Hairy moment: Smith dreams of Wembley
Jonté Smith is happy to appear as a woolly mammoth if it means he can realise a dream of walking out for a Wembley final.
The Bermuda striker was speaking the morning after helping Cheltenham Town take a stranglehold of their Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-final tie against Northampton Town on Thursday.
The 25-year-old saw his first competitive action since March because of the global pandemic and was unrecognisable until a familiar run and shot that led to the second goal, which has put Cheltenham in such a strong position going into the return leg in home confines at Whaddon Road on Monday.
“In terms of my hair being longer than it’s ever been, I would love to get a haircut, but we’re being tested for Covid-19 every two or three days,” Smith said of his “new normal” appearance.
“If I were to test positive, I’d have to isolate myself from the team, which would mean missing these important games. I’ve worked hard to have this type of opportunity and I don’t want to put myself at risk at the moment. I’d happily have an Afro if it meant winning the play-offs at Wembley!”
The 2-0 win on enemy territory continued a good run for Cheltenham against Northampton, extending their unbeaten head-to-head sequence to five matches.
Northampton enjoyed the upper hand for long periods, and even had a first-half penalty that was saved, but they were repelled by a visiting side who defended admirably and cashed in on their few opportunities.
“It was a good all-round team performance,” Smith said. “We made the most of our big moments — the penalty save and our chances in and around goal.”
He added: “It was a bit cagey at first, which you would expect, but we stuck to our game plan and executed it quite well. A 2-0 lead is always good to take back home, but we won’t take it lightly. They’ll come out and give everything in the second leg.”
Cheltenham had one of the better home records in League Two before Covid-19 brought football to a halt, with only two defeats in 18 matches. Any repeat of that form would take them into a Wembley final against Exeter City or Colchester United on June 29.
But, like Northampton, they will have no supporters to roar them on.
Smith admits the atmosphere was a bit surreal but saw some benefits, especially with the match televised by Sky Sports nationally and in many countries worldwide — including Bermuda.
“It was definitely different, but with all of the TV cameras, the build-up and preparation for the game, it felt as important as the game should,” he said.
“The atmosphere is obviously a big miss, but there’s also the slight benefit that you can hear your team-mates and your manager’s instructions a bit clearer!
“The fans were definitely missed, but I’m glad that they’re still able to watch and cheer us on. Hopefully, they’ll be back in the stadium sooner rather than later.”
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