Forest Green Rovers 1 Gateshead 1
By Neil Martin
A hard fought game between two in-form and highly placed sides ended in an entertaining draw at the New Lawn. Jon Parkin’s tap in was matched by a volley from Callum Howe to keep both teams in the play-off hunt.
Ady Pennock made 3 changes to the team that won at Telford, explaining afterwards that he wanted ‘fresh legs’. Guthrie, Rodgers & Parkin came in for Jolley, Hughes and Frear, who all moved to the bench. Gateshead came to FGR with an impressive 8 game unbeaten record and as last season’s play-off final runners up.
The game opened in a terrific thunderstorm and not surprisingly this made the opening exchanges scrappy.
The re-introduction of Eddie Oshodi at the back for Rovers has resulted in them passing out from the back more often recently and in one sweet break involving him and Rob Sinclair, the final ball just eluded Rodgers inside the box.
The game remained uneventful until the 22nd minute when a sumptuous chip from Sinclair found Norwood, who took the ball in his stride into the box but his goal bound effort was blocked well by Heed keeper Bartlett. Oshodi headed narrowly wide from the resulting corner. These near misses seemed to get FGR going and they started to enjoy a period of pressure.
However, a resilient and hard-working Gateshead created an even better chance on 28 minutes when Shaw was presented with a free header from close range after good work down their left. Sam Russell made an excellent reaction save to prevent the opening goal.
On 36 minutes Jon Parkin should have done better after Rodgers had helped to set him up but his shot lacked conviction and was straight at the keeper. Former Rover Danny Wright then headed over from a good position as the game opened up towards half-time.
Alex Rodman of Gateshead produced a fine run and shot which Russell gathered at the second attempt off the greasy surface. The last meaningful act of the half was a beautiful free kick from Kelly into the box but FGR players had carelessly been caught offside.
After an equally lacklustre start to the second half, although this time in bright autumn sunshine, Rovers were forced into a change just before the hour as Pipe had to go off having taken a knock, to be replaced by Dale Bennett.
Danny Wright again missed a very presentable headed chance on 62 minutes which brought back memories of his last few months with FGR last season.
Rovers then enjoyed their most sustained period of pressure in the match as the home support noisily offered constant encouragement. (Yes, you did read that correctly!). This was rewarded with a great team goal on 71 minutes. A Russell throw out was skilfully back-heeled by Rodgers into the path of the on-rushing new right back Bennett. His storming run and determination to get a good cross in was all worthwhile when it was met gleefully at the far post by Parkin for a tap-in.
Unfortunately for Rovers the lead was short-lived as two poor defensive headers left the ball falling to Howe 8 yards out and he powerfully volleyed the visitors level in the 77th minute.
The equaliser drove Gateshead further forward and FGR were forced to defend at this stage. However on 87 minutes Parkin headed wide from a good Kelly cross from the left, sub Kamdjo then over hit a powerful long range effort and in the final seconds, Parkin looked to have won the game for Rovers but his toe poke goalwards from a prone position was deflected for a corner.
It would have been interesting to have seen Elliott Frear introduced out wide for the struggling Guthrie at some point but the Rovers’ manager professed himself satisfied with a ‘fair result’ in a match of ‘2 good teams’. He said that he was pleased with the progress of the team and that exciting times were ahead. He also praised the vocal home support.
FGR – Russell, Pipe (Bennett), Kelly, Oshodi, Coles, Wedgbury, Sinclair (Kamdjo), Guthrie, Rodgers (Hughes), Norwood, Parkin
Gateshead – Bartlett, Jones, Clark, Oster, Turnbull, Shaw, Allan, Rodman, Pattison, Howe, Wright
Att- 1,217 (away 67)
Severn Sport FGR Man of the Match – Rob Sinclair