It was a case of “1K but not OK” as Cheltenham Town’s 1,000th League game became a 3-0 let-down at Lincoln on Easter Monday.
The Robins wrapped up the bank holiday break with the disappointing defeat after scraping a 2-2 Good Friday draw with Gillingham.
Manager Michael Duff personally apologised to the away fans after the defeat in Lincoln, which he admitted was a poor display for the 209 supporters who made the 256-mile round trip to the LNER Stadium.
Town were 3-0 down by half-time and offered no response in the second half.
“we were nowhere near good enough. I’ve had to apologise to the supporters, who have come a long way on a bank holiday weekend.
“Not good enough,” he repeated. “It’s not been down to us very often, so you have to be careful because they have been lauded last week for breaking records and things like that. It just reinforces the point that we are not a team that can just turn up, enjoy the sun and pass it around. We have to be at full intensity in everything we do. We didn’t win any first contacts today, and they had players running past our players, so it was a really disappointing afternoon.
“We got better in the last 20 minutes, but they were 3-0 up at that point. It would have been interesting if Kion Etete had scored when he went round the keeper, but it summed up the day – an open goal and he hits the post. The last 20 minutes might have been slightly different at that point. We tried something different, but we have played every formation in football today.
“Ultimately formations aren’t enough, if players don’t have the intensity to run and a mindset of being dogged and hard to beat. That’s what we’ve been all season and why they’ve been told how great they are all season.
“Sometimes they need to recognise, we haven’t been poor on many occasions this season, but unfortunately today was one of them.
“We had four centre midfielders who can all pass the ball, but none of them got on the ball. We had full-backs who didn’t defend one-vs-one, centre halves weren’t winning first contacts, centre forwards weren’t getting hold of the ball. We changed the formation before the third goal went in. We’ll have a look at it as a staff, and this isn’t me putting it all on the players. We might have got it wrong. It’s hard for me to reflect now because the
overriding emotion is disappointment because of the scoreline. There needs to be a measured approach to it as well, rather than an emotional decision where I just say ‘all the players are rubbish’, because I don’t believe they are.”
In the draw with Gillingham, Cheltenham reached their record points tally for a League One
campaign. After that match Duff praised his side but admitted the players hadn’t
reached the personal targets they’d set.
Duff continued: “Yes, the points total wasn’t one of the things they wanted to achieve. That only came on the radar in the last week or two because I don’t think any of them knew about it. The players wanted to do something and they still have a chance of doing it, so there is definitely a drive. There was a lack of quality today, but you can’t question the application and the determination.
There were some pockets of really good football, and then some poor decision making. They are still showing they want to push and that’s how they work.”
The Robins sit 13th in the table with two matches remaining and Duff wants his side to keep going until the end of this successful season.
“We are 13th in the league. I don’t know how we are still 13th, but we are. You have to be careful of overreacting; we’ve said they’ve been great for the last couple of weeks because they’ve deserved it. There is an honesty within the group and they know what’s not acceptable. They are playing a very good team next week in Bolton and Cambridge are having a brilliant season, similar to ourselves. We’ll try and get them together and get a reaction out of them, whatever team plays.”