Rovers On The Up

Forest Green Rovers 3 Chester 0

By Neil Martin


After months of frustration and set-backs, a new mood of optimism is back at the New Lawn after this convincing and stylish performance from FGR. Manager Ady Pennock is starting to oversee an upturn in fortunes, with a new togetherness evident in the squad and some quality new faces coming in at a good time. At times, Rovers’ football in this game was sublime but with a cutting edge that has so often been lacking in the recent past. The test now will be for Forest Green to deliver consistency in their results in a fiercely competitive division.

On a very blustery and bitterly cold afternoon, Danny Wright was restored to the starting line-up as Reece Styche had departed for Wycombe and new striker Jason Walker was on the bench. Chester had won two games on the bounce after appointing ex-Kidderminster manager Steve Burr as their new boss.

FGR started on the front foot after their six goal show away from home the previous week and Kelly shot just over from a free kick in the 5th minute. Barry then cleared the bar from a good position, followed by a Hughes cross which was palmed out to Norwood, although the ball was scrambled away by Chester.

Chester were however proving that they had come to play attacking football too and after a McIntyre shot went narrowly wide, Sam Russell made a great double save on 12 minutes to stop the visitors taking the lead. In the 17th minute Lee Hughes rounded the charging Chester keeper Danby outside of his box but as the ball fell to Norwood to cross, it was too long for Kelly at the far post.

Oshodi made a timely interception at the back for Rovers and then a classic centre forward flick on by Wright set up Norwood in what was a remarkably good open game in the conditions. FGR took the lead on 23 minutes after a Norwood touch set up Hughes on the right side of the area and he drilled home a powerful and accurate shot into the Chester net. The visitors responded well to this setback and enjoyed some pressure, keeping Russell busy.

However on the half-hour Rovers resumed their dominance and Wright should have doubled the lead when running in to meet a Norwood cross from just six yards out. Although under some pressure from a defender, it was a bad miss as he put it over the bar. Wright’s general play this season has been excellent but he badly needs a goal to lift his confidence in finishing off his good work.

Anthony Barry was having an impressive game and his distribution was spot on to Hughes twice in a matter of minutes. The second opportunity led to the bald-headed maestro beating a defender for pace and curling a delightful effort just wide of the post. James Norwood and Hughes were linking together well and with Chester also pushing forward, it continued to be an entertaining game.

A lovely sweeping passing move from FGR ended the half and demonstrated the restored confidence in the FGR ranks. Rovers started the second half in the same vein and a cracking passing move led to Danby making a good save from Norwood in the 47th minute. Chester thought they had a penalty soon after but Lewis Turner was booked for diving by referee Hopkins. A neat chest down by Wright and a good ball from Hughes to Kelly led to a Chester defender clearing for a corner as Rovers searched for the second goal. Kelly then shot wide from a good position.

After Chester’s Jarrett wasted a good position in the FGR box, Hughes was just wide with a near post effort. A positive run into the Rovers’ box by Miller was ended by a fantastically timed challenge from Jamie Turley, who was imperious at the back for Rovers throughout.

Chester continued to ask questions of the FGR defence. On 66 minutes however, the rejuvenated Norwood picked up the ball deep, ran at the Chester defence and then unleashed a low drive which went like an arrow into the bottom left corner of the net from over 20 yards out on the right. FGR could have gone 3 up when a comedy collision between Kelly and Norwood at the far post resulted in neither of them finishing another sweeping passing move.

Just later, in the 71st minute, Hughes unleashed such a powerful shot that it would have burst the net had it found the target but it flew narrowly over. However Hughes soon atoned by scoring another lovely Rovers goal in the 78th minute when after a sympathetic pass from the neat and busy Al Bangura, he picked his spot and despatched the ball sweetly into the top right corner of the net, at some pace too. Hughes was demonstrating the type of quality finishing that FGR had hoped he would bring and his influence to the confidence of the side was also noticeable.

Wayne’s younger brother John Rooney hit the post for Chester on 80 minutes by which time the large visiting contingent knew it wasn’t to be their day. Despite some late pressure from Chester, FGR were able to close the game out as convincing winners against a lively and confident opponent. Ady Pennock was rightly pleased after the game with the quality of football his side had played in tough conditions, scoring three great goals in the process.

He hinted that more comings and goings may be evident in the next few days but played down any talk of the play-offs, sticking to his ‘one game at a time’ strategy. He commented on how much the players were enjoying their game now and that is probably the most significant and positive difference since the end of last year.

There was no confirmation of the Jerome Pennant seen at the Bear at Rodborough story…..

FGR – Russell, Hodgkiss, Binnom-Williams, Turley, Oshodi, Barry (Green), Kelly, Bangura, Norwood, Hughes (Walker), Wright (Vieira) Chester- Danby, Horan, Reed, Jarrett, Lindfield, Turner, McIntyre, Rooney, Miller, Killock, Menagh

Att; 1,483 (away 316)

Severn Sport Man of the Match – Lee Hughes