Cheltenham Town will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the Sky Bet League Two table when they travel to Exeter City on Saturday afternoon.
Cheltenham had their four-game win streak ended in their last league outing as they fell to a 3-1 defeat away to Mansfield – the first away loss for the Robins since the 3-0 loss to Barrow in December.
Michael Duff’s side will want to bounce back from the loss to maintain their position at the top, with a win against Exeter potentially taking his side six points clear of second-place Cambridge United with two games in hand.
Cheltenham Town: WWWL
Currently on the perch of League Two, the Robins have been in top form over the last few months, losing only two of their last 14 in the league.
More recently, Cheltenham missed a glorious opportunity to put some breathing space between themselves and the rest of the league with their 3-1 loss to Mansfield.
A loss for Duff’s side could potentially see them drop to fourth in the league.
Exeter City: WLDWW
Like Cheltenham, the Grecians enter the game in strong form, with only one loss in their last eight.
Exeter overcame Scunthorpe United in their last outing winning 2-0 in Lincolnshire, with striker Matty Jay netting his fourth in his last two games.
The league’s top scorers are currently in eighth place but sit only nine points behind Cheltenham with a game in hand, so victory on Saturday would be vital for the Devon-based side as they look to win three in a row for the first time this campaign.
Last time out
Cheltenham Town 5-3 Exeter City
December 5, 2020.
The two sides played out one of the games of the season last time out, with Cheltenham defeating Exeter 5-3 in front of fans at the Jonny-Rocks.
Archie Collins opened the scoring four minutes in for the visitors, however their lead lasted a mere three minutes and the Grecians found themselves 2-1 down nine minutes later, with goals from Alfie May and Liam Sercombe putting the Robins ahead.
Sercombe doubled his tally and gave Cheltenham a cushioned lead going into half-time when he converted from the spot to make it 3-1.
Exeter came out the block’s sharper in the second period and pulled a goal back through Jay, but Andy Williams’s header with 13 minutes remaining reinstated the home side’s two-goal lead.
Nicholas Law made it 4-3 with two minutes remaining to set up a nervy finish, but a 90th-minute header from Will Boyle confirmed all three points for the Robins.
In his pre-match press conference, Cheltenham manager Duff spoke about how his team are looking ahead of the clash
“Will Boyle is doing okay,” said Duff.
“He is a long way from playing but he’s started doing his return to play protocol. He’s been out running with a brace on but he’s doing his strength work.
“Ellis Chapman will hopefully train for the first time on Thursday [today]. He won’t be ready for the weekend, in the next week or two we’ll be getting him up to speed.”
As for Exeter, Randall Williams and Sam Stubbs are both ruled out of contention.
Word from camp:
After the 3-1 loss to Mansfield last weekend, Duff recognises that his side needs to improve against Exeter if they want to continue their challenge for the title.
“We’ve been on a good run, we are doing the basics pretty well and it is relentless at the minute. It shows you within the league how tight it is and it’s hard to put any sort of run together. We’ll have to be much better than Tuesday if we want to get anything out of the game on Saturday.”
Both Cheltenham and Exeter suffered defeat in last season’s play-off’s, and the 43-year-old was full of praise for his upcoming opposition and the way they bounced-back from defeat.
“They have done well to respond to the play-off defeat, similar to what we have and it’s not easy. You see a lot of teams fall away the year after. They are a club that have done really well in terms of bringing players through. They are the top scorers in the league by some margin. They have a bit of everything, good physicality and a lot of flair in the team.”
The manager also spoke fondly of ex-Exeter midfielder Sercombe, who he is hoping will be ready to play against his old side.
“I don’t think I am being too controversial in saying he’s [Sercombe] one of the better players in the team. Football has a funny way of giving you one and taking one away, so we’ll have to hope we stay injury-free. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go for 90 minutes now and he can stay fit because when he’s in the team, we are generally a better team.”
Cheltenham have travelled to St James Park ahead of a 3pm kick-off.