Man-of-the-match Atangana has found his Va-va-voom
French midfielder Nigel Atangana is thriving in a deep defensive role in the heart of the engine room for Cheltenham Town.
The 28-year-old was deservedly named man-of-the-match after a commanding display against Chesterfield, breaking up the play, distributing a range of passes and also bursting forward with some driving runs.
Atangana has impressed in recent weeks after overcoming some persistent injury problems to nail down a place in the first team, his gutsy performances have also made him popular with the fans.
He acknowledged their support post-match, and it’s clear to see that his confidence has soared after stand out display’s against Barnet, Swindon and now Chesterfield this season.
With his contract still running into next year, the former Leyton Orient man has filled the defensive midfield gap left by former stalwart Kyle Storer, and looks set to command the centre of the park for Gary Johnson’s side beyond the summer.
Cheltenham’s 4-5-1 formation works well away but is less effective at home
The Robins are now on a four match unbeaten run after two draws against promotion hopefuls Luton Town and Notts County, a fine victory away at Swindon Town, before another draw against their most recent opponents.
Cheltenham switched to 4-5-1 for the trip to former league leaders Luton in late February, with the five-man midfield causing the Hatters no end of trouble, it was a feat that was repeated to greater effect when the Robins thrashed rivals Swindon 3-0 away from home last weekend.
But in the home games against both Notts County and Chesterfield, the visitors have sat deeper and Cheltenham’s talisman and top scorer Mo Eisa has often been left isolated up front.
In both matches, Johnson has made second half substitutions and tweaked the formation so that another striker can support Eisa.
On both occasions his side managed to claw a goal back to get a point, suggesting that Cheltenham should stick to 4-5-1 away but start with a more attacking system like 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 when at Whaddon Road.
The Spireites would struggle without Dennis the menace
Chesterfield striker Kristian Dennis prodded home his 16th goal of the season to put his side ahead in the 74th minute in Gloucestershire.
Jack Lester’s team really needed a victory, which they couldn’t hold onto, to start a late push for survival after a poor first season back in League Two.
The Spireites now face the real possibility of back to back relegations, sitting six points from safety despite having one of the largest budgets in the division.
But without Dennis, it’s likely that they could have already been down, considering that their second top scorer has just five goals so far this campaign.
The 28-year-old was reportedly on the verge of signing for Bradford City on January transfer deadline day and he will have to keep firing if Chesterfield are to avoid slipping into non-league next season.
Old habits die hard for both teams
Two patterns have emerged from Cheltenham home games and Chesterfield matches so far this term, and those patterns took a similar turn in the snowy Cotswolds.
The Robins had to come back from a goal behind at Whaddon Road to draw 1-1 for the fourth time since December, a trend that has been set since the first three months of the season.
— Park Life Sport (@ParkLife_Sport) March 17, 2018
As for Chesterfield, points have been made in the media about how they have surrendered a lead on far too many occasions this season and it happened again as Brian Graham hit back for Cheltenham just five minutes after Dennis’ opener.
This was the fourth time in the last six matches that Lester’s team have either drawn or lost after going ahead.
It appears that both teams will have to work on their game management if they don’t want these unwelcome trends to keep repeating themselves.
Super-sub Graham will take a confidence boost from his goal
It was a first strike since October for Brian Graham, who netted with his first touch after coming on as a 78th minute substitute.
The 30-year-old tapped in Joe Morrell’s inviting cross from the wide right just one minute after replacing Kevin Dawson.
— hEaLeR (@hEaLeR_CTFC) March 17, 2018
It has been a frustrating period without a goal for the Scottish forward, who has struggled for form since registering a brace against Wycombe Wanderers five months ago.
He also missed a host of chances against Notts County two matches before this one but celebrated his goal with a sense of relief and now hopefully with Eisa carrying most of the goal-scoring responsibility so far, Graham can chip in with a few before the end of the season.