Match Preview – Cheltenham Town (H)

Bath City will begin their pre-season friendlies this Tuesday 9 July against Cheltenham Town (KO 7.45pm).

The Robins side head to Twerton Park ahead of their new season in League Two.

Cheltenham were relegated last term, largely paying for a record-breaking poor start.

They failed to score in their opening 11 league games of the season, an all-time EFL record, before Rob Street’s goal earned them a shock 1-1 draw with Derby County on 7 October.

It was only their second point of the campaign until then – the other was secured against eventual champions Portsmouth – who were joined by runners-up Derby.

In their first 13 games in all competitions, their only goal was an own goal in a EFL Trophy defeat at Bristol Rovers.

This horrendous run cost Head Coach Wade Elliott his job. He was replaced by Darrell Clarke, who nearly led the Robins to a remarkable recovery.

With just two points from their first 12 matches, Cheltenham went into the final game at Stevenage knowing that a victory would keep them up if Burton Albion or Cambridge United failed to win.

While Burton Albion lost at already-relegated Fleetwood Town, Cheltenham lost 2-1 and returned to League Two after three years in the third tier.

Clarke’s impact caught the eye of Barnsley, and he departed the Robins in May, the second Cheltenham manager to leave the club for Oakwell in three years after Michael Duff’s move in 2022.

One of Clarke’s signings in the January transfer window was Jordan Thomas from Bath City. The midfielder made 14 appearances, 12 from the bench, and will remain with the Gloucestershire club this season. He starred in the first half of the season for the Romans to earn him a first move to the EFL.

Another former Roman, Luke Southwood, departed in May after rejecting a new contract. The goalkeeper was an ever-present in the league for City in 2017/18 and replicated that for Cheltenham last term, only missing the final hour or so in the final day loss at Stevenage after being carried off injured. He’s since moved on to Bolton Wanderers.

Bath City manager Jerry Gill made 209 appearances in all competitions for Cheltenham Town between 2003-2008, earning promotion to League One in 2006.

He figured against City in a pre-season friendly for the Robins in 2007, part of a side which won 4-0 at Twerton Park.

Fifteen years later he was in the dugout for City’s 0-0 draw with Cheltenham. The friendly took place exactly two years before Tuesday’s meeting.

Cheltenham get their league campaign underway on Saturday 10 August at home to Newport County, before travelling to Championship side Plymouth Argyle in the Carabao Cup three days later – a tough tie, especially for a side who failed to progress any rounds in cup competitions last season. They’ll have a warm-up against Wayne Rooney’s team in pre-season too.

Town’s new manager is Michael Flynn, his fourth job in management after spells at Newport County, Walsall and Swindon Town. He got off to a winning start on Friday with a comprehensive 7-1 success at Bishops Cleeve.

Flynn has added Joe Day to his staff. The goalkeeper spent most of last season on loan at Yeovil Town and played under Flynn at Newport. He could be second choice to Owen Evans with Max Harris, an ex-City stopper, linked with a move to Swindon.

Cheltenham’s new signings include Arkell Jude-Boyd from QPR. The attack-minded full-back featured at Twerton in April on loan for Torquay United and has been reunited with Aaron Downes, then-interim manager for the Devon club. City’s final home match of last season was against the Gulls, a 1-0 win thanks to Elliott Frear’s goal.

Downes will now assist Flynn and replace outgoing coach Russell Milton.

The former midfielder had three spells as caretaker manager at Town, who he also represented over 100 times, but has left after 14 years as part of the coaching setup.

Milton also made 51 appearances for Bath City between 2003-2005, which included a stint as assistant manager to Gary Owers.

The present day Romans should welcome three new faces in Nick Grimes, Sol Wanjau-Smith and Latrell Humphrey-Ewers on Tuesday. Goalkeeper Harvey Wiles-Richards has also returned to the club four years after departing for Bristol City.

This is the first of five home friendlies for Gill’s side, the remaining four take place on successive Saturdays across July and August.

Tickets for this first pre-season friendly are available here. Discounts for purchasing before 23.45pm on Monday 8 July.

Come along and watch City for the first time this summer!