Cheltenham Town set sights on highest ever league finish: The opposition view on Doncaster Rovers' next opponents

It has been an impressive start to the season for Cheltenham Town who head to the Keepmoat this weekend sitting in the top half of the table after back-to-back wins.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 11:57 am
Former Rovers aces Alfie May and Matty Blair have played key roles in Cheltenham's rise to League One

We spoke to Gloucestershire Live's Robins writer Jon Palmer to get the inside line on Rovers' next opponents.

Q: From the outside it looks to have been a really solid start to the season. What have you made to it?

JP: "To be in a mid-table position at this stage is impressive for a team stepping up a level, particularly when you look at the fixtures Cheltenham have faced already, including many of the fancied teams.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"They've beaten Ipswich and Charlton, which not many people would have expected and also edged out Oxford and Accrington at home, making it a pleasing return to League One after a 12-year absence.

"It's all been done with several key players missing, so that provides even more encouragement for the remaining three quarters of the season."

Q: What are the expectations this term?

JP: "The general consensus is that survival would be a satisfactory outcome, looking at history, budgets and some of the clubs in League One this season, many Cheltenham fans would be content to finish 20th.

"But there is no doubt Michael Duff will be aiming a little higher, with 17th the club's best ever finish and something he is definitely aware of and keen to surpass."

Q: There are a few familiar faces from recent Rovers history in the Cheltenham squad. How are Alfie May, Andy Williams and Matty Blair getting on?

JP: "They've all made a positive impression. May was top scorer last season with 13 in all competitions, including that memorable goal to put Cheltenham in front against Manchester City.

"Williams scored eight in the league and even when he wasn't involved on the pitch, he made a huge contribution off it with his positivity and professionalism. It looks like he may be used mainly from the bench this time around.

"Blair was a superb addition last term, establishing himself at right wing-back and arguably becoming one of the team's most important players over the course of the campaign. The role suits him perfectly with his energy and tenacity.

"All three are positive, reliable characters who have helped take Cheltenham to the next level."

Q: What system and style of play does Michael Duff favour?

JP: "He has been favouring 3-5-2 for the vast majority of his reign, but in recent weeks he has also used a midfield diamond.

"It is likely to be a back three on Saturday, with two sitting midfielders and one more advanced in support of the two front men. It's served Duff well and they did it better than anyone else in League Two last season."

Q: Who are the players to watch out for?

JP: "Dan Crowley has come in on a short-term deal and already looks a cut above with his dribbling ability and vision, which both belong at a higher level.

"If Cheltenham can keep creative midfielder Crowley and centre forward Kyle Vassell fit, they have a really strong chance of pushing for their first ever top half finish in League One."

*

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.