Stevenage v Cheltenham Town: The football pendulum swings wildly again; from 12 unbeaten to three without a win. Can Boro' haul the oracle back in our favour?
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The football pendulum swings wildly again; from 12 unbeaten to three without a win. Can Boro’ haul the oracle back in our favour? Our struggles in front of goal, which are nothing new this season, came back to bite us hard on Saturday. After grabbing the decisive goal in the first half, Mansfield Town simply had to stand firm. And that’s what they did. Now, it looks like our 2020-1 campaign is ending with a whimper – rather than the bang we were doing so well to set up.

We’re safe from relegation. And we’ll need a big miracle if the playoffs are still in reach (if they ever were). But what is still to play for – apart from pride – is the chance to influence who ends up as League Two champions this season. Cheltenham Town are next up, with two points and one game in hand to make up on current leaders Cambridge United. After we host the Robins on Tuesday, we go to the Us on Saturday. It’s a powerful position we find ourselves in here.

Even if there’s nothing for us to gain from it ourselves.

 

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The Details: Stevenage v Cheltenham Town

Where’s the game?

Boro’ will have the home dressing room for the second match in a row; the Lamex primed for League Two action yet again. Don’t get too used to it, however. This is our penultimate home game of the 2020-1 campaign. Hasn’t that come around quick, eh?

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How is Boro’s form looking at the moment?

You don’t need us to go into too much detail. Boro’ still have a lofty-enough position in the League Two form table; earning 12 points from the last 24 available. But it’s obviously not as good as it could’ve been after collecting just one point from our last three outings. Our defensive record has also taken a recent dent. A spurt of those odd goals here and there going in means we’re now third in the list of the division’s meanest defences. And it’s our guests who have overtaken us to claim second spot…

… and how are the Robins doing right now?

Looking at their recent form, you could almost suggest they’re wobbling a little bit. From the last eight outings, they’ve taken 13 points. That’s only one more than us and – more importantly – three fewer than title rivals Cambridge. In that time, they’ve dropped points at home to Barrow and away at Grimsby. But they remain in the mix and will move to the top of the table if the Us lose and the Robins beat us.

As title candidates, it can’t shock you to learn that – overall – the stats are pretty decent. The Us are the only side in the division with a better record on the road so far; our latest visitors earning 35 points from 21 away from home. We also know that, defensively, the Robins are fairly solid. In front of goal, there are five other sides in better nick. But when you’re scoring in 71% of your away matches, you’re not losing too much sleep there.

Our story with Cheltenham Town so far

This will be the 20th encounter between Boro’ and the Robins since December 1997. And we think you’ll struggle to find too many other stories that involve us with as much palaver. At least, it feels like that when you look back at the early days. First, we had the infamous bomb scare that delayed our Valentine’s Day 1998 clash at Whaddon Road. Then there’s the 1998-9 season, which saw us meet FIVE times in league and cup competitions.

One of those cup ties even made it all the way into Parliament. After a 0-0 draw in our FA Trophy Round Four tie at their place, we came back to a snowy Broadhall Way to do it all over again. Trailing 1-0 at half-time, Boro’ couldn’t shift the snow and the match had to be abandoned. It enraged the local MP, who called for us to be booted out. The Robins were only denied a place in the next round for another week; winning the replay on penalties.

Fast forward to our first-ever victory against the Robins in February 2011; starting a run that saw us win eight out of the next nine (the other was a 0-0 draw in September 2016). That dominance came to an end with a 4-2 defeat at theirs in September 2019. Can we start it back up? Or are the Robins going to party like it’s 1999?

Last Time Out: Cheltenham Town 1-1 Stevenage, 26 December 2020

Who’s the referee in charge?

Trevor Kettle.

Just as the Robins are old friends now, so too is Mr Kettle; this being the 18th time we’ve had the “pleasure”. In a break with recent tradition and a lovely coinkydink, this is the first time the Berkshire ref has been to the Lamex since our 2-1 win over Cheltenham Town in February 2017. Since then, we’ve met Mr Kettle six times while out on the road; losing all but one of them – a 2-0 win at Grimsby Town in April 2019.

At home, we’re currently unbeaten on his watch.

It’ll be the second time that Mr Kettle has been our ref this season too. Our narrow defeat up at Bolton is one of 30 games to his name so far this season. A total of 86 yellow cards comes in at just under three per match. He’s not averse to a red card either; sending five me off – including the Trotters’ Michael Williams. His last red came two games ago when Sunderland beat Oxford, which means we should be spared another so soon.

Last Time Out: Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Stevenage, 13 February 2021

Stevenage v Cheltenham Town: Our verdict?

Truth be told, we don’t hold out much hope. We couldn’t find a way past a lowly Mansfield side, so it’s hard to see how we’ll find this nut any easier to crack. Our guess is that we’re going to find the high-flying Robins on song. The only consolation is that it might stop our friends up in Cambridge from winning the title. Our verdict? 0-2.

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