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Michael Duff on how a successful January transfer window has helped transform Cheltenham Town’s form

Image courtesy of Cheltenham Town

Cheltenham Town boss Michael Duff believes the success of the January transfer window has helped lift the Robins clear of the relegation mire.

Dan Crowley, Kyle Vassell and Chris Hussey left the Jonny-Rocks Stadium in January, while loanees Taylor Perry, Christian Norton and Kyle Joseph returned to their parent clubs.

Duff selected astute replacements – bolstering his attack with Charlie Brown, Dan Nlundulu, Jamie Soule and Kion Etete.

Aaron Ramsey and Charlie Colkett have helped increase options in the heart of midfield, while Elliot Bonds’ rise to form has proven a valuable asset.

But perhaps the signing with the most pressure on his shoulders was left-wing back Ben Williams. He was tasked with filling the shoes of Hussey, and despite being dismissed on his debut against Wigan Athletic in January, Ben Williams has recovered to become a regular starter.

“He sort of had a look at how we worked in the first two or three weeks because that’s what I prefer to do,” Duff reveals.

“I want them to understand what they want to do exactly rather than just throwing them in and hoping they know.

“He gives us physicality, he’s got a good delivery and a great engine. We’ve been really pleased with him [Ben Williams] but as a general rule, I thought the business in January was good.

“Getting people off the wage bill and bringing in younger players seems to have worked because the form since January has been good.”

The Robins have also become more of a ruthless force in front of goal- largely helped by Alfie May being at the peak of his powers. Duff described his contract extension in January as the “best piece of business” in the transfer window.

May was named League One Player of the Month for February after scoring eight goals in six games. But Duff reiterates that attacking reinforcements such as Nlundulu and Etete have been crucial to helping May.

Cheltenham have scored 20 goals in their last nine games but are facing a precarious injury list in attack. Nlundulu and Etete are unavailable, while Brown is yet to start since switching from MK Dons in January.

Veteran forward Andy Williams, who partnered May when Cheltenham lifted the League Two title last year, started in their latest 3-1 victory at Morecambe.

Williams is also expected to start AFC Wimbledon’s visit to Whaddon Road on Saturday and Duff

“Willo [Andy Williams] has been excellent,” Duff declares. “For a senior player to watch younger lads come in and watch them do well. He’s always ready and I think Saturday proves that he looks after himself and he’s always ready for his opportunity.”

Although Duff is not one to rest on his laurels, he expects one victory to realistically see them safe in League One.

The Robins are 13 points clear of the bottom four and a victory over Wimbledon will send Cheltenham onto 50 points, a yardstick Duff had previously set for surviving relegation.

But Duff warns that the Robins must play better than their two previous meetings against Wimbledon if they are to register three points.

“We want to finish as high as we can,” Duff says. “We want to get mathematically safe so 50 points would be a big marker.

“When you’re getting down to single figures for the amount of games left – it becomes a proper countdown.

“It’s so hard for the teams in the bottom half to win consistently because the league is split in two. So it’s hard to go on a run because your always going to come up against one of the big teams.

“I think Wimbledon have been better than us in the two games we’ve played against them. We know we need to be better, but if we can get one more win then that will probably be enough for this year.”

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