Michael Duff believes the sense of disappointment in Cheltenham’s dressing room after their 1-1 home Sky Bet League Two draw with second-placed Crewe shows how far they have come in the past year.
Gavin Reilly put the Robins in front early on – a narrow win which would have seen them go top of the table – but Chris Porter scored a deserved leveller for the visitors in first-half stoppage time.
Perry Ng was sent off for a second yellow card for the visitors with 20 minutes left and, despite Cheltenham making a late push for a winner, an entertaining contest finished all-square at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
Cheltenham struggled near the bottom of the table during the early part of last term, but after a vast improvement under Duff they ended up in 16th and they have carried that progress on at the start of his first full season at the helm to currently sit third.
“When the red card happened, we really did step on then and their keeper (Will Jaaskeleinen) was their best player in the end,” Duff said.
“He has made some great saves and we couldn’t quite take that chance.
“We have opened them up three or four times and we had a couple across the face of goal.
“So there is a tinge of disappointment, but from where we’ve come from and where we are, we can’t be too disappointed.
“It’s a marker of how far we’ve come that the players have come in slightly disappointed.
“I don’t think that’s a bad thing, you use it, harness it and take it on. It shows the belief in the group that we can compete and step on.
“The mentality the group are building for themselves now is a powerful thing. They really do believe they can compete with everybody.”
Crewe sit one place ahead of Cheltenham, behind leaders Exeter on goal difference.
Their manager David Artell felt there was only one winner on the day – before Ng’s dismissal.
“In the end, it is a good point and sometimes you have to accept that a point away from home – especially when going down to 10 men – is a good result,” he said.
“I thought we deserved a point at the very least because we dominated large parts of the game and I thought a goal was coming for us when Perry was sent off.
“We didn’t create as many chances as I would have liked but we had 11, 12, 13, 14 really committed lads out there today.
“It was that never-say-die attitude from us and to come here against a side that were third in the table and had not lost at home, was going to be tough.
“They are riding high, so are we and we deserved the point.”