It’s one of those age old classic scenarios of “well we would have taken a point before the game” this afternoon as we reflect on a dropped two goal lead at the club placed in second before proceedings began at Whaddon Road. The fact that Mark Yates has moulded an excellent squad with nowhere near the budget of many of their League Two rivals, ourselves included, should usually make this an excellent point in the grand scheme of things but the way in which that last gasp goal went in could have long term repercussions in terms of deflation for the Cobblers troops.
Deep into stoppage time we were clinging on for dear life having taken a 2-0 lead into the break thanks to a combination of Brett Williams and Ben Tozer and a twelfth of the season for serial Cheltenham irritator Bayo Akinfenwa. The fact that we were stunned to be clear in front at Whaddon Road shows how big a gulf there has become between the clubs but there were plenty of murmurings that it was by no means over given the Cobblers’ history of throwing away leads.
Indeed one of the more famous games between the sides saw us throw away a 3-1 lead back in 2003 to lose 4-3 thanks to two stoppage time goals for the Rubies so there was no signs at all of any pigeons being counted with forty five massive minutes to go.
It was almost inevitable, then, that a seemingly debatable penalty was given against John Johnson for a handball with twenty minutes to go and Darryl Duffy, who scored his first Cheltenham goal at Sixfields earlier in the season from the spot, converted.
The siege was on now and the tide was with the hosts. Duffy spurned a good chance to level but it looked like we’d made it. Even four minutes of stoppage time going up on the board didn’t seem to be preventing three huge points, particularly with relegation rivals Hereford and Dagenham both leading.
Then it came three minutes into those four added on when a defensive error let in Duffy for the equaliser. Hearts of Cobblers fans sank around the country and in the away end at Whaddon Road as two points slipped painfully away from our grasp. It was absolute agony and the implications of such a bullet to the hearts of us all could be huge.
It’s going to be tough to pick ourselves up for Tuesday night’s visit of Bristol Rovers but with Aldershot to also visit Sixfields on Saturday and a beyond vital match at Dagenham in ten days there’s still hope that the coming days will see this become the excellent point it should be rather than it feeling like a defeat.
You have to hand it to Cheltenham for fighting back and continuing to prove a lot of people, me included, wrong in terms of forecasted promotion candidates. They will be feeling ever more confident and offer a real underdog story to the League Two promotion story. Good luck to them.
For us, it’s another nervy midweek with Rovers the visitors on Tuesday. Aside that will be interest in Macclesfield v Hereford, Gillingham v Barnet, Bradford v Accrington, Wimbledon v Plymouth and Swindon v Dagenham. Who needs the Champions League?!