Forest Green Rovers 0 Braintree Town 2
By Neil Martin
After a good run of results had propelled them to the edge of the play-off race, Rovers were brought down to earth by an effective but scrappy Braintree team. It was truly one of those nights for FGR, who dominated the first half, missed numerous chances and conceded two very poor goals. As the second half wore on it was clear that Braintree had dragged Rovers into a battle and there was to be only one winner in that style of game.
Jamie Turley had to pull out of the FGR line-up in the warm-up, to be replaced by Asafu-Adjaye, with Al Bangura added to the bench. Braintree arrived on a good run of form themselves, fresh from a 3 goal win over Wrexham on Tuesday. Both teams were playing their third game in 6 days.
The game started very scrappily with neither side getting any dominance but after the quarter hour Rovers imposed their neat passing game on the visitors and started to create chances with James Norwood prominent at this stage.
Asafu-Adjaye almost hooked in Kelly’s free kick and then from Green’s powerful burst down the right the deflected cross just eluded Kelly. A Hughes cross was just headed clear, Norwood