HARD WORKING ROVERS EDGED OUT OF THE FA CUP
Oxford United 1 Forest Green Rovers 0
By Neil Martin
FGR put in a battling performance at League 2 leaders Oxford United but were finally edged out late on, by a well taken goal from the game’s best player. They can be proud of their efforts though, as for long periods they more than matched the senior side.
Despite the recent deluges, the Kassam Stadium pitch was in great shape and the 600 or so travelling Rovers fans were looking forward to seeing the team test themselves against the best in the League above. Ady Pennock brought in Sinclair and Jennings for Marsh-Brown and Kelly into the starting line-up.
FGR started confidently and Darren Carter very nearly opened the scoring in the third minute, as Buchel made an excellent save to tip his dipping effort over the bar. Racine’s header was also saved from the corner and apart from a Rose effort which drifted wide, the early exchanges belonged to the visitors. Elliot Frear was seeing plenty of the ball on the left but lacked his usual crossing accuracy.
Hylton was booked for leaving his foot in on FGR keeper Arnold which made the home fans strangely take exception to every tackle that Rovers made, most of which were fair and ball winning. Carter and Parkin both didn’t make the most of other opportunities as FGR continued to be in charge. Carter in particular was finding space at will just behind the front two.
When Oxford did manage to get crosses in, Clough and Racine were excellent in clearing the danger. Rose was then booked for a strong ariel challenge which increased the home fan’s misplaced rage still further.
Dale Bennett suffered what looked to be a serious leg injury in the 38th minute, after landing awkwardly from a harmless looking clash of heads. He was stretchered off, although Ady Pennock said afterwards that the club were hopeful that the injury wasn’t as bad as it had appeared. David Pipe replaced Bennett for Rovers.
The last action of the half was a good save from Arnold from a Sercombe shot. Although Roofe was starting to pull the strings for Oxford, Rovers had been the better side in the first half and had certainly created the better openings.
FGR started the second half brightly too, with Guthrie featuring well but they were unable to find any end product, as Parkin was looking a little off the pace of the game.
Rob Sinclair was then made FGR’s first caution of the game to the glee of the Oxford fans who had felt so hard done by in the first half.
As the hour mark approached Oxford started to dominate for the first time in the match. Steve Arnold became very busy, as he first smothered the ball after some neat interplay and then made the save of the match to scramble to tip over Hylton’s goal bound header on 59 minutes. Roofe shot wide from an excellent free kick position and as the game opened up Carter was unable to make good enough contact with a snap shot inside the Oxford box.
FGR were made to pay immediately on 75 minutes, when Roofe spun away from Wedgbury and let fly with a dipping shot into the right hand corner of the Rovers net. Arnold will probably feel he should have saved it but it took a wicked hop off the greasy turf to propel itself out of his reach.
Baldock was attacking well now for Oxford from right back and the hosts looked the more likely to add to their lead. Rovers were paying the penalty for not keeping possession as well as they had in the first half. O’Dowda’s shot was well saved by Arnold with just seven minutes to play.
To be fair to FGR, they gave everything in the closing stages to get a late equaliser, with the best chance coming when James Jennings got his head to a near post corner but the ball drifted just wide right. They were again indebted to Arnold for a save when Oxford over complicated a great chance to seal it but then Parkin’s volley was saved comfortably.
The busy Arnold then came up for a last gasp FGR corner and actually got his header in, although it flew harmlessly wide.
Rovers were ultimately beaten by a moment of class, in a very close game that could have gone either way. Oxford shaded it on their second half performance. Ady Pennock was heartened afterwards by the many positives from the game for the vital League campaign ahead.
Oxford – Buchel, Baldock, Skarz, Roofe, Mullins, Rose, Sercombe, Hoban, Hylton, O’Dowda, Dunkley
FGR – Arnold, Jennings, Clough, Racine, Bennett, Wedgbury, Sinclair, Frear, Guthrie , Parkin, Carter
Att – 4,618 (away 619)
Severn Sport FGR Man of the Match – Steve Arnold