Blues Host Cheltenham Looking to Further Close Gap on Top Six
Monday, 21st Feb 2022 16:09
The Blues host Cheltenham Town on Tuesday evening aiming to maintain their 100 per cent home record under Kieran McKenna and to further close the gap on the top six.
Saturday’s excellent 3-0 victory over Burton saw the Blues stay ninth but now only four points behind sixth-placed Wycombe, who played out a remarkable 5-5 draw with the Robins at Adams Park.
The Chairboys host second-placed Wigan Athletic on Tuesday, while seventh-placed Sunderland are at home to the Brewers and Sheffield Wednesday, who are eighth, won't be in action as their game at Fleetwood has been postponed due to damage to Highbury caused by the storms.
Town will stay ninth even if they beat the Robins with the Black Cats and Owls also four points above them.
“That’s some video to go through tomorrow. That’s going to be a fun Sunday,” Blues boss Kieran McKenna laughed when asked about the Wycombe-Cheltenham result at his post-match press conference on Saturday.
“I think it’s our first Saturday-Tuesday at home so we’re looking at the best routine in terms of recovery and preparation.
“Cheltenham’s coming round very quickly, there’s no bonus for the day having gone so well [against Burton], it’s just three points.
“The same three points are available on Tuesday, so however the game goes we want to make sure we’re on the right end of that result. It’s now preparation physically and mentally for Tuesday night.”
McKenna, who has won all four of his home games so far, will almost certainly stick with keeper Christian Walton, back three Janoi Donacien, Luke Woolfenden and George Edmundson, and wing-backs Wes Burns and Dominic Thompson.
Similarly, he’s unlikely to change his central midfield pairing, skipper Sam Morsy and Lee Evans unless the knee problem suffered late on on Saturday by the Welshman is more serious than McKenna suggested after the game, in which case Tyreeq Bakinson will return to the side.
McKenna has however tended to switch around his front three so could bring Macauley Bonne back as his central striker with Kayden Jackson probably keeping his place after his goal and two assists at the weekend, while Bersant Celina or Conor Chaplin could come in for Sone Aluko.
Cheltenham assistant boss Russell Milton says Saturday’s 10-goal thriller, in which striker Alfie May scored four times, showed both the grit and ability in the squad.
“It was a game like not many of us have been involved in before,” he told GloucestershireLive. At the end of the day, it’s a point and a good one away at Wycombe. But the way it unfolded is not something you normally come across.
“We were pleased with the spirit the lads showed. We took the lead early and then went 3-1 down and we looked a little bit lost at half-time.
“For the lads to change it around and come back twice from two goals behind was great testament to the spirit and quality of the boys.
“That was the overriding factor. If you wanted to go into the game itself and the goals, you could be here forever. The spirit the lads showed was first class.”
Looking ahead to the visit to Portman Road, Milton added: “We’ve had a look at the squad this morning. You have to come down from Saturday, put that one to bed and the next challenge is Ipswich, who are a very good team.
“We were fortunate enough to get by them at home, when we won. They are on a really good run of form at the minute and at home they are a real test.
“We are going to have to play well. It’s a totally opposite test to Saturday, in terms of the actual game.
“They have a number of good players, who they can chop and change. We have to go there and give a good, disciplined account of ourselves and take it from there really.
“The boys will be ready, so it’s how the 90 minutes dictates and how you deal with what’s thrown at you.”
Milton says there are one or two injury concerns from the weekend who will be assessed but that Sean Long is available again but Gavin Crowe is not yet ready to make a return and midfielder Conor Thomas, Charlie Brown, Dan Nlundulu, George Lloyd and Ellis Chapman all remain sidelined.
Cheltenham are unbeaten in their last five, Saturday’s draw at Wycombe having been preceded by home victories over Sunderland, 2-1, and Fleetwood, 2-0, their only wins in their last 15 matches with eight of those games having ended in draws.
Away from home the Robins have won two, drawn seven and lost six in League One this season with the most recent of those victories a 2-0 success at Gillingham in November.
The game between the teams at Whaddon Road in August was their first meeting in the EFL.
Cheltenham came from a goal behind at half-time to beat Town 2-1, their first ever victory over the Blues.
Matt Penney’s brilliant first goal for the club gave Town the lead on nine and Macauley Bonne had a golden chance to make it should 2-0 during a dominant spell following the goal.
However, Cheltenham were the better side in the second half and goals from Callum Wright and Will Boyle sealed a first League One win of the season for the Robins.
The clubs' only previous competitive fixtures were in the Southern League in the Blues’ first two seasons as a professional club in which they achieved four wins out of four.
In 1936/37 Town won 3-1 at Whaddon Road and 3-0 in Suffolk. The following year, the Blues were 3-1 victors at home in the most recent Portman Road meeting between the sides and 2-1 winners away.
Blues wing-back Burns had a stint on loan with the Gloucestershire club in the second half of 2014/15, scoring four goals in 14 matches.
Centre-half Cameron Burgess made 17 starts for the Robins during a loan spell there during the second half of the following campaign.
Former Town academy striker Charlie Brown joined Cheltenham in the summer from the MK Dons. Brown left the Blues to move to Chelsea’s youth set-up aged 16 in July 2016 having already broken into the U23s.
Tuesday’s referee is Andy Davies from Hampshire, who has shown 67 yellow cards and two red in 25 games so far this season.
Davies’s last Town match was the 1-1 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday in September in which he booked Idris El Mizouni and Scott Fraser.
Prior to that the most recent of Davies's many Blues games was the 3-1 win at Southend in October 2019 in which he booked Jackson, Flynn Downes and two Shrimpers.
Before that he was in charge of the 2-0 defeat at Brentford in April of the same year when he booked Toto Nsiala and one home player.
Squad from: Walton, Hladky, Donacien, Edmundson, Woolfenden, Burgess, Burns, Vincent-Young, Thompson, Penney, Evans, Morsy, El Mizouni, Carroll, Bakinson, Celina, Aluko, Chaplin, Bonne, Norwood, Pigott, Jackson.
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