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Cheltenham’s wait for a win continued last weekend, as the Robins were defeated by 10-man Shrewsbury Town, who scored twice with one player short in a 3-1 victory at the New Meadow.
The home side may have been indebted to goalkeeper Marko Marosi for keeping things level during the first half, but Cheltenham manager Michael Duff will be ruing the goals his team went on to concede, as Daniel Udoh completed a brace for the Shrews – consigning the visitors to a third defeat in four games.
Despite playing just over half the game with an extra man – and firing in 27 shots on goal (with only nine hitting the target) – Cheltenham were unable to even pick up a point, which comes as further disappointment after a difficult spell of late.
A 5-0 defeat to Cambridge United earlier this month provided a harsh reality check for the Robins, before a 2-2 draw against Lincoln was only secured by an equaliser in the fifth minute of injury time.
Though they remain well placed in the table – sitting 14th before the Boxing Day fixtures – Duff will undoubtedly be aware of the need to address his team’s defensive deficiencies, after conceding 16 in their last five league and cup matches.
Following their League Two title triumph last season, Cheltenham have fared well enough this term, but to avoid being dragged towards the drop zone they will have to improve at the back. Never more so than on Sunday, when they face one of the division’s top-scoring sides.
With several other matches called off due to COVID-19 cases, to date Cheltenham have been relatively unaffected by the virus, and only have centre-back Will Boyle ruled out by injury, with his return expected to come early next month.
Michael Duff has recalled Elliot Bonds from Kidderminster Harriers, where he has impressed on loan, and the 21-year-old could be named on the bench.
Conor Thomas is another midfielder hopeful of breaking into the starting XI on Sunday, and he will compete with Liam Sercombe and Ellis Chapman for a place in the hosts’ engine room.
Meanwhile, Plymouth have striker Niall Ennis finally ready to start again, after a long spell on the sidelines with an injured hamstring tendon.
Steven Schumacher has signified that Ennis – who has made four substitute appearances since returning to action, including replacing goalscorer Kieran Agard last week – can now be considered for a place up front, while James Bolton and George Cooper are also well along the road to recovery.
Full-back Brendan Galloway remains a long-term absentee for the Pilgrims, following his knee injury in late November.
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In his absence, Jordon Garrick demonstrated great versatility in the victory over Charlton last week: having featured as a forward or as a winger during his loan from Swansea City, Garrick started at left wing-back and should do so again at Cheltenham.
Cheltenham Town possible starting lineup:
Evans; Blair, Pollock, Long, Hussey; Sercombe, Chapman; May, Crowley, Joseph; Williams
Plymouth Argyle possible starting lineup:
M. Cooper; Gillesphey, Scarr, Wilson; Jephcott, Mayor, Houghton, Camara, Garrick; Hardie, Agard