FOOTBALL

Cheltenham boss Michael Duff looking for “focus and application” against struggling Notts County

Cheltenham Town boss Michael Duff is looking to put some distance between his side and the relegation pack when they face League Two strugglers Notts County this afternoon.

Duff’s men earned a spirited point against promotion hopefuls Bury on Tuesday night, as loan forward Billy Waters struck the first goal of his second stint with the club to earn a 1-1 draw for the Robins.

Duff was impressed with the way his players applied themselves in that game, and he is hoping they can replicate the manner of that performance against a team fighting for survival.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game, the Cheltenham manager said: “Our home record’s been good and it’s another opportunity to put distance between us and a team at the bottom.

“The focus and application need to be exactly the same as Tuesday night and we’re aware that they’ve had some good results recently and they (Notts County) know they need to come here and get a result. So, we’ll be aware of the wounded animal.”

Cheltenham have seen a significant change in fortune from their home games since drawing with Mansfield Town back at the start of November; picking up 24 out of a possible 33 points at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.

After their opening day defeat against Crawley Town it took Cheltenham over three months to break their duck and secure a league win on home soil, which is why Duff is wary about the mentality Notts County will have coming into Saturday’s game – having been in a similar situation earlier in the season.

“We remember when we were in that position; the fight, and drive we had to try and get out of it and they’ll be doing that with experienced players,” said Duff.

Cheltenham’s home record against sides fighting for survival since turn of the year:

  • Macclesfield (26/01) – W 3-2
  • Yeovil (05/02) – W 1-0
  • Cambridge United (19/02) – W 2-0
  • Port Vale (23/02) – W 1-0

County manager Neal Ardley drafted in a lot of experienced players in January to help their push for safety in the English Football League; with former Coventry City pair Jim O’Brien (31) and Michael Doyle (37), as well as Wycombe forward Craig Mackail-Smith (35) coming into the squad.

Saturday’s visitors have shown they are capable of taking points off teams higher up the table despite their league position which is something Duff is wary of, as he continued: “They’ll have a little bit more knowhow.

“It was Lincoln City; Forest Green Rovers and Mansfield, and they took seven points from those games which shows the performances they can produce so we need to be aware of that.”

Cheltenham’s leading talisman Luke Varney scored a brace in the reverse fixture against County back in November as the Robins won 3-0.

However, despite reaching double figures for the season in the 1-0 win against Port Vale, the 36-year-old had to settle for a cameo appearance off the bench on Tuesday night.

Picture by Antony Thompson – Thousand Word Media.

But his manager put any qualms about the in-form striker not being to start to rest, saying: “He wasn’t injured, he’s in contention the same as anyone else.

“There’s a lot of players in a good run of form so it’s up to the staff to pick the right team and hopefully the players we pick can cross the white line and deliver a good performance.”

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