Forest Green Rovers 3 Aldershot Town 1
By Neil Martin
The talk before this game was whether Rovers’ season was in danger of petering out after an early FA Trophy exit and a damaging away defeat at Halifax. However, after a convincing attacking performance and for once scoring the goals to match, the bumper holiday crowd went home happy and still dreaming of a late run to the Skrill Premier play-offs.
Matt Taylor came into the side for Matthew Barnes-Homer against an Aldershot side on a six game unbeaten run.
The game started slowly, with only a couple of long range shots going wide from Taylor and Baker of Aldershot in the first ten minutes. However, the game came to life when Rovers took the lead on 12 minutes from a sweet volley from 10 yards by Marcus Kelly. FGR had kept the pressure up following a corner and Kelly’s strike nestled snugly in the far right hand corner of the net.
The goal lifted Forest Green and they raised the tempo of their game, with first Taylor spinning and shooting narrowly wide and then they spurned a couple of free headers from corners from firstly Racine and then Wright.
A rare Aldershot break almost led to a bizarre equaliser when Hodgkiss’ clearance almost cannoned back into his own net on 25 minutes but it went wide.
Rovers looked dangerous from every corner and Taylor was the next to miss a header from a good unmarked position, when he headed into the side-netting on 32 minutes.
Aldershot put together a concerted attack on 39 minutes and the ball was worked to midfielder Oyeleke, who shot powerfully but wide left of Russell’s goal. Rovers almost immediately had another great chance to double their lead when Wright fed Norwood but he rushed his shot and blazed over.
FGR were to rue these missed chances as on 42 minutes Jordan Roberts headed firmly into the net, direct from an Aldershot corner – ironic as this was the type of chance that Rovers had wasted all half. As a result they went in level at 1-1 in a game they had dominated. This cheered the vocal and good humoured away support, although it was clear from their chants that they would not be seeking veggie burgers at half-time!
Eddie Oshodi came on at half-time for the injured Hodgkiss and the second half started as slowly as the first. This changed on 53 minutes when Kelly should have done better when meeting a sublime cross from Norwood but he shot tamely at the keeper. Aldershot almost went in front themselves, when Mekki broke strongly down the right and crossed to the far post, where O’Brien must have only been studs away from meeting it and scoring.
On 65 minutes Kelly was unable to convert the best chance of the half after Wright had knocked the ball down in a challenge with keeper Henly. The goal was gaping but the ball didn’t drop for him quickly enough and his goal bound drive was bravely blocked by the Shot’s defence.
Just at the point of Rovers’ greatest dominance Aldershot almost pinched a goal when O’Brien was suddenly through one on one with Sam Russell, who made a great point blank save.
Danny Wright produced a moment of great skill on 76 minutes to thread the ball through to Norwood, who absolutely butchered the chance when clean through. However redemption was quickly at hand as Norwood fed Kelly who chipped into the net with great aplomb.
Aldershot responded with their most concerted pressure of the game and Roberts was very close with a fierce shot from distance, followed by substitute Paterson only side-footing into the arms of Russell when well placed.
However Rovers’ anxieties disappeared when Norwood latched on to a classic ‘long ball down the middle’ from keeper Russell and this time finished coolly to wrap the game up for FGR.
Sam Russell made one last excellent save in added time and although his work played an important part in securing the win, it was a game that FGR dominated for long periods and were worthy winners.
Ady Pennock was pleased with the performance particularly because it was in front of a big crowd, as he said the fans have been very patient. He said that the next steps were to strive for consistency, although he felt that there was now a togetherness in the squad, that wasn’t evident when he took over.
One last post script is to lament the culling of Rovers’ friendly mascot Bradley the Badger, replaced at this game for the first time by new mascot The Green Devil…..he did look quite striking when he took his place on the home terrace in the second half though!
FGR – Russell, Hodgkiss (Oshodi), Asafu-Adjaye, Racine, Bennett, Kelly, Barry, Taylor, Norwood, Bangura (Forbes), Wright
Aldershot – Henly, Oastler, Stanley, Webster, Mekki, Williams, Oyeleke, Roberts, Baker, Gibbs, O’Brien
Att-1677 (away 183)