As I Seen It - Cheltenham (a)

Cheltenham Town 1Pools 0

League 2  Saturday August 30th 2014

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at Whaddon Road

A new season, a bad start, a bit of controversy with the transfer window, a surprise away win, and then my first game of the season.

I varied my usual trip to Cheltenham by using the Park and Ride rather than the increasingly more difficult search for street parking – and it was free – parking AND bus.

The Park and Ride car park is actually at one of Cheltenham's more famous locations, the Racecourse, which attracts half of Ireland's population to these parts every March. I arrived just before 2 and had done the trip in only 45 minutes -and the bus was there waiting. I expected to queue but the bus left very sparsely laden, and the driver told me the club were looking at whether to continue with it. So that'll be gone for next season then.

Arriving at the ground I looked in vain for something that was different since our last visit, so decided to walk into the town and have a pint at the Sudeley Arms, as per previous pactice. But looking through its windows there didn't seem to be any Poolies (not many people in fact) so I walked around and spotted the birthplace of Gustav Holst, composer of the well-known Planets Suite (and nothing else even moderately known). I'd been round Welsh poet Dylan Thomas's house a couple of weeks before, so having already filled my quota of celebrity house tours for August, I decided not to bother, and to go back to Whaddon Road ins>

Once in the ground, I had a £2 coffee, and reflected that a pint in the Sudeley Arms might have been better value than half a pint of coffee in the away end at Whaddon Road.

Pools were warming up as I took my seat and I noted that they were wearing blue socks and shorts, so I wouldn't be seeing the infamous pink strip, and after his recent problems, it was nice to see Luke back in the squad.

With it being my first match of the season, there were new faces to identify, although two of them were also old faces. And with Walker now rising towards Peter Crouch proportions, he seemed like an old face on a new body at first."fluorescent boots were much in evidence ...but mercifully those colour-coded pairs we saw in the World Cup would seem to be too daring for League Two."

I met up with my old pub-quiz mates, Whisky and Mick, who had organised a pub outing and brought a coachload of 25 the 15 miles from Evesham to swell the sparse Poolie ranks.

When the players lined up, fluorescent boots were much in evidence (mostly on Pools' side, with Bates, Wyke, Marlon and Tommy being the culprits) but mercifully those colour-coded pairs we saw in the World Cup would seem to be too daring for League Two.

Considering it was still only August, the pitch was surprisingly cut up in the corner near me.

The match began and it was a fairly even but scrappy affair with wingers doing nice things at times but to no effect, strikers who weren't achieving much, defences which were coping, and goalkeepers with little to do.

There was a female ref's assistant running the line near to us Poolies who, in heated moments, was being referred to as “linesman” by some Poolies - old habits die hard. And when a dubious offside decision went against Pools, the whole away end turned on the flag lady. The old “stay in the kitchen”, “shopping on Saturday afternoons”, “teach you the offside rule” taunts came out but she coped well with it all.

Marlon tried an overhead kick that wasn't too close to the target - he was actually stringing odd passes together, although they were outnumbered by the bad ones, and Wyke was trying but had little service from midfield. Towards half time Cheltenham ramped it up and it looked like the pressure might pay, with them hitting the post, but the half ended with Pools still in the game.

The second half was more like the end of the first with Pools being slightly battered, but holding on. Flinders made a few decent saves and one outstanding one, when he deflected a shot out via the crossbar.

Cheltenham ballooned a couple of chances over Pools goal, and the stand and the trees behind that. Then Marlon had a difference of opinion with the ref, costing him a booking. He was subsequently replaced by the lively Woods, who seems to me to be another “chase all day” player like Luke.

Then towards the end it was looking as though both sides would settle for a draw, which for Pools would have been a good result. Unfortunately Cheltenham spoiled things by scoring in the 90th minute with a good ball right into the top corner, which Flinders had no chance with, although he made a fair attempt. This left Cooper desperately trying to send in the cavalry, in the shape of James and Compton, to come to their rescue. Sadly, two minutes isn't a lot, even for Luke, even though he did give it a go, creating a chance that nobody took.

The players: Flinders did well and the result could have been worse with another keeper. Duckworth and Austin were both ok. Sam is still a rock, but Bates less so. Tommy was competent without creating much, and Walker seems to be continuing in the little-boy-lost mode he was in a few months back, except that he's now more a big-boy-lost.

Brobbel had a fair few good runs up the wings and was always trying, and Franks did a few less runs and was a bit more anonymous. Up front Wyke tried but needs a more industrious partner than Marlon. I'm afraid that while Marlon has undoubtedly improved in comparison to last season, he's still not very good. And as for James and Compton, they were brought on for one thing only and they failed to do it. Shocking!

When at the end the players clapped the away fans, I was looking for any signs that Luke knew he was leaving but didn't see any.

Last week at Wimbledon was a blip. Normal service was then resumed as soon as possible.