By Tony Leighton

Automatic promotion was the aim, but for the second successive season it's the Play-Offs for Cheltenham Town as they strive to reach npower League 1.

The Robins went into last Saturday's final round of League 2 fixtures with a chance of finishing in the top three, but Rotherham United's victory over relegated Aldershot Town took the Millers up and left Mark Yates' team to face a tough two-leg Play-Off semi-final against Northampton Town.

As he looked ahead to Thursday evening's trip to Northampton for the first leg, manager Yates told "We were disappointed to miss out on a top-three place, but we took it to the last day of the campaign.

"The plan was to go one better than last year and clinch automatic promotion, but we finished a place higher than we did last year and we were eight points off winning the league, so it's been another good season for us.

"There was a minute of disappointment from the lads on Saturday evening, but they came in on Sunday morning for a warm-down and there were no glum faces. The mood was really good and they're totally up for the Play-Offs.

"Northampton will give us a really tough test, they're big and physical and we'll have to stand up to them if we're going to get our game going.

"But no matter which team we had to come up against in the semi-final it was going to be difficult, and the lads know exactly what they've got to do to come through these two legs and get to Wembley for the final."

Having reached last year's final but then gone down to Crewe Alexandra at Wembley, Yates' team do indeed know what's required against the Cobblers as they turn to plan B on the route to League 1.

Seven of the team who played at Wembley 12 months ago were in the Robins starting line-up for last Saturday's goalless draw with Bradford City and Yates added: "Last year's Play-Offs experience will stand the lads in good stead.

"We came brilliantly through a difficult semi-final against Torquay - we beat them home and away and then we played well at Wembley despite the result.

"The massive disappointment of losing the final is a driving force for the players now and they're determined to make up for it by going all the way this time.

"But we're not thinking about Wembley yet, we're concentrating solely on the game against Northampton on Thursday night and we'll be aiming for a strong, well organised performance that can give us the best possible result to take back to Whaddon Road for the second leg on Sunday."

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