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Match Report: Port Vale 1-2 Cheltenham Town (Cheltenham Fan's Perspective)

Wednesday 4th January 2012
Cheltenham managed to cut the gap on Crawley to one point at the top of League Two - but had to work very hard.

The Robins were not at their best - the busy Christmas schedule seemed to take its' toll on a few with some tired legs in evidence, but they showed great grit and determination to come away with a priceless win.

Mark Yates made two changes from the side which edged out Rotherham on Friday, Darryl Duffy and Kaid Mohamed coming back in for Bagasan Graham and Jimmy Spencer.

The first half was scrappy, Vale having the better of it territorially, but the Robins' defence worked hard to keep them at bay, and Scott Brown did not have a direct save to make.

The closest they came was a header from Marc Richards, who should have done better but headed over.

At the other end, Mohamed shot wide for Cheltenham but the Robins would have been happy to go in at 0-0 after soaking up the Vale pressure.

The second half started in the same vein, but Mark Yates made a double change on the hour which had a big effect on the eventual outcome.

Jeff Goulding and Junior Smikle replaced John Low and Russ Penn, and Goulding's extra height and Smikle's energy gave Cheltenham a lift.

Within two minutes of coming on, Smikle won a free kick, and it was swung across by Marlon Pack for skipper Alan Bennett to glance his header home.

Smikle was also the architect - and scorer - of the second goal.

The midfielder, who has come on as a substitute in 23 of Cheltenham's 24 games this season, ran 50 yards in the Vale half, laid the ball off to Darryl Duffy and picked up the return pass to fire past Stuart Tomlinson.

For a tantalising moment, top spot in League Two was within a goal, as Crawley were losing and the Robins were level on points and one behind on goal difference.

But Sean Rigg pulled a goal back after Scott Brown brilliantly saved his first effort, and Tyrone Barnett's leveller for Crawley and Oxford gae them a one-point cushion.

Cheltenham held out comfortably for the win - again showing the hallmark of a good side by taking three points despite not hitting top form, and it all augurs well for 2012.

It also allows fans, players and club officials to look forward to Saturday - one of the biggest days Cheltenham Town have ever had, when we got to Tottenham in the FA Cup.

48 coaches, and more than 5,000 fans will be at White Hart Lane for what will be a very special occasion for the Ruby Army. Bring it on!
Mark Halliwell

Total articles: 7

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