Opposition view: Duff staying cautious as penalty 'gamble' pays off

Michael Duff.Michael Duff.
Michael Duff.
Robins take a two-goal lead back to Whaddon Road

Cheltenham manager Michael Duff is not getting ahead of himself following his side's 2-0 victory over Northampton in the play-off semi-final first leg on Thursday.

A first-half header from Charlie Raglan and a late strike by Conor Thomas handed the Robins a priceless two-goal lead to take back to Whaddon Road.

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"You'd always take a 2-0 away from home, in any game, so to come to a tough team like Northampton and show the resilience we did, the lads were magnificent," said Duff.

"I'm not sure how many times they put the ball in the box but it went in a lot and we stood up to be counted and I thought we were excellent in the way we went about it.

"We didn't play as much good football as we'd have liked - we did it in pockets - but that's credit to Northampton because they break the game up and it's hard to get into any sort of rhythm or flow.

"But no one can say we're just a nice, pretty team because we do roll our sleeves up and we've got defenders who want to head it. I'm really happy with the shape of the team and the organisation and the mentality."

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The game's key moment came just 17 minutes in when Owen Evans pulled off a fine penalty stop to deny Ryan Watson.

"Owen stepped up for us at a big moment in the game and he did his job and then we went down the other end and scored from a set-piece of our own," added Duff. "That was crucial.

"Any penalty save is a good save but we did a little bit of homework and we took a bit of a gamble to make a decision and it was a good save.

"It wasn't a bad penalty - it was down quite low - and I think it gave the lads a bit of a boost and there's no doubt it was a big moment in the game."

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Duff was also impressed by his side's fitness, adding: "I've got to add in the physicality as well because we've only had 12 training sessions and the first four were all under the social distancing rules so it's a credit to the players for the way they looked after themselves during lockdown.

"The most that any player has played in this mini pre-season is 60 minutes so that shows the professionalism and the trust they've got in each other and that can be a powerful thing.

"Everyone knew what was coming from Northampton but you've got to stand up and be counted. I was happy to take 1-0 towards the end but the second goal was a good goal so I'm delighted."