Cheltenham Town welcomed fans back to the Jonny-Rocks Stadium with a 5-3 win over fellow League Two high flyers Exeter City.
Liam Sercombe scored twice against his former club, while Alfie May, Andy Williams and Will Boyle added goals to secure a first win over the Grecians in seven years.
An Exeter side who have lost just twice in League Two travelled to Gloucestershire in excellent form having secured three consecutive wins in all competitions and bagging 13 goals in that time.
In fact, the Grecians, who reached the play-off final last season only to lose to Northampton Town at Wembley, hadn’t lost to the Robins 11 games – so what a time it was to welcome fans back as Cheltenham removed the Exeter hoodoo.
After opening their League Two campaign with a loss to Morecambe, Michael Duff’s side have won ten of a possible 15 games to sit comfortably in the automatic promotion spots, with a single point the gap from the table’s summit.
The Robins recruited ten players during the summer transfer window to bolster a promotion charge after falling short of League One football in the play-offs last term. As fans returned to the Jonny-Rocks for the first time in 274 days, the home faithful were finally able to watch their new signings in the flesh.
Sercombe, Josh Griffiths, Matty Blair and Finn Azaz all started for the visit of Exeter, while Williams, Lewis Freestone, Ellis Chapman and Tom Sang all featured off the bench as Duff made handy use of the new five-man substitutes rule in the EFL.
The latter of that group, Sang, joined the Robins on loan from Cardiff City in September and enjoyed a 20 minute cameo as he helped Cheltenham secure all three points over Exeter in what was his first game in front of fans at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
“They were quality,” Sang said. “It’s something that I’m not quite used to, having fans, but hearing every chant, hearing the roar when the goals go in, it was really good to hear.
“Especially after a win like that, it’s really good, in the first half some of the football we played was really good, especially wrestling the momentum back from 1-0 down, to going 2-1 up, 3-1 up, and then obviously Sercs [Liam Sercombe] has scored two goals which helped us to a massive win.”
Cheltenham hadn’t notched five goals since 2018 in a win over Crawley Town – Robins defender Boyle also got on the score sheet that day, but Charlie Raglan, his defence partner in the win over Exeter at the weekend continued his fine start to the season, according to Sang.
“He’s a massive part of the team in that back five, they’re all top lads and they give it their all on the pitch, he (Raglan) gave it his all to get the goal too, he took one on the head.”
The 21-year-old, having penned a year long loan after plying his trade in Cardiff City’s under-23s for several years, hasn’t been used to eight-goal thrillers in professional football – much to the credit of the 1,000 strong Cheltenham following.
“I think going into a game like that, the first one back, there was bound to be goals,” Sang added.
“I feel like on the attack the fans upped our intensity, so I think it really helped.
“It’s a lot different to what I’m used to but I’d say it’s so much better and nicer experience to play in because it means everything to get those three points, it was really enjoyable!”
As Cheltenham led 3-1 at the break, you might have excused Duff’s side for taking their foot off the gas, but Sang explained how Cheltenham
“It’s sort of trying to not get ahead of yourselves in the changing room, try to stick to our normal ways and just go out there and do what we know we can do.”
Indeed, the Robins have proven their worth to sit within the automatic promotion places come the start of December. Duff’s side will travel to the Peninsula Stadium on Saturday after hosting Portsmouth in the Papa John’s Trophy Second Round tomorrow night (kick off 19:00).