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Mixed Easter weekend results for Cheltenham Town

Cheltenham Town lost 2-1 to Exeter City in front of over 5,600 fans at Whaddon Road.
The Robins took the lead through Ben Williams, but a late handball from Lewis Freestone in the box gave Exeter a chance to score the winner from the penalty spot, which they did with just one minute of time to play.

Cheltenham will feel hard done by after the loss, seeing them denied a penalty on multiple occasions. Jordan Thomas was booked for simulation as he was brought down, and Liam Kinsella may have a sore head after he won the ball then was clattered into, again with no sympathy from the referee.

Joe Nuttall had a positive game upfront, winning key headers and showing what Darrell Clarke saw in him, but it’s another game with no points picked up for Clarke’s side.
The game was such a contrast from a controlling display away to Fleetwood Town on Good Friday. There, Aidan Keena broke his duck to get off the scoreboard with a winning goal, and the deserving Robins brought three points back with them to Cheltenham.
Defeat to Exeter was not the follow up that Clarke would have wanted. After a poor first half display, the effort in the second 45 minutes was clear to see from every player on the pitch.

After the game, Clarke spoke about his disappointment at the officiating. He said: “I am not going to say a lot about the officials, but I’ve let my feelings be known on his performance. It’s just not acceptable to put in a performance like that. Very, very disappointed for my boys. It was a good response in the second half. We changed things tactically and looked a much better team in the second half and we are disappointed to come away from the game with nothing.

“What can the lad do if the ball is blasted against him from three yards away? Lewis (Freestone) is adamant it hit him in the chest as well and he’s three yards away, full pelt. It’s a ridiculous decision and I don’t get it; I don’t understand it. We are then questioning two or three decisions when we thought we could have had a penalty and he’s waved them away. We’ll see. There is nothing we can do, but we’ll probably get another apology like we did after Bolton and Derby. It means nothing because it’s not a point, or the three points we needed.”

The frustrating afternoon for the Robins does not help with the survival push.
The club sit two points into the relegation zone with seven matches left to play, showing that this battle is going right down to the final few games.
Play against Exeter was a game of two halves, a change at half time really spurring the team on, and Clarke once again showed his quality as a manager.

He continued: “When we scored the goal, we had impetus, getting Jordan (Thomas) on the ball, he was making things hard for them. We were getting a higher press; the press was a lot better in the second half. We looked on the front foot. Disappointed to give away a cheap goal, for me, the equaliser, and then we all know what happened with the second one.”

The Cheltenham squad is carrying a number of injuries and players are coming back into the squad that haven’t been involved for a long time.
James Olyinka came off the bench, and Joe Nuttall who hasn’t played a full 90 minutes, played his first whole match for the Robins. Clarke was pleased with both of their performances and highlighted the need for them to perform when called upon.

Clarke said: “He did alright, Links (Olyinka). He’s training well. I’ve had a couple of serious conversations with him this season and I’ve said to him all along, the door is never closed for players. He’s in the building, working hard and training hard and I’ve had a good response from him. The players who came on today, who have been squad players, we are down to the bare bones a little bit and they are coming on to make a massive impact, so it’s about the squad, the group, and we’ll keep going.

“Joe Nuttall can put himself about. He hit the crossbar. He’s had a couple of half chances. We’ll keep working with what we’ve got. We are a little bit depleted in the centre forward area at the minute, but Joe has come in, trained hard. Keeno (Aidan Keena) has hit the back of the net, so it gives us one or two options and we have some wide players who can come on and change it if I need to change the system.”
Games come thick and fast now for Cheltenham, seven chances to keep them in the division; it’s a task that won’t be easy, but the team have given themselves every chance especially after such a tough start to the season.



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