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Cheltenham Town, Forest Green Rovers & Gloucester City: A season to forget for Gloucestershire football

It’s fair to say that it has been a year to forget for Gloucestershire football’s big three. Cheltenham Town ended their three-year spell in League One. Forest Green Rovers faced back-to-back relegations and have now been dumped out of the football league. Whilst Gloucester City are to play in the seventh tier of English football next season, after finishing 17 points from safety in the National League North.

Cheltenham couldn’t have started their 2023/24 season any worse, as they found themselves rock bottom of League One after failing to win any of their first 12 games of the campaign. The Robins failed to score in their first 11 games of the season, a record that cost Wade Elliott his job. Darrell Clarke was appointed and in his third game in the dugout, Cheltenham finally scored a goal in the league, as they held Derby County to a 1-1 draw at the Completely Suzuki Stadium.

The Robins then won their first game of the season as they beat Cambridge United 1-0, courtesy of the club’s Player of the Year, Liam Sercombe. Clarke then managed to get Cheltenham going as they won three in a row in February, once again beating Cambridge, as well as Blackpool and Port Vale, which gave the Robins fans hope.

Circumstances took a nasty turn, when Clarke’s side lost four on the bounce in April, losing to Exeter City, Leyton Orient, Carlisle United and Bristol Rovers. However, a mammoth victory away at relegation rivals Burton Albion, gave Cheltenham a slimmer of hope. The Robins’ survival bid went down to the final day of the season, as Clarke’s side had a must-win match at Stevenage. Unfortunately, Cheltenham saw defeat, which mean that Clarke’s men will play League Two football next season.

Things didn’t go much better for Forest Green either, who have gotten through five managers in the last 12 months. David Horseman took charge of FGR ahead of the start of the campaign and the former Southampton academy manager got off to an acceptable start, where he won two and drew one in his opening six League Two games.

However, the side from Nailsworth then lost six on the bounce over the months of September and October, followed by a winless run of five over the December period, resulting in the sacking of Horseman.

In came player Troy Deeney, who had a terrible time in the dugout, lasting just six games, winning none. Former Cheltenham manager, Steve Cotteril was then appointed, where he saw defeat in his first game in charge. Cotterill’s side then found some form, as they won four out of a possible seven matches spanning across February and March. This gave Rovers fans hope going into the final nine matches of the campaign.

Unfortunately, six losses in their next seven games were the nail in the coffin for FGR, confirming their relegation from the football league, a status they had for seven seasons.

And finally, Gloucester City, a side who competed in the National League North, despite being situated in the southwest of England. Former Saints goalkeeper Tim Flowers was appointed manager of City for the 2023/24 campaign, which excited a large section of the fan base.

However, like the other two big clubs in the county, the Tigers had a poor start to the season, winning just one of their opening nine league games. A run that cost Flowers his job. Mike Cook was then re-appointed as first-team manager, and his in his fourth game in charge, saw victory at home to Alfreton Town by three goals to nil.

However, City then lost five on the bounce and look destined for relegation. A glimmer of hope was restored when Gloucester won three out of four, but Cook’s side then failed to win the next six. Back-to-back victories against Banbury United and Bishop’s Stortford, once again created hope, but in Gloucester style, the Tigers won just one out of their next eight. A well-earned victory away at Warrington Town was the last time City fans had anything to cheer about, as their last seven matches of the season saw no wins.

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