Forest Green Rovers 1 Tamworth 2
By Neil Martin
An inept performance, described by manager Dave Hockadayas their worst for two years, resulted in Rovers losing further ground in the Skrill Premier on Tuesday evening with their third consecutive defeat in a week. Struggling Tamworth outfought and at times outplayed their hosts who made it far too easy for them with such a disjointed display.
Hockaday made two changes to the team that lost narrowly away to leaders Cambridge, with Klukowski and Norwood coming in for Barnes-Homer and Mangan. The latter did not even make the bench, although the manager explained later that this is because he has had so little football that he is not yet classed match fit.
The 19 Tamworth supporters who had made the trip would have enjoyed Rovers very low key and scrappy start to the game. Tamworth had the better of the early possession without suggesting any threat on goal. Norwood was booked on 10 minutes for clumsily knocking over a Tamworth player when tracking back. This would prove to be important later in the game. In fact it was 14 minutes before Rovers created a chance, Wright playing a good one-two with Norwood but seeing his shot saved well at the near post by keeper Belford.
This near-miss brought some life to Forest Green and they put some physical pressure on the Tamworth defence for the first time in the match during this spell midway through the half. Taylor and Wright linked well, while later Norwood burst clear but was crowded out by defenders.
On 24 minutes a great run from deep defence from Tamworth right back Jack Evans, featuring not one but two nutmegs of Rovers’ players, resulted in his shot being deflected for a corner. A further corner shortly afterwards for Tamworth resulted in a penalty, as Eddie Oshodi, for reasons best known to himself, man-handled a Tamworth striker over, as the ball sailed harmlessly past. Richard Baker converted the penalty with ease on 27 minutes. Oshodi seems to be making a bad habit of giving cheap penalties away.
Dale Bennett limped off to be replaced by Jared Hodgkiss, who must have to be classed as very unlucky to lose his place in the starting line-up. A Klukowski run and cross almost resulted in the keeper spilling but Rovers reverted to their poor early form and Tamworth again dominated spells of possession. Then out of the blue, Rovers equalised on 37 minutes. Oshodi drove forward from the back, linked with Norwood who found Taylor in space in the box. His finish was excellent into the roof of the net.
The unlucky Wayne Thomas of Tamworth then had to be stretchered off, by possibly the slowest ever stretcher bearers!It was fortunate that that the injury did not appear too serious.
Rovers, who had been scrappy and lacking fluency all half, now showed signs of imposing their will on the game for the first time and Klukowski had another effort well saved at the end of the half.
Barnes- Homer came on at half-time for Taylor – the third time in 4 games he had been subbed early in the game. Danny Wright couldn’t connect at the far post when it looked a clear scoring chance with the first action of the second half.
Good build up play from Rovers resulted in Norwood setting up Wright but his powerful shot was straight at the keeper. Then Rovers fell away to the mediocre form of most of the first half, as first a poor pass from Bangura almost led to a goal as a right hand side cross was scrambled clear for a corner. Andy Todd had a free header from this corner which was only just over. Good Tamworth possession led to them re-taking the lead on 54 minutes when Mark Wright, with time and space in the area cooly finished past Russell. Rovers had at least two opportunities to clear their lines properly but were made to pay for this poor defending – a feature of the previous two away games.
Just before the hour Norwood fizzed a long range effort just wide and Chris Stokes had a powerful header cleared off the line as Rovers built up a head of steam. A couple of half-hearted appeals for penalties were waved away as Norwood went to ground far too easily. Kieron Forbes returned to the Rovers team as a sub for Barry on 65 minutes.
As Hockaday screamed his instructions to the players, Rovers continued to struggle to exert any real pressure. Huff and puff would best describe it. Even the fog which had been threatening earlier and might have given FGR a way out on a bad night was now clearing! It was however to get worse when Norwood, already booked, kicked the ball away and was promptly shown his second yellow and a subsequent red card. Bangura quickly followed up with a yellow card of his own as the frustration for Rovers grew deeper.
Wright had a couple of half chances very late on but was unable to fashion anything in terms of shots and had a really soft appeal for a penalty turned down. Rovers lacked conviction and determination in these final stages and slipped to a costly home defeat, which could have been worse had Russell not made an excellent last gasp save from Peniket at the death.
In summary, the expensively assembled Rovers team continues to underperform and whilst the manager was honest enough to accept responsibility along with the players and promised ‘major changes’, it remains to be seen how long the ambitious chairman will tolerate results like this. It is not clear that the manager knows his best team and formation and the reliance on two holding midfielders in home matches appears to make it easier for teams to set up defensively at the New Lawn. Hockaday apologised to the fans and promised that Rovers would come out fighting in their next home game on Saturday.
Att – 829