Forest Green Rovers 1 Nuneaton 0
By Neil Martin
The era of Ady Pennock as Forest Green’s manager started with a win at the New Lawn and as he commented afterwards, although it wasn’t pretty, it was very welcome indeed. Rovers rode their luck early in the game, scored a quality goal and then protected it with a collective resilience so often lacking earlier in the season.
There was one change to the FGR side, with Jared Hodgkiss back into the starting line up in place of hamstring strain victim Chris Stokes. Ed Asafu-Adjaye moved over to left back to cover. Scott Bartlett had picked and prepared the side and the new manager had only met the players an hour and a half before kick- off. Nuneaton arrived in Nailsworth on the back of a miserable run of nine games without a win.
Despite their lack of form, Nuneaton started the stronger in a scrappy opening. However the game came to life when amazingly, three times in two minutes, just before the quarter hour, the visitors were denied by last gasp goal line clearances from Rovers. Firstly a neat move from the left led to an apparent tap in at the far post denied by Asafu-Adjaye, then a great save by Sam Russell from a powerful header from the resulting corner lead to a goalmouth scramble where two further goal line blocks were made by Rovers defenders.
Despite not falling behind Rovers were unable to impose any sort of rhythm on the match in the first half and although James Norwood showed some energy to try to make things happen it was a frustrating time for the home side. Nuneaton, battling for everything and dangerous from set pieces, did not look a team who had not won for a long time.
Then, out of the blue in the 38th minute, a moment of real quality as FGR opened the scoring. A fine cross by Norwood found Marcus Kelly in space inside the box and he confidently despatched his shot into the top right hand corner of the net. Rovers maintained this lead until half-time with no further alarms.
An early second half penalty shout, when Danny Wright and keeper Belshaw both went down in a heap, was waved away by referee Bennett. As the half progressed, the game became more stretched with Nuneaton still well in the game. Gordon headed over from a corner in the 56th minute when he should have scored and York shot over soon afterwards as the visitors pressed.
When FGR were able to break, it was the neat and skilful play of Marcus Kelly who gave Nuneaton problems, although the excellent form of Asafu-Adjaye continued at the back as he made another timely interception at the far post.
Trainer put in a powerful shot on 70 minutes which Russell did well to cover low to his right and then three minutes later came the defining moment of the second half. Wes York nipped between defenders into the left of the Rovers six yard box and put in an inviting cross which just required a touch at the far post to equalise. However there was no Nuneaton player close enough and Rovers dodged another bullet.
A nice run and shot from Kelly was FGR’s response and they made their first change on 75 minutes with Vieira replacing Norwood who had faded in the second half. A powerful run down the right from Wright eventually led to the busy Al Bangura shooting wide.
The luckless Vieira had to be subbed himself by Reece Styche on 85 minutes after a nasty looking knock.
Nuneaton pressed until the end but lacked quality in the final third and Russell was confident in his catching to keep them at bay.
Ady Pennock, in his first post-match press conference, paid tribute to the work of Scott Bartlett in preparing the team and notching two wins out of two. He also hailed the ‘phenomenal’ work rate of his new team and said it was important sometimes in a season to grind out results such as this. He added that he thought the fans were fantastic in getting behind the team and that he couldn’t wait to get onto the training field to start work with the players.
FGR – Russell, Hodgkiss, Asafu-Adjaye, Turley (c), Bennett, Bangura, Green, Kelly, Klukowski, Norwood, Wright
Nuneaton – Belshaw, Bell, Dean, Armson, Moult, Streete, Sleath, Gordon, York, Trainer, Hibbert
Att – 933 (away 59)
Forest Green Rovers 1 Nuneaton 0