I don’t think anyone saw this coming - happy Duff
Jon Palmer spoke to Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff after the 2-0 win at Plymouth on Saturday
» How satisfying was that result?
It was weird. I was really disappointed first half, believe it or not. We played our game for about a minute, hit the crossbar and then all realised we were away from home again. We stuck at it, they are a good team and they did what they do better than we did what we do, in the first half. In the second half we were much better. You have to defend as they’ll have a lot of the ball against most teams. Away from home, big crowd, I don’t think the referee helped us, particularly and I thought a lot of 50/50s didn’t go our way, which you get. To see it out and we were always a threat. It wasn’t smash and grab as we hit the bar twice and scored two good goals, so it was not a smash and grab by a long way. I was really pleased second half and you have to ride the storm. A lot of their shots were snap shots, flashing across the face of goal from around the box. It’s difficult when you can just give it to Danny Mayor. He is a different level and shouldn’t be at this level, but he is. He’s a fantastic player. I said it last year and I’ve said it again, you’d take him in your team all day long. We stuck to our task, doubled and trebled up on him at times and he still wriggled out of it somewhere, but that means there is an overload somewhere else so people were putting their bodies on the line. Scott (Flinders) definitely deserved his clean sheet today because he was magnificent, as were a few others.
Four good saves at least, but when you have a side who are pressing and don’t have a breakthrough, and Sean Long picks out a cross like that with Luke Varney on the end of it, it’s the ultimate counter attack
It’s the resilience we are showing that I am pleased about. We were a bit flaky at times last. When we were good, we were good, but when we weren’t quite so good, we went under. We can’t always be good. We weren’t good first half, but we won the half and that’s a positive sign for me. In the second half we were much better because they are a good team. I said it to their manager (Ryan Lowe) before the game, I think they will click at some point. They will go on a run a bit like Bury did last year, so it’s definitely a good result for us.
When Flinders saved those two attempts from Mayor early in the second half, did you sense the frustration starting to rise in the Argyle team and think it was good news for you?
No, I was just worrying that Danny Mayor was getting shots off. There were lots of emotions before the game, but you chop it up and dissect it and most people would probably have taken a point here, so to win 2-0 and keep another clean sheet away from home, that’s two goals conceded now in five away games. Yes, they did create a bit, but they open up teams a lot. I don’t think they opened us up a lot. First half they played through us a little bit too much. We tweaked a few things with how we want to play because we almost allowed them to pass into the centre forwards because their damager is done out wide. One ball cut us open a few times first half, so we adjusted a couple of things. We had to take Jake (Doyle-hayes) off at half-time as he was one foul away from being sent off. If they go on to win the game, people would ask why we did it, but Clem (Chris Clements) calmed us down and did what we asked of him, passing the ball a bit more.
» Is this run starting to feel like a very important one, with four back-to-back results?
Winning games is good. It’s always important. We are not doing anything. We are still looking to see how many points there are between us and the bottom one. We want to get to 50 points. The thing we’ve done well is getting our heads down and working hard. That’s our third game in a week and we’ve come down on the morning of the game, no moaning, just get on with it. Put your foot on the line, run to the next line. If it comes to you, great, if it doesn’t do it again. That has to be the mentality. I am not being funny, but we have Crewe next week, who are second. They are another good team, a bit like these. What we have shown in this run is that we can compete with the better teams in the league. It doesn’t mean we are anything, but we can compete.
The fans on social media have said it’s fun to watch at the moment, because of the way you are playing
I’d like to think supporters are enjoying it, not just because of results, but the way we are trying to play. It doesn’t guarantee you anything, but they are enjoying what the players are giving to them and they appreciate what the supporters are giving them. I don’t do the social media thing because it tends to be either up there, or down there, game to game. The good thing, as I said on my first day, supporters are seeing sweat on the shirt. The one thing we can guarantee, not every week as sometimes it looks like you are not trying, but we have an honest set of play
ers giving their all for the football club and for each other.
