“We have to stop ‘hoping’ we’re going to win games” – Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff after the 2-2 draw at AFC Wimbledon

Do you see this as a missed opportunity?

You can see it both ways as we went down 1-0, took the lead and ended up walking away from home unbeaten. You’ve usually almost always taken a point away from home, but there’s always a hint of disappointment when you’ve led the game.

Is it particularly disappointing considering how the goal arrived and how late it was?

Both goals were really poor but we need to do more in the second half. They had a shot and it deflected right into the boy’s path. They scored from a lucky corner ricochet that landed directly on their boy. That’s where we are a little bit in terms of luck. We take the lead and stop doing what we are doing. I said to the players: “Stop hoping that you will win a match”. In 12 games we have taken the lead nine times and a bad team does not take the lead in nine games. Stop hoping that you will win a match, respect what we ask you to do, take responsibility and everything will be fine. There were moments. We lose 1-0 and all of a sudden they start doing their job properly again. I don’t think it’s an accident that we end up regaining the lead. There was a 20-25 minute spell when we were good. In the second half we had to change shape and we had to do it several times because the traffic was one way. We have to do something as a staff because the inevitable is going to happen anyway. It ended up happening by a lucky ricochet, but it takes a positive, away from home we weren’t beaten by a rival. It’s another point on the board, another unbeaten game and yes, we don’t want draws and we’d rather win one, lose one, we get it. But the facts are that a really bad team doesn’t continue to take the lead in games, so it makes them understand why and how they took the lead and then trust each other to continue to do so, rather than just hoping the ref can whistle after 70 minutes because I’m pretty sure he won’t.

So do you see your team doing things differently once they’ve taken the lead?

Yes, you saw that today, second half. First half after the goal, we turned off the game switch. They want to switch the game on you. We stopped that, pinched the ball, I don’t know how many times in the right areas. In the second half, we didn’t turn off the switch once. They ended up having the right-back and the right-winger against the left-back and they changed him and it’s the same on the other side. People don’t do what we asked them to do in the first half and we asked them to do the same. It’s more a matter of belief than anything else.

A thing of belief in what sense?

Hoping they will win. It’s subconscious because I can’t question their desire. There are people who come out with blood and wounds and things like that, but we had that at the start of last season. We took the lead a lot last year and the players saw it. We’ve leveled up now, so that makes them believe there are good players. I just told them I don’t know why you keep looking down. Yes, we are in a relegation battle, but stop looking that way. Start looking the other way and start trying to pick teams, with the realism that we’re in a fight. Anyone here would have seen blood and thunder and wit and desire. It’s just adding some composure and quality within it.

Were all the changes tactical or were there injuries?

Kion Etete was feeling his back, but where we are at the moment we have to protect him. He hasn’t played much football, so going Saturday-Tuesday is tough. I thought Kion was good. It was protective. Reece Hutchinson had just received a yellow card. Ben Williams hadn’t played much football as we had hoped and he ended up making a stupid mistake at the last minute. He had just been booked and we had a replacement similar to Lewis Freestone. At that point, it looked like we weren’t going to come out back, so more of a back five, than 3-5-2, so it was that decision. Charlie Colkett arrived late to try and shore it up a bit as Callum Wright also looked a bit leggy.

You made a dedication last night to Jamie Soule. Tell us a bit about him

We don’t know how long Dan will be out. We have known Jamie for a long time. If you don’t know him and you’re from Cheltenham, you probably need to shoot. He’s more of a development signing because he’ll be in and around the first team, but is he expected to arrive and score 15 goals by the end of the season? No, but it’s an opportunity to watch someone who lives there. This is an opportunity for him to gain experience in the first team. It was really late last night and it ended up being a no-brainer in the end.

Any news on Charlie Brown’s scan?

Not yet, no. I focused on the game.

Is there any concern that Charlie and Dan Nlundulu might be out for a while?

Yes, there is always concern when players are injured. We had four subs today. It was only a week ago that we left three or four of the team. It’s a worry and a concern and every time someone falls your heart is in your mouth. But they all do the same job, they all want opportunities and they all think they’re good enough to get into the team. When they get the chance, they have to show that they are good enough. A week, a day, an hour in football is a long time. That of Jamie Soule arrived very late Monday evening. It shows that we are always searching and hoping for something to land because all it takes is one transfer to start a chain reaction. We have a week now and hopefully we can get some bodies back. I don’t expect much back, but they’ll be a week closer if they’re not back. Keep working hard, sticking to the processes that made us successful, and go from there.

Does signing Jamie Soule almost feel like an extended trial?

A little, but I don’t want to bring the boy down because he’s a good player. This is an opportunity for us to see him and he can look at us. Financially, it works. It is obvious. He is probably coming to an age now where he has to be in a first team environment, football at 23 is not good for him now. He got a loan and it didn’t really work out for him at Lincoln. But we played a rebound game a couple of years ago now and it was him and Callum Morton up front and they were both great. Callum threw. Jamie is a good player and he probably needs to learn things he won’t learn in football at 23 and this may be the first time in the last 12-18 months that he has struggling in his career. I know he was very well liked throughout. We can hope to give him an opportunity. I don’t like having six loans, but because of the injuries, that’s something we’re going to have to accept. Unfortunately, someone is going to have to miss out if they are all fit. We’re going to run this can down the line.

How close was Liam Sercombe to leaving for Bristol Rovers?

It wasn’t close at all. There was an investigation, but it was a symbolic gesture. It was a loan with a nominal contribution to his salary. It happens all the time. This has never been so close to happening.

How do you think Reece Hutchinson got his start?

It started off pretty badly to be honest. He looked nervous and like he just wanted to play at left-back. Once we asked Boylo (Will Boyle) to release him he entered the areas we wanted him to enter and that’s why we were able to get the press a little better because he jumped their rear, which means we can lock through the terrain. In the second half we didn’t, not just him but everybody and then you worry about how the game was going I didn’t want to go down to 10 men when the only person that I had on the bench was Lewis Freestone.

About Andrew Estofan

Check Also

The Crypto Crash is just the beginning

Sign up for Derek’s newsletter here. The US economy is not doing very well right …