Football: Cotterill lost in unknown territory

The debutants: Cheltenham Town

Cheltenham Town 0

Rochdale 2

Atkinson 26, Ford 42

Half-time: 0-2 Attendance: 5,189

THE EDITOR of the match programme, Paul Godfrey, summed it all up. "Well, here we are, Cheltenham Town in the Football League. Who'd have thought it?"

Who indeed? The journey has taken the Gloucestershire club 107 years but yesterday they finally arrived. Unfashionable Rochdale may have been the first visitors to the refurbished Whaddon Road but it did not matter. New executive boxes, a players' tunnel and dugouts, CCTV and a computer system were all ready - but were the team?

Having finished second in the Conference in 1998, the Robins went one better to win the title by four clear points last season - but how would they handle the transition to full-time football?

The obligatory police dog stood guard as Rochdale and their supporters arrived about 90 minutes before kick-off looking relaxed and confident. "We're delighted to be part of this really special day for the people of Cheltenham but we'll be doing our best to spoil the party," said Steve Parkin, the new Dale manager with six out of seven pre-season friendly wins under his belt. His confident words proved prophetic.

By half-time the "Good Vibrations" provided by the Beach Boys, among others, during the pre-match entertainment had been well and truly replaced by bad vibes as Rochdale settled into their stride.

There were no immediate signs of Cheltenham being overawed but, as the match wore on, the visitors started to threaten with David Flitcroft and Jason Peake dominating midfield.

Graham Atkinson forced Steve Book into an early sprawling save, Andy Morris then connected well with a shot which nestled nicely into the keeper's midriff and Rochdale's assistant manager, the evergreen Tony Ford, in his 969th first-team appearance, shot just wide after an intricate passing movement.

The inevitable breakthrough arrived in the 26th minute when Morris sent Graham Lancashire clear on the right and Atkinson rifled home his cross from just inside the area.

It might have been worse for the new boys. Ten minutes before half-time a tapped free-kick led to Atkinson hitting a post. As it was, Atkinson skinned Anthony Griffen down the Rochdale left to cross for Ford to head home the second three minutes before the break.

In first-half injury time Cheltenham nearly fought their way back into the game. A fine run by Jamie Victory set up Neil Grayson but he shot wide when well placed. Cheltenham's main problem was making their extra man in midfield count which meant Grayson and Dale Watkins struggled to receive any sort of service.

After the break Cheltenham's manager Steve Cotterill reverted to a flat back four and midfield parity seemed to suit his team better. But there was precious little to entertain the 5,000 crowd until midway through the second half. Play was held up as a lone Rochdale streaker stole the show for a couple of minutes before the regulation policeman's helmet prevented further public embarrassment.

Rochdale seemed happy with the lead and, although Hugh McCauley's introduction spiced up the Cheltenham attack, that elusive first league goal just wouldn't come.

Cotterill said: "It's been a good education for the lads and myself - we have just got to carry on from here: one down, 45 to go. We are very much into unknown territory - this is only the second Third Division match I've watched. We will have to learn game by game. Some of our players will swim, others will sink."

A great day out, shame about the result.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones