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“We’ve had league games this season where we’ve not had to play as well as that.”: Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff praises FA Cup opponents ahead of second-round draw.

Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff was impressed with his opponents and a number of his players in his sides 3-1 victory over South Shields in the FA Cup first round.

Cheltenham will be in the hat for the second round draw of the FA Cup after their first-round victory against National League Northern Premier Division side, South Shields.

A brace from Alfie May either side of a Darius Osei goal for the visitors was topped off with long-range strike from Liam Sercombe to guarantee victory for the Robins, and it was May who impressed amongst others for the Cheltenham boss.

“I don’t care who scores goals, but he will be pleased with that,” said Duff.

“Obviously he’s been played slightly out of position for the last two games. We know what Alfie [May] is, he wasn’t quite right at the start of the season, not sure why that is, but he looked a lot more like himself today. Infectious, getting around like a bit of a wasp and he took his two goals well.”

Cheltenham Town Manager Michael Duff

Another player that caught the eye of the Robins’ manager was 19-year-old midfielder, Ellis Chapman.

Chapman arrived at Whaddon Road in the summer transfer window from Lincoln City and made his debut in the 3-1 win.

“I thought he was excellent, he came in and he showed me what we want. He’s got to work on his other side of the game, but there’s no doubt he can play.

“He gives us good balance, he can run, he can land on things, he takes the ball inside areas, his weight of pass is excellent. He’ll need to learn though, first half their two chances came from Connor [Thomas] and Ellis losing tackles, they need to be more combated in things like that.

“He’s 19 years old and he looks older than he is but as far as full debut’s go that’s as good as it gets.”

“He balances us out nicely. He’s one that we identified, we think he’s got resale value in terms of his age, we think he can go on but first and foremost he has to get into our team and deliver week in week out.”

Michael Duff

Another player who caught the eye of the boss was central defender, Lewis Freestone.

The 21-year-old signed on a free transfer after a season with Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion’s development team.

The defender came through the youth ranks at Peterborough United and had only made a couple of small cameos for Cheltenham so far this season, however Duff was impressed with the defender on his return to action.

“I thought he had done alright, Lewis. He came off with cramp and were playing again on Tuesday so that’s why we’d taken him off because we want to get as many minutes into them as we can.

“We know what Lewis is, he doesn’t have to come in and try to impress us because he did that in pre-season. He was unlucky not to start the season, the reason he didn’t start this season was that he cut his foot in the Newport game. I thought he delivered a solid performance.”

Michael Duff

The opponents, South Shields, currently sit in sixth place in the National League Northern Premier Division, and it was the first time in their history they had made the first round of the FA Cup.

Duff was impressed with their style of football and was full of praise for the Mariners.

“I thought they were excellent. We watched bits and bobs from their league games, and they have 70-75% of the ball because they are way too good for their league. We knew they wouldn’t play like that because we were pretty confident, they wouldn’t have 75% of the ball.

“They deserve all the credit and quite rightly so. They’re much better than their league. We’ve had league games this season where we’ve not had to play as well as that. The football they played, they changed shape and they played football, caused us different problems, so fair play to them.”

Michael Duff

Cheltenham are in EFL Trophy action on Tuesday night as they host Norwich City academy. Both sides sit joint top of their group with two wins from two each, however Norwich are currently sitting in top-spot with a superior goal difference.

There is £8,000 up for grabs on Tuesday night with the Robins already having banked £16,000 from the competition, and the money available is something that the staff and players are taking into consideration due to the current circumstances due to Covid-19.


“Every penny counts, we have nothing coming in so if that’s one of the only ways of getting money in. The players are aware of it as well, we had that conversation. Normally we wouldn’t talk about that side of it but it is where the club are at. It’s important, there’s no point in hiding away, the club needs every penny it can get.”

Michael Duff

Goalkeeper Josh Griffiths is set to miss a couple of days with Cheltenham Town and potentially a game after his call up to the England Under-20 training camp.

The ‘keeper is set to leave for the training-camp after the match against Norwich’s academy, which gives Duff a selection dilemma ahead of the weekend game against Carlisle.

“I’m not 100% sure, I think he might miss the Carlisle game. I don’t know the in’s and out’s of it, it was the South Shields game and Tuesday to get out the way first so I genuinely don’t know.

“Scott [Flinders] trained again yesterday. Scott comes into it, Max [Harris] is also training so we pick whoever we think is right for the game.”

Michael Duff

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