Precious point sparks Forest Green Rovers promotion party


Rob Edwards’ Forest Green Rovers clinched promotion from League Two by gaining the single point they needed in a pulsating clash with nearby Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium.

The visitors began the afternoon with plenty to play for and, with the home side also chasing automatic promotion, the Memorial Stadium was sold out for this derby fixture between two clubs just 40 minutes away from one another.

An electric atmosphere greeted both teams with many “Gasheads” dressed as St George on, this, his patronal day. Joey Barton made just one change for the home side, Nick Anderton coming in at full-back for Josh Grant. Welshman Aaron Collins started against his former club.

It was a lively opening, with Rovers Sam Finley earning an early rebuke from referee Gavin Ward for a zealous challenge. Anthony Evans fired in a decent effort for the hosts before Forest Green surged forward to earn a corner.

Kane Wilson was a threat down the flank as the visitors exerted early pressure with bursts of slick play. High scoring Jamille Matt and Ebou Adams were on the lookout for any half-chance as they kept the home defence on their toes.

Adams was booked for simulation on 17 minutes when many observers anticipated a foul against the striker, who is rumoured to be attracting attention from Cardiff City. Ben Stevenson was also booked as a physical and fast-paced encounter that held the attention of the 9,619 crowd.

The visitors’ neat passing game should have brought them the lead after half an hour but Adams failed to poke home from close range after good work by the eager Wilson.

Jack Aitchison had been in fine form in the middle of the park, probing and searching for opportunities to drive the League leaders on. It had been a composed and determined display from the visitors, asking questions up front and putting bodies behind the ball when their hosts pressed forward.

As the teams returned after the break, Barton encouraged the home support to deliver more noise as “Goodnight Irene” anthem rang out from the packed stands.

The intensity of the occasion brought more robust tacking and an inevitable yellow card for Finley.

Harry Anderson warmed the hands of visiting keeper, Luke McGee, just seconds before Collins narrowly failed to connect with a rasping cross as the home side “stepped on the gas.”

The elusive Collins tumbled in the box as the Pirates chased the result they craved but it looked an unlikely spot-kick though. Within seconds, Matt looked like giving the visitors the goal they craved as James Belshaw denied him in the home goal. Drama at either end.

It was electrifying, frantic stuff now as the cards and fouls accumulated. There were chances-a-plenty for the home side which culminated in Collins blasting into the side netting with many in the home crowd thinking he had netted.

The excitement was truly worthy of the occasion as the home fans increased the decibel level even further. Anthony Evans was full of running, driving the Bristolians on.

In the second half, the home side had provided a far greater goal threat but still needed a double save from Rovers’ Man of the Match Belshaw to keep the visitors at bay.

Frankly, considering what was at stake, it had been a ridiculously open game. Substitute Luke Thomas joined a long list of names who could have opened the scoring as he fired a tremendous effort narrowly wide after a mazy run.

This thrilling game should have been 4-4 by now yet, somehow, remained level with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Forest Green defenders simply threw themselves at anything which came remotely near their box as Thomas continued to make an impact on the game. McGee and his defenders stood firm though in repelling the marauding Pirates.

The anxious closing stages put a strain on the heartstrings of visiting manager Edwards and the sold-out away end. Thomas brought a spectacular save from McGee with a curling 20-yard effort as the drama continued deep into this thoroughly entertaining game.

After 95 minutes of the toe-to-toe action, Mr Ward had seen enough. With neither combatant able to land the killer blow, the referee finally stopped the fight, bringing scenes of wild celebration behind McGee’s goal.

This eco-friendly, innovative club, which have spent the majority of its 133-year history as little more than a village team, could look forward to entertaining the likes of Derby County, Portsmouth and Ipswich Town next season as their remarkable story continues to throw up the headlines.


Follow us on Twitter @ProstInt


About Author

Comments are closed.