» As a defender, does the clean sheet mean as much to you as the win?
It was more the shape of the team, particularly second half, as they couldn’t carve us open. They don’t want to toss it in the box, they played around the edge of our box a lot, so we had to drop off as they are a good team and if you open yourself up they do play through you. I don’t think there are many managers who will turn around after scoring two and keeping a clean sheet, but they are slightly disappointed, that’s never going to happen.
» Will Boyle back on the bench, how are the other injured players?
Sheafy (Max Sheaf) keeps getting a little niggle and can’t seem to shift it and we are hoping he does. It’s not quite right. Rohan (Ince) is hoping to train the later part of next week. Reuben (Reid) has been on the grass and he’s great. He’s a long way from playing, but the fact he’s out on the grass now doing football work, not just in the gym getting smashed on the rower or on the bike. It’s another positive sign around the place, having him still to come back. It doesn’t guarantee anything and the players playing at the minute deserve all the credit.
You had a chat with Reuben after the game, what did he make of it?
He thought it was a good game, but we didn’t chat too much about the game. His little man, Broomy is his favourite player and he got a picture with him at the end. I saw him pointing at someone and it wasn’t me obviously! It’s great that he’s coming down and we’ve always said, harness the group. It doesn’t win you anything, but it does help and we have a good group. When it’s great, it’s great and when it’s good it’s always good, but in times of adversity, and this team came through it a little bit last year as we were in the bottom two in January, but they stuck together. That’s the key and win, lose or draw we stick together.
» Danny Mayor you say is the best player in the league and you’d always want him in your team, but Ryan Broom, maybe the closest thing you have got to him. He’s doing all right at the moment isn’t he?
Yes, it’s fair to say he’s doing all right! He’s enjoying his football and that position gives him freedom. When I put him back to right wing-back next week I am sure he’ll get the hump! It’s great that he has great versatility and we have a few players who can play in different positions and he’s one of them. He gives energy and quality. It’s all right having energy and just running around like a crisp packet in the wind, he does it with game understanding and intelligence, adding numbers to his game now too, which is always what people look at.
» Is he claiming the goal?
I don’t know, was it him? I don’t care! I didn’t see as I was celebrating with the staff as that was game over at that point. There was a lot of tension and relief released at that point when it went in. Alex (Addai) did well when he came on and Jonte (Smith) did well for the goal, with a bit of composure, rather than thrashing at it. That is what I was pleased with. For the first goal...longy (Sean Long) had the ball 40 yards up and he just tossed it into the box. With respect we have Gav Reilly who is not in your team to win towering headers. But if you put quality into the box, as we did for Gav in the second half, when he hits the bar, it gives you a chance and it was pleasing that we took that on.
» Not a bad cross for the first goal was it from Sean Long?
It was excellent and he can cross, Longy. He has probably actually been off it last couple of games, only with his delivery and not with anything else. It was a cross that said go and head me in and Reg (Luke Varney) obviously obliged.
» You’ve always backed Conor Thomas even when he hasn’t been in the team every week, but in this run of four games are we seeing what he is capable of?
We have always known what Conor can do. The thing with putting Conor and Clem on in the second half is that they make you play. If you don’t play you might as well not have them on pitch. We have to believe in them and trust each other.
The thing he’s added into his game is a little bit more physicality and he understands sometimes it’s not always about getting on the ball. If the ball is whacked over your head you have to turn your shoulders and get after it. He’s been fantastic and Clem was when he went on. He was unlucky to come out of the team as he was excellent against Stevenage. That’s what we want, competition for places.
» That’s the first time Cheltenham have won four League Two games in a row since October 2011
I don’t think anyone saw this coming, but I have told the players to enjoy every win.
Ryan Broom celebrates after his deflected shot made it 2-0 at Plymouth
Celebrations for Luke Varney’s opening goal
Pictures: Antony Thompson/ TWM