Cheltenham Town have had a rocky start to the campaign. How would you summarize the opening weeks of the season?
Very disappointing. Their best performance so far was for the Carabao Cup First Round against Colchester United where they were two-nil up and probably should have won the game in 90 minutes. Colchester hit back with two quick goals to take it to penalties, but The Robins deserved to win that one. The league form has been concerning and the most worrying thing has been the lack of ability to put the ball in the net; 25-goal forward Mo Eisa has gone to Bristol City and hasn’t been replaced. Cheltenham finished 17th with him last term but now they’ve lost their top man, everyone is worried about where the goals are going to come from.
Are there signs of encouragement that The Robins can turn their fortunes around?
In the first two games – Crawley Town at home and Tranmere Rovers away – they were lucky to only lose 1-0; goalkeeper Scott Flinders was man of the match in both of those games and it could have quite easily been two or three, maybe even four-nil. Against Carlisle United, Cheltenham went 1-0 down but did have a go in the second half. They created some decent chances and had couple cleared off the line. But again, I think Carlisle deserved to win the game because they had chances as well. The challenge for caretaker boss Russell Milton will be to work out what his best team is.
You mentioned the sale of Mohamed Eisa to Bristol City. Can you express how much the club are going to miss his goals this term?
He came in from Greenwich Borough on a one-year deal last summer on very low wages and they just gave him a chance to prove himself having come straight from Non-League. He scored on his debut on the opening day against Morecambe then found the net twice against Oxford United in the League Cup and he never really stopped from that point onwards. Eisa was the reason Cheltenham finished 17th and weren’t in a real relegation scrap last season – he was outstanding and by far their best player. Most fans understand that it was a good deal for the club but there’s real disappointment that nobody has been lined up as a replacement.
They tried to sign Danny Rowe from AFC Fylde in what would’ve been a club-record move, but Fylde wouldn’t accept £175,000 so now it looks like it is going to be a case of bringing someone in on loan. Cheltenham also lost Carl Winchester to Forest Green Rovers and Harry Pell to Colchester who were certainly the best players behind Eisa. Three important players have gone and, at the moment, it doesn’t look like they’ve been adequately replaced.
It’s been a while since the two clubs last met so what are you expecting from Brentford?
Cheltenham will certainly be expecting Brentford to be a lot better than the last time they crossed paths. They have a good league record against The Bees and I remember a couple of good wins, including a 2-0 win at Griffin Park in 2007, when Cheltenham were battling to stay up in League One. Brentford were always a bigger club, I’d say, but in those days I don’t think the clubs were too far apart on the pitch. Now people can see how much Brentford have progressed – they’ve established themselves as a Championship club and even had a push at promotion to the Premier League. I think they are a real example of what so-called ‘smaller clubs’ can achieve if they are run efficiently.
How are Cheltenham likely to set up at Griffin Park?
Every game so far they’ve played 4-4-2 so I don’t see that changing at the moment, but there is a chance they might put an extra man in midfield because it’s an away fixture against a team from a higher level. Another thing that will have an impact is who Cheltenham get in before the deadline, because they are still trying to bring in a striker on loan. They could switch to a 4-5-1 formation and add bodies in the middle, which could suit Cheltenham.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
Cheltenham have never reached the Third Round before and, as much as I’d like to see them progress, I think Brentford will take it seriously and be thoroughly professional. I love Griffin Park so I’m looking forward to the chance to report on a game there one more time. There’s no pressure on The Robins so I’ll go for a 2-1 Brentford win.
Interview conducted before Cheltenham's 1-0 victory at Cambridge United on Saturday.
For the full chat with Jon, an exclusive interview with Brentford ‘keeper Luke Daniels plus the thoughts of former Bees and Robins forward, Ben Burgess, pick up a copy of BEES tomorrow for the reduced price of £2.50.