CHELTENHAM is probably more renowned for horse racing than for a long tradition of football.
After seeing his team fail spectacularly against Gloucester City in Cheltenham on Saturday, Blyth Spartans manager Steve Cuggy is unlikely to follow the sport of kings’ new code on restricting the use of the whip this coming week.
Playing at Cheltenham Town’s Abbey Business Stadium, Gloucester beat the visitors by several lengths, running out easy 4-0 winners after nosing ahead on 26 minutes.
Cuggy was furious behind his usual calm demeanour. How did he sum up his side’s performance?
“Dreadful! Totally and utterly unacceptable,” he said.
Gloucester took the game to Blyth from the off and the visitors managed to keep City out only though the saves of goalkeeper David Knight.
The inevitable came nearing the half hour when Tyler Weir was allowed far too much time on the ball but nevertheless finished splendidly, curling the ball into the top corner of the net with Knight only able to watch on.
Cuggy said: “We gave them too much space on the edge of our box throughout and it’s something we clearly need to work on.
“We failed to go with their runners and paid the price.”
Blyth conceded a second within five minutes of the restart when a hesitant Wayne Buchanan allowed Gloucester’s Will Morford to surge through and beat Knight.
It was tough on the usual reliable defender who, otherwise, put in a solid performance.
“Buchs should have cleared his lines,” said Cuggy.
“We actually spoke about just that at half-time. But he is an honest lad and he held up his hands and apologised to the other players for his mistake.”
Worse was to follow for the genial Irishman when he was shown a red card for a tackle on the edge of the Blyth penalty area.
The punishment seemed a trifle harsh with a yellow card possibly being more appropriate.
The Blyth manager made two changes to his team with Adam Forster being withdrawn for Lee Mason and right back Dan Groves being replaced by Bradford City loanee Adam Robinson.
“We lacked natural width through injury so Lee gave us a bit of that and Dan took a knock on the thigh and there was no point in leaving him on and it perhaps getting worse,” said Cuggy.
With just over 20 minutes left to play the home side scored a third when a massive deflection saw the ball loop over the unfortunate Knight.
A resigned Cuggy commented: “That just summed it up. David was behind the shot and would have saved it but there you are.”
Graeme Armstrong then gave way to Glen Taylor in the Spartans attack.
Cuggy said: “It was a good opportunity to give Glen a bit of a run on his return to match fitness, plus Graeme had a slight back problem so it wasn’t worth keeping him on.”
The agony continued for the visitors, who were probably wishing to be put down rather than have the pain continue, on 90 minutes when Jake Harris broke from what appeared to be an offside position to lob Knight and make it 4-0.
“I’m definitely looking to improve the squad,” said the defiant Blyth boss.
“I have a few things in the fire and I am fully aware we need to improve drastically.
“I’m getting good support from the board and I hope things will happen in the next few weeks.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie at Droylsden, Cuggy expects much better from his side.
“I will be looking for a big reaction to Saturday’s defeat,” he said.
“The players are embarrassed and if there is not a massive change I will be extremely disappointed.”
Following the Gloucester debacle there were no whipping boys, no scapegoats.
The Blyth fans, as well as management, will be trusting the players to show they have accepted their culpability and come back accordingly.