Football: Cheltenham closing in on championship

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JUST TWO more wins from their remaining five Nationwide Conference fixtures will secure the championship for Cheltenham Town and guarantee promotion to the Football League.

While Cheltenham were beating Kingstonian 1-0 at home on Tuesday, thanks to Neil Grayson's first-half penalty, their title rivals Rushden & Diamonds were losing 2-1 to Yeovil Town at Nene Park. Warren Patmore and Dave Piper gave the visitors a 2-0 interval lead, Rushden's only reply was a late goal from Colin West.

That was a crucial victory for Yeovil, because it maintained their outside chance of snatching the title should Cheltenham suffer a collapse in form. Hayes are also fringe contenders, following their 1-0 home win over Hednesford Town on Tuesday, earned by Lee Charles' 17th Conference goal of the season.

Kettering Town occupy second place in the table, five points behind the Robins, with only two games left to play. Hayes are in third place, behind Kettering on goal difference, and they have three remaining fixtures. Rushden are fourth, two points further adrift with four to play, while fifth-placed Yeovil are four points behind Rushden with six matches left.

Cheltenham entertain their Gloucestershire rivals Forest Green Rovers next Tuesday and then they have another home game against Yeovil two days later. Six points will mean a party at Whaddon Road that could keep half the county awake. Two defeats, though, will mean that Yeovil, Rushden and Hayes (who are at home to Cheltenham tomorrow week) will begin to fancy their chances again.

In tomorrow's FA Umbro Trophy semi-final second leg at Whaddon Road, Cheltenham meet Kingstonian for the third time in eight days. The first leg at Kingsmeadow last weekend was drawn 2-2.

The other second leg takes place on Sunday lunchtime at The Lawn, Nailsworth, where Forest Green will be hoping to make sure that at least one Gloucestershire club reaches the final on 15 May. They drew 1-1 in the first leg away to the Ryman League outfit, St Albans City, last Saturday.