After the bitter disappointment of last week and seriously derailing their promotion chances, Cheltenham returned to home soil this week, their opponents we mid tabled Chipping Campden.
It was a very different line up too with several key players unavailable to play this week. It meant that the team had to find a way to bounce back from the loss with players who had never played together before. A big ask for the players who had their confidence knocked the week before. But it was a strong team all the same, several players were back from injury and easing into playing hockey again.
Now more than ever Cheltenham needed to start strongly, last time these teams faced one another Cheltenham were sluggish to settle and allowed Camden to take the lead and dominate the first part of the game. Determined not to allow this to happen, Cheltenham were quick on the attack, pushing Chipping Campden back into their defensive 23. For much of this first passage of time This was where most of the play stayed, though Cheltenham just couldn’t find a way through to getting that first all important goal. As more time passed by they pushed higher and higher up. Though it was great to see this aggression on the pitch it also left them susceptible to the odd times that Chipping Campden could put on a break away counter attack. Despite having so much of this possession it was Chipping Campden that struck first with a goal. Cheltenham caught completely out of position pushing their attack that when the ball was turned over a long ball easily found Campdens high player. despite their best efforts to stop the goal a missed clearance enabled Campden to take the lead.
Annoyed at conceding such an easy goal, Cheltenham made a few changes. With a few players positions switched it meant that in their defence there was now a player constantly marking Campdens high player. now with the threat of a break away attack covered slightly, Cheltenham set back to work to attacking again. With the adjustment in formation it meant that players were able to support one another better, and therefore attacked were more fluid. The changes also allowed a more efficient transfer so that when an attack broke down, down one wing, they switched the attack to the opposite wing. All this possession was running Chipping Campden ragged, and cracks in their so far solid defence opened up. Soon all the pressure that Cheltenham were applying paid off a well worked team goal, equalling the score.
As the first half progressed, again and again Cheltenham dominated play and pushed Campden back deep, as the opposition tired more opportunities presented themselves to Cheltenham. By the time the half time whistle came they had extended their lead to 3-1. The half time talk mainly focused on the positives. But with the ease at which Cheltenham were having so much possession of the ball the team were reminded to keep working together, the tendency to do too much by oneself was creeping into the game, and this kept leading to a loss of possession.
As the day continued to warm up, players were only going to continue to tired, Cheltenham needed to keep applying the pressure and looking to extend their lead. With the restart of the second half, they were quick to start where they left off, pushing Campden back and working together as a team this quickly earned Cheltenham a short corner. The first half hadn’t seen too many short corners and those that Cheltenham did have they failed to capitalise on. This time they switched routines, to one that has worked several times. The German routine has been a trusted way of scoring goals for Cheltenham, as again by moving the ball around players it opens up the better chance for a goal.
Their lead now 4-1 Cheltenham sadly had to say goodbye to their central midfielder, who unfortunately had to leave early to head to work. Losing such a key player could have made the rest of the half hard work, but with plenty of substitutes Cheltenham had a few choices of people that could step into the position. Not only was the second half a stronger performance from Cheltenham they were visibly more vocal with one another. Letting each other know only know where they were on pitch but who was available to pass the ball to. This was certainly more pronounced than any previous games, and no doubt a contributing factor to their improved performance. As time ticked away Campden were just not getting the chances to break away that they were in the first half. Cheltenham very much in control of how this game was playing out. They continued to extend the score line and as the full time whistle blew the final result was 6-1.
Out of all the game this season, this has been the only one where the whole team played their part in each goal. For once for the entirety of the game they played together as a team, moving the ball around players, were unselfish in their attack, knowing that if there was a better option the pass was made. This weeks performance was that of a team looking to redeem themselves after previous mistakes, and with time running out to keep the promotion hopes alive as the season draws to a close, it was an important game to keep the pressure on fellow competitors.
Just three games left for the season now, and it is now that Cheltenham must continue the good form rather than fluctuate as much as they have done in the last few weeks. With some consistent back to back wins hopefully the teams and the players confidence playing together will increase and they will finish the season with some of their best matches.