Cheltenham have had a difficult start to the season and manager Gary Johnson paid for it with his job, when he was sacked last Tuesday.
The Robins, who regained their Football League place under Johnson in 2016 after one season back in the Conference, finished 21st and 17th in the past two campaigns.
They started this season by failing to find the net in three straight defeats – losing 1-0 three times, at home to Crawley, at Tranmere and against Carlisle.
Although they found the net late on to rescue their first point in a 1-1 draw at Macclesfield, it was not enough to save Johnson, with the announcement of his departure coming shortly after the final whistle.
His assistant Russell Milton was put in temporary charge and the side responded in his first game in charge by winning 1-0 at Cambridge on Saturday.
Their only other success this season came in the first round of the Carabao Cup, where they beat Colchester 6-5 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
Tuesday’s tie is a bonus extra chance to see a game under the Griffin Park floodlights, with only a limited number of those left because of the impending move to Lionel Road.
BEES AND ROBINS IN THE LEAGUE CUP
Brentford’s League Cup record over the years is not a good one.
We’ve only passed the third round twice in the competition’s history – in 1982/83 when we beat First Division Swansea at Vetch Field in a third round replay before losing 2-0 at Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and then in 2010/11 when we knocked out Premier League Everton before losing to eventual winners Birmingham 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. That run started with the 2-1 win over Cheltenham mentioned in more detail further down this article.
In the seven seasons since then, we have gone out in the first round four times, the second round twice and the third round once – last season.
Bees’ League Cup results since being promoted to the Championship
2014/15 – Round one – Dagenham & R (A) D 6-6 (aet) (Dallas (2), Proschwitz, Gray, Moore, Dean) (Bees won 4-2 on penalties)
Round two – Fulham (H) L 0-1
2015/16 – Round one – Oxford U (H) L 0-4
2016/17 – Round one – Exeter C (A) L 0-1 (aet)
2017/18 – Round one – AFC Wimbledon (A) W 3-1 (aet) (Sawyers, Watkins, Shaibu)
Round two – QPR (A) W 4-1 (Borysiuk (og), Egan, Maupay, Clarke)
Round three – Norwich C (H) L 1-3 (Clarke)
Cheltenham have never gone beyond the second round of the competition, with seven exits at this stage and 11 in the first round during their time in the league.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Caretaker manager Russell Milton, who as mentioned above took over last week, is a former Cheltenham player.
Russell played for the Robins for six years from 1997 to 2003, during which time the club was promoted to the Football League for the first time.
It is his second temporary spell in charge of the club, having also taken over while Gary Johnson was recovering from heart surgery last year.
He has been associated with the club for 21 years and in his time has also coached in its academy, worked in its hospitality department and commentated on it for local radio.
He started his football career as a trainee at Arsenal.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford and Cheltenham have only ever met six times – four times in the league and twice in this competition.
They hold the upper hand in our league fixtures – all played at League One level – with three wins and a draw, while we have each won once in the League Cup.
The first game in what was then called Division Two in November 2002 ended in a 1-0 win for the 10-man Robins at Whaddon Road, courtesy of a last-minute goal from Julian Alsop. Current Doncaster manager Grant McCann had been sent off midway through the second half.
There were two red cards in the Griffin Park return, which ended in a 2-2 draw. Cheltenham were 2-0 up at the break thanks to a McCann penalty and a second goal from Martin Devaney. But captain Michael Dobson headed in a 63rd-minute corner to give us hope and Kevin O’Connor headed a 78th-minute equaliser – shortly after Alsop and Bees defender Leo Roget had both been sent off.
We were top of League One when we travelled to Cheltenham in the League Cup first round in 2005, but the League Two Robins hammered a much-changed Bees outfit 5-0.
McCann scored two late goals after JJ Melligan, Gavin Caines, with a rebound from a saved McCann penalty, and Jamie Victory had put the tie beyond us.
Cheltenham won both our 2006/07 league meetings 2-0 with a Kayode Odejayi brace in Gloucestershire and goals from Steven Gillespie and Melligan at Griffin Park giving them all six points on offer.
But we did win the last time the two sides met – in the League Cup first round in 2010, as first half goals from Robbie Simpson and Craig Woodman proved enough for us to progress, despite Shaun Jeffers’s second half reply.
BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Cheltenham Town commentator Mark Halliwell tells us what has gone wrong for the Robins so far this season, discusses the sacking of manager Gary Johnson and tells us how seriously the club is taking the Carabao Cup.
Q – It’s been a very disappointing start to the league season for Cheltenham. What’s gone wrong so far?
Embed from Getty Images
A – After two very disappointing seasons following our return to the League in 2015-16, hopes were high for this campaign.
Gary Johnson had brought in some experience, the likes of Johnny Mullins, Ben Tozer, Chris Hussey and Sean Long in particular.
The loss of Mo Eisa was inevitable – but what was not expected was the failure to bring in an adequate replacement for him before the August 9 deadline.
Hence we started the season with a very blunt attack, and it was no real surprise to see us fail to score in our opening three games.
Many fans were already restless going into the campaign, but those noises only grew louder and Johnson was summoned to a meeting with the board the Saturday before last.
He was given a stay of execution but that only lasted three days and the axe fell after the Macclesfield game on Tuesday night – ironically after we secured our first goal and point of the season.
I personally feel that it was the right decision – but it was handled poorly. Johnson deserved better and the decision should either have been made on Saturday, or at the end of last season.
Q – How was the summer’s transfer business?
A – Mixed. We needed experience, so Mullins, Tozer, Long and Hussey were very welcome arrivals, especially Long as we played the whole of last season with no orthodox right-back.
The other signings were mainly young, hungry players keen to prove themselves, many signed on two-year contracts so we have to hope they prove to be up to the mark.
But as I stated above, the failure to adequately replace Eisa is a big problem. With other players having left as well, the squad is about 50 goals short of where it was last season – so we need others to step up and fill that void.
Q – What were the expectations at the start of the campaign – promotion push, mid-table security or relegation battle?
A – Gary Johnson stated that he wanted to challenge for the play-offs – but that looks a long way off on the evidence of the first four league games.
The main thing fans want to see is some progress. There has not been much of that in the previous two campaigns since promotion, which have both been relegation fights.
Q – How seriously will the Robins take the Carabao Cup? How many non-enforced changes did they make for the Colchester tie, for example?
A – There was one forced change as Manny Duku was injured in the previous game at Tranmere, otherwise the changes were rotational.
I’d like to think the game will be taken seriously as a good performance and maybe even an upset win would be a great shot in the arm for the club at a tricky time.
Also, if a managerial appointment has not been made, the players will be aware that the next boss could be watching and will want to impress – and if a new man is in place, they need to impress.
Q – Which players should Brentford fans watch out for?
A – Alex Addai was signed from non league Merstham and is a bustling little player with plenty of pace, and could cause problems.
He has played up front mostly, but when he went out wide at Macclesfield on Tuesday he looked more comfortable.
Q – What style of play should we expect to see?
A -We have played 4-4-2 in each game so far and I cannot think that will change – although personally I feel the players we have would be better suited to a 3-5-2.
Q – Do you have any memories for work or as a fan of any of the six previous meetings between the sides?
A – Unfortunately I will not be at the game which I am gutted about as I have never been to Griffin Park and will probably miss the chance to do so now with your club’s imminent move.
The game which stands out for me is the 5-0 League Cup win at Whaddon Road – that was a great night and we were simply brilliant that night.
Many fans also remember the 2-2 draw in 2003, mainly for the double sending off of Julian Alsop and Leo Roget.
Actually, we have a pretty good record against the Bees – only one loss in six games.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible Robins starting line-up and formation?
A – I’ll go for a 4-4-2:
Scott Flinders; Jordan Forster, Jonny Mullins, Will Boyle, Chris Hussey; Alex Addai, Nigel Atangana, Jacob Maddox, Ryan Broom; Manny Duku, Kalvin Kalala.
But it remains to be seen a) who is in charge by the time of the game and b) if we manage to bring in any loans or free agents ahead of the game
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Cheltenham fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for it’s four pubs – one on each corner of the ground.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.
There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.
The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.
Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
This is relatively straightforward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube because of waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 minutes on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from King’s Cross/Euston/Paddington).
Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
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