CHELTENHAM has always appreciated those who can clear all the hurdles and stay the distance.

One of jump-racing’s most hallowed venues is also partial to a late burst up the rails.

A couple of miles down the hill from the racecourse, the Jonny-Rocks Stadium hardly carries the same sporting alure as its neighbour.

But the form guide at Whaddon Road suggests another outsider may be worth keeping a serious eye on over the closing stages.

League Two’s frontrunners can detect the rumbling behind them.

City aren’t so much picking their way through the pack currently as cutting great swathes.

Suddenly the P word, however much Mark Trueman et al straight-bat the questions away, is becoming a relevant conversation.

The gap to the play-offs is down to seven points – half that from when Trueman and Conor Sellars climbed aboard this remarkable ride.

The odds are tumbling on this particular long shot.

In the eyes of the interim duo, the more important numbers are still the other way – City were one goal above the drop zone when they took over and now it’s 14 points.

But let’s face it, the days of fretting about how Grimsby, Southend and Barrow are getting on are well gone. Sights should be readjusted upwards.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Levi Sutton tries his luck as City pressure the Cheltenham defenceLevi Sutton tries his luck as City pressure the Cheltenham defence

And surely the time is now right to drop the “provisional licence” for those steering the charge.

Trueman and Sellars have gone above and beyond in proving they are clearly worth permanent status in the hot-seat.

Seven wins in 11 – including 13 points from 15 against teams in the top six – is much, much more than beginner’s luck.

In the past week, they have masterminded a comeback victory over fourth-placed Morecambe and a follow-up at a Cheltenham side in third who had not lost since before Christmas.

If that is not a convincing enough argument for City’s hierarchy, then I don’t know what is.

Trueman looks like a manager and sounds like one. There is a real conviction in what he and Sellars are doing and the staggering results are plain to see.

The pair have instilled “new school” thinking into a club that have been accused for too long of sticking with the same old philosophies while those around them move on and embrace something different.

The City of February 2021 are unrecognisable from the one they picked up off the floor when Stuart McCall was dismissed 10 weeks ago.

Whatever the outcome from the final 19 games, the transformation in those 70 days should not be under-estimated.

The fact we are getting excited about the rest of the campaign, rather than just trudging through with the express aim of hanging on above the bottom two, shows the difference they have made.

Incredibly, you still get the doomsayers of social media who will pick at anything.

The squabbling nonsense when the team sheet is published an hour before kick-off has become a tiresome, irrelevant sideshow.

How foolish did those who questioned Andy Cook’s selection ahead of Danny Rowe again look when he battered his way round one of the tightest defences in the division?

Trueman and Sellars saw Saturday as the ideal stage for a “proper number nine”, as recruitment director Lee Turnbull describes the on-loan Mansfield man. So it panned out.

For those Twitterati demanding instant gratification, Cook had almost been written off after one-and-a-bit scoreless outings.

While everyone has rightly raved about Rowe’s instant impact, the reviews about his new team-mate had been underwhelming.

Undercooked at Field Mill, Cook was confident he would step up for a move that he clearly wants to make full-time if possible.

“I’m not being funny but you don’t lose it,” he shrugged afterwards, before almost apologising for any hint of arrogance.

But he’s right – this was a striker who scored goals for fun in the National League at the same phenomenal rate as Rowe.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Andy Cook rounds Cheltenham keeper Josh Griffiths to score his secondAndy Cook rounds Cheltenham keeper Josh Griffiths to score his second

Cook had not started back-to-back games in three months. But a very physical tussle in a swirling, unpredictable wind was made for him.

Cheltenham missing one of their defensive mainstays in centre half Will Boyle certainly helped.

But take nothing away from the way City went toe to toe with the home side – just as Anthony O’Connor had bullishly forecast in the build-up.

There is an edge about the team now – another missing element that has been so welcome.

This lot don’t get pushed about; they stand their ground with the big boys. There’s no messing or cow-towing to reputations.

Cheltenham tried to rough them out of their rhythm but City did not take a backward step.

The Ben Tozer long throw that we had been warned so much about was defused; not always comfortably but still effectively to reduce the Robins to just one glanced header on target.

The cliché “defending from the front” was never more appropriate as blocks were made and opponents hustled at both ends of the pitch.

Cheltenham boss Michael Duff whinged about the first goal but there was no infringement on keeper Josh Griffiths.

Elliot Watt had been replaced by Callum Cooke on corners – and that proved another Trueman and Sellars masterstroke as the in-swinging delivery caused panic on 12 minutes.

Gareth Evans may have been pushed into Griffiths by a Cheltenham defender but the keeper was always in trouble from the set-piece which Andy Cook gleefully tucked away at the far post.

Cue the “big Cook, little Cooke” gags from the online audience – even those injured players left at home like Harry Pritchard joined in.

Both of Cook’s goals were set up by his near namesake who continues to play his best football since joining City from Peterborough.

Cooke is the fulcrum for all that is good about the Bantams going forward; to think that it was only about this time last year that McCall was wrenching open the defensive shackles that had been enforced by Gary Bowyer.

Cooke delivered a delicious forward pass to send Cook scampering free six minutes into the second half.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Callum Cooke set up both City goals for Andy Cook in another fine individual displayCallum Cooke set up both City goals for Andy Cook in another fine individual display

The forward still had it all to do – but Griffiths made up his mind for him by deciding to stay at home rather than rushing from his goal.

Cook calmly committed the keeper, slipped wide of him and then nonchalantly rolled home a decisive second.

That gave City precious breathing space for any Cheltenham fightback; not that the visitors were in the mood to relinquish such a hard-gained advantage.

Cheltenham’s finishing grew wilder and more frantic as time ticked away to City’s fourth win in five games.

The ground at the top end of the table continues to be disturbed by the distant sound of a fast-approaching force. It is music to the ears for the Bantams faithful.