It’s the middle of winter, pouring with rain and there is a battle at the bottom of Sky Bet League Two.
Michael Duff’s Cheltenham side had lost their last three and went into their home match against the Sol Campbell’s Silkmen two points above their opponents and looking to pull away to safety.
But after a dreadful first half, Cheltenham found themselves 2-0 down and were booed off by their own supporters.
The only hope for the Robins was the fact Macclesfield were reduced to 10 men just before half-time.Embed from Getty Images
Varney wonder pulls one back
Ryan Broom has since enjoyed great success in an central attacking midfield position, but in this match he provided a cross from the right which veteran striker Luke Varney volleyed in superbly.
It started the turnaround that has completely changed the club’s fortunes, they are now mounting a promotion push… but back in January that was simply unimaginable.
Chelsea loanee Jacob Maddox drew Cheltenham level and his finish was reflective of the attitude of the players in the second-half.
He smashed home a half-volley which got his side back on terms and meant the Robins had a great chance to get the goal to help steer them clear of the threat of relegation.
Duff’s signings prove worthy
Former Oxford United centre-back Charlie Raglan arrived on loan in January but has since made a permanent switch and remains one of the first names on the team sheet.
When Chris Clements’ overhit corner drew groans from the crowd, it looked like another chance had gone, but Alex Addai controlled and lifted an inviting ball to the back post.
“The most successful teams I’ve been a part of normally came when there was a good core of players that were all pulling in the same direction.”— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) October 16, 2019
How Michael Duff is bringing the spirit of Burnley to Cheltenham Town…
Raglan attacked it like someone who was fighting for the shirt, the Robins deserved their winner and held on for a vital three points.
What’s happened since?
The Robins went on to win their next four home games and finish a massive 16 points clear of safety.
They have since started the season in great form and go into Tuesday’s game at home to Macclesfield four points off top.
They also boast the best home record in England and remain unbeaten in the last 17 home games.
Can the Robins kick on?
The question now is can Cheltenham carry on the momentum?
If they can they could be looking at a return to League One, which at this point in time seems doable seen as they are picking up wins away from home.
They try to play an expansive game, with defenders seeing lots of the ball and each player acting in a flexible formation.
At the start of the season, Duff said he would be drawing up his end of season aims and objectives after 10 matches.
Thirteen down now and in fifth position with a game in hand on the teams around them, but Duff is, as per, keeping his feet on the ground.
😍 Absolute scenes as Luke Varney netted the winner at the Banks’s Stadium. Enjoy the rest of your weekend Robins fans and we’ll see you again on Tuesday night 💪— Cheltenham Town (@CTFCofficial) October 20, 2019
Buy tickets for the Macclesfield game online here ➡️ https://t.co/bF59vEOK6j #ctfc pic.twitter.com/hDlB52pgMA
Duff: Last year we lose against Walsall
After another win on the road, this time a 2-1 triumph over a League One side from last year in the shape of Walsall, the Robins boss reckons his side now have the quality to win games when not playing well.
He said: “When we are good, we are good, we know that. We can pass teams off the pitch and they can’t get near us. We didn’t do that today and we got sucked in a little bit, but I think last year we lose the game.
“We didn’t have the resilience and togetherness we have now. “
What is certain is that former Cheltenham player and captain Duff has turned the club around in his year in charge, and can thank his half-time team talk in the Macclesfield match for his great success since.