Despite a narrow defeat to Newport on Friday, Cheltenham’s shape has improved massively since the start of the year – as defender Charlie Raglan knows all too well.
Since joining the Robins from League One Oxford United on a loan deal in January, Raglan has started all of Cheltenham’s last 11 games at the heart of a three-man defence.
Raglan could slot into a four man backline for their next game against Northampton after fellow centre-half Will Boyle was dismissed on Friday night for bringing down Newport striker Jamille Matt.
The 25-year-old has said previously that the majority of players in the squad will be more comfortable playing in a traditional back-four, and says playing in a three-man defence has taken hard work for him to get used to.
“In open play our shape, our framework defensively has come on in leaps and bounds and that’s down to the manager,” said Raglan.
“Four at the back is a lot more common and a lot more people are used to going back to that system because three or five at the back takes a bit more work.
“Especially on my part I came in and hadn’t had much experience playing in that system but we have worked hard on it with some focused drills in training. ”
Robins Michael Duff will be happy to return to home comforts on Saturday, with Cheltenham not losing a game at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium since Tranmere Rovers back at the start of the year.
Friday’s loss means it’s now a torrid six games on the bounce without a win on the road and although Duff would prefer to see that form change sooner rather than later, they may well be prioritising their home for to guarantee safety – if it isn’t secure already.
It has been surprising that Raglan hasn’t been in Oxford manager Karl Robinson’s plans this season, judging by some of the impressive displays the centre-back has put in for the Robins.
Duff has clearly been impressed with the defender’s displays in the second part of the campaign, with Raglan’s place seemingly nailed down in the starting eleven.
Cheltenham may be heading into Saturday’s game on the back of a defeat, but Raglan acknowledged that his teammates have been in tough situations before and they will continue to bounce back from them.
You can see the latest Robins updates on our live blog throughout the day. Will Boyle has hailed the positive impact the Cheltenham manager has had on improving the defensive shape of the team.
The on-loan defender could only agree with Boyle’s appraisal, as he continued: “The key would be not to go goals down in games, certainly since I’ve come in.”
“I have been thoroughly impressed with the mentality of the group and the character in tough situations.
“Going back to the Macclesfield game, we were in a precarious situation when we were 2-0 down at half time and had the character, spirit and quality to come back. We are where we are in the league for a reason.
“When I came into the club it was a factor to come and work for a former defender who’s played at the top level for a long time and I’d echo what Will’s (Boyle) comments because there’s just subtle things and messages that I hadn’t heard before but make perfect sense.