FOOTBALL

Cheltenham Town Ladies hoping to follow in the footsteps of Chelsea with midweek derby

Cheltenham Town Ladies will be expecting to face Swindon Town in front of one of their biggest ever crowds when they welcome their rivals to the DN Fire Stadium on Tuesday night.

It has been an evolutionary campaign for the women’s game in England after a breakthrough World Cup and Barclays’ sponsorship of the Women’s Super League (WSL), and the support has been stronger than ever. With the men not competing domestically, WSL clubs enjoyed higher attendances this weekend with Chelsea breaking their Kingsmeadow record as 4,149 packed into AFC Wimbledon’s stadium as they beat Arsenal 2-1 on Sunday.

Top flight clubs also enjoyed the chance to kick off their seasons in the country’s biggest grounds in an attempt to attract fans as Chelsea entertained Tottenham at Stamford Bridge and Man City hosted Man United at the Etihad among many others.

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Cheltenham Town Ladies are now looking to take advantage of the increased interest and indefinitely maintain their extended following.

The Robins have started the season well and currently sit third in the FA Women’s National League (FAWNL) Division South after seven games. Last weekend’s 5-0 victory over Brislington also saw them progress to the third qualifying round of the SSE FA Cup.

Having peaked at their regular home ground with 142 spectators when they first faced Brislington earlier in the season, too in a midweek game, they have been averaging over 80 and achieving some of the highest for their level in the country.

Their all-time record attendance however came as they drew 2-2 with Tuesday’s opponents in front of a healthy crowd of 375 at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium last season.

While normally free to Cheltenham Town season ticket holders and Robins Trust members, Tuesday’s fixture is also free to students at the University of Gloucestershire and the club’s head of PR and media, Dan Lodge, is hopeful they can contribute to setting the bar even higher.

“We always get a good midweek crowd and with the local derby there’s going to be a bit of a buzz about it,” he said.

“We wanted to open it up to them and see if a derby could convince them to check us out and continue to come back.

“We pride ourselves on affordable football – students have enough to worry about with money to pay silly money to watch professional teams. So we like to think we’d be a viable alternative.”

Lodge is also aware of the impact the heightened national interest has had on the Robins’ numbers.

He said: “It’s always going to have a positive impact, with that much exposure.

“It’s bound to turn heads and we’ve heard first hand cases of CTFC fans who have enjoyed watching England do well and they came out just to see what we are all about and haven’t missed a game since.”

The ladies were also due to welcome Poole yesterday in the FAWNL plate but the game was postponed and will now take place next weekend.

Their reserve team was in action though as they thrashed Weston-super-Mare 10-0 down by the coast.

The Robins derby kicks off at 7.45pm on Tuesday night.

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