Cheltenham Town go into their home match with Port Vale this afternoon on the back of five straight league wins, eyeing up a place in the League Two automatic promotion places.
The Vale are in fine form though, winning four of their last seven without defeat, and come back to the Jonny-Rocks after their 3-1 demolition of today’s hosts in the FA Cup earlier this campaign.
But Michael Duff, whose Cheltenham side have lost just twice at home all season, sees that earlier defeat slightly differently.
He said in his pre-match press conference: “I think it was a strange game really, I think we dominated the first half and they dominated the second half.
“I don’t think anyone saw us conceding three goals in the second half but they’re a good. Obviously Popey (Tom Pope), they put three good balls in and he did what he does.
With five of the top eight teams in the division being at home today, it could be a pivotal weekend in the hosts push for an automatic promotion place, with the club battling relegation from the Football League just 12 months ago.
One reason the Robins are flying high this season is consistency, they’ve lost just six of their 36 fixtures, and boast the best defensive record in the league having conceded just 27 goals in that time.
On the road they have managed to grind out draws when not playing to their full potential to keep up the pace with the rest of the promotion pack.
With key men Luke Varney, Ryan Broom and Reuben Reid returning from the sidelines to out in some influential performances, the Robins boss will hope he can keep a fully fit squad for as long as possible as competition for places heats up.
Here’s his latest injury update: “We had quite a few bumps and bruises from the weekend (2-0 win v Colchester) off the back of a tough week.
“A couple of players took knocks so we’ll have to wait and see where they are.”
On visit to Red Arrows, Duff added: “It was a good day, learnt a lot of things about leadership, how to build a team, trust – which is important when you’re flying a jet at 500 mph at somebody else.”
Vale have won three of their last seven games versus today’s hosts (D3, L2) and will be hoping to cement a place in the play-offs, currently sitting just one point ahead of Colchester United in eighth.
Cheltenham have come through two huge tests in the last two matches by beating Northampton and Colchester, and today ends a run of three games in a row against promotion contenders.
There are no easy games but after today, the Robins next four fixtures are against teams in the bottom.