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Opposition Lowdown: Wade Elliott’s Cheltenham Town

Reading return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Tuesday evening, taking on Cheltenham Town, with both sides coming into this game off the back of two straight league defeats. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Cheltenham Town v Birmingham City - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images


Cheltenham Town finished last season in 16th place in their second season in League One. They were promoted to the third tier of English football in 2021 after winning the League Two title, and finished in 15th place in their first season in League One.

They have lost both of their two league games so far this season: 1-0 away to Shrewsbury Town on the opening day and then losing 0-3 at home to Bolton Wanderers at the weekend. They also lost their first round Carabao Cup tie against Birmingham City 0-2 last week.

Reading last faced Cheltenham back in 1998. The Royals beat the Robins 2-1 at Elm Park in an FA Cup replay after the two sides had played out a 1-1 draw at Whaddon Road.

The boss

Wade Elliott: Elliott was appointed Cheltenham manager last summer, following Michael Duff’s departure to Barnsley. The former midfielder had an 18-year playing career, representing the likes of Bournemouth, Burnley and Bristol City, where he finished his playing days.

Soccer - Sky Bet League One - Bristol City v Scunthorpe United - Ashton Gate
Wade Elliott (L) in action for Bristol City

He ended up staying at City, being given the role of under-21s manager, and stayed at the club for a year before taking on an academy manager role at Forest Green Rovers. He went on to join Stoke City as assistant manager of their under-23 side in 2017, where he also had a spell as manager of the youth team.

Elliott moved to Cheltenham as a coach in 2020 and secured his promotion to first-team manager in June of last year, his first full-time management role. Cheltenham finished 16th in Elliott’s first season, when he had a 35% win percentage.


Cheltenham saw 10 players leave Gloucestershire this summer with goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald, defenders Charlie Raglan and Ryan Jackson, midfielders Dylan Barkers, Zac Guinan and Ryan Broom, and forwards Charlie Brown, Callum Ebanks and Christian Norton all leaving on free transfers. Star striker Alfie May signed for League One rivals Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee.

Seven players have come in the door, with former Reading goalkeeper Luke Southwood signing on a free following the expiry of his contract with The Royals. The Robins have also bought in goalkeeper Jamie Pardington (Larne FC), defenders Curtis Davies (Derby County) and Liam Smith (Dundee United), midfielder Curtis Thompson (Wycombe Wanderers) and forward Robert Street (Crystal Palace). Midfielder Oliver Hammond has also joined on loan from Premier League side Nottingham Forest.

Cheltenham will have three players missing through injury: midfielders James Olayinka (shoulder) and Elliot Bonds (knee) will miss out, as will striker George Lloyd who is out with an ankle injury.

Expected lineup

Southwood, Davies, Long, Freestone, Smith, Williams, Sercombe, Thompson, Hammond, Street, Keena

Reading v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Key player

Liam Sercombe: Midfielder Sercombe joined Cheltenham on a free transfer in August 2020, following his release from Bristol Rovers.

Sercombe started his youth career at Exeter City and made his debut for the club in 2007. He spent eight years with The Grecians, making over 250 appearances and scoring 23 goals.

He moved to Oxford United in 2015 upon the expiry of his contract and spent two seasons there before joining Bristol Rovers for an undisclosed fee. He spent three seasons at Rovers, scoring 19 goals, before his move to Cheltenham in 2020.

The 33-year-old midfielder has gone on to make 139 appearances for the Robins, and has 15 goals to his name. Sercombe is a hard-working centre midfielder with an eye for a goal, as proven by his strong goalscoring record at all of the clubs he has played for.

One to watch

Luke Southwood: Goalkeeper Southwood returns to the Select Car Leasing Stadium, having joined Cheltenham on a permanent deal after his release from Reading this summer. He has re-signed with the Robins after a successful season-long loan last season.

Southwood is a product of the Reading youth setup and was the 58th academy product to make his debut for The Royals. The 25-year-old had a number of loan spells prior to his Reading debut in 2020, representing the likes of Bath City, Eastleigh and Hamilton Academical. He went on to make 30 appearances with The Royals, with 26 of those coming in the 2021/22 season under Veljko Paunovic.

Southwood joined Cheltenham on loan last summer and played every game for The Robins, keeping 16 clean sheets. Many Reading fans were disappointed to see Southwood leave this summer, so it will be interesting to see how he fares on his return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium.