
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