Forest Green Rovers 2 Macclesfield Town 3
By Neil Martin
Under normal circumstances, this game would have been lauded as a hugely enjoyable advert for non-league football on a stunning day in the Cotswolds. However, with Rovers coming in to the match having lost five of six games and then falling to defeat to a 93rd minute goal, the mood at the end could not have been more depressed at the New Lawn.
The expensively constructed FGR squad continues to under-perform and manager Dave Hockaday, who fully fronted up after the game to express his belief that things can still be turned around, must now be under huge pressure, as the promotion challenge that was widely expected looks a distant dream.
Four changes were made to the Rovers line-up and it is certainly true that in recent weeks, injuries and suspensionshave played havoc with any chance of their being able to field a settled team. Magno Vieira, Ed Asafu-Adeje, Andy Manganand Anthony Barry came into the side, with Forbes andKlukowski dropped to the bench, Bangura suspended andHodgkiss injured.
A low key start to the game allowed Rovers to settle into theirrelaxed passing game and after an early Wright header flashed wide, they took the lead in the 10th minute. Chris Stokes, as ever prominent on the left wing, made a dashing break into the box, assessed his options and calmly squared to Barnes-Homer, who tucked the ball neatly into the net.
Macclesfield winger Peter Winn was the visitors most influential player and he produced a couple of dangerous crosses from the left wing to keep the FGR defence on their toes, the best of which was headed wide by Connor Jennings.
After enjoying good possession and being very comfortable with their lead, Rovers visibly switched off for the last 15 minutes of the half and Macclesfield gradually built pressure on the home defence which led to an equaliser, which had been coming, in the 41st minute. A driving run from Winn down the left led to Steven Williams picking his spot in the corner of Russell’s net.
The second half started in dramatic fashion as Magno Vieira had a shot from two yards blocked on the line after AndyMangan’s shot was diverted into his path. Immediately afterwards Barnes-Homer had a powerful shot from distance narrowly wide as Rovers tried to regain their lead.
Then, in the 49th minute Macclesfield almost went in front when Holroyd met a cross from the left and the ball deflected off Russell and onto the bar, although the offside flag would have saved FGR in any case.
James Norwood came on for Andy Mangan in the 57th minutebut this merely preceded the visitors going in front. Danny Whitaker made a driving run and fed Holroyd whose point-blank shot was well saved by Russell. However Whitaker was not to be denied in the 59th minute, as after a Mackreth cross from the right was not cleared by the FGR defence, the ball was slotted back in from the left and he confidently side footed into the Rovers’ net.
Yan Klukowski came on for Rovers in place of Vieira two minutes later and shortly afterwards Marcus Kelly had a cross shot cleared off the line. Then in the 68rd minute, Rovers got back on terms from a Klukowski penalty. A delightful through ball from Danny Wright fed Norwood, who cleverly got a toe to the ball before contact with the onrushing keeper Taylor, who was yellow carded for the collision.
Two minutes later Rovers should have re-taken the lead when Barnes-Homer created a chance which he then blazed over from a good position. Rovers looked the more likely winners at this stage as substitutes Klukowski and Norwood both featured prominently, with the latter having a powerful shot beaten out by the keeper on the 73rd minute.
Although FGR were having more of the game in these later stages, Macclesfield still looked dangerous on the break as the game became more open. A stinging Winn shot from distance for the visitors and a sharp header from Wright very well saved by Taylor were the best of the late chances. What was now a cracking game of entertaining, end to end football, had one last twist.
Macclesfield pressure led to a couple of corners and as the clock ticked to 93 minutes a tremendous run from left-back Andrew saw him lift a fine cross to the far post, where Macclesfield substitute Paul Lewis rose and headed decisively home for the winner. It was a harsh blow for Forest Green who had not deserved to lose the game.
Dave Hockaday took it on the chin after the game and said that his players had given him everything and that they were all devastated at the outcome. He added that they would all seek to work even harder and that the group was still convinced that they could turn things around. He believed that his team should have at least drawn the game and were undone by a ‘sucker punch’. When questioned as to whether he personally felt uncomfortable in his position, he replied that he didn’t like losing games and the only remedy was for him and the players to give even more. He said the decision as to whether his job was safe was not his to make but he understood why the question was asked. He stated that he would not walk away from a fight and retains belief in himself and his players.
The outcome of this Cotswold mini soap opera will be determined by whether loyal and supportive chairman Dale Vince is prepared to continue to endure poor results and under-achievement from such an allegedly highly paid and expensively assembled squad.
FGR – Russell, Asafu-Adjaye, Oshodi, Pilkington, Stokes, Barry, Kelly, Mangan, Barnes-Homer, Wright, Vieira
Macclesfield – Taylor, Connor, Andrew, Turnbull, Mackreth, Jennings, Holroyd, Winn, Williams, Whitaker, Halls
Att – 1,181 (away 93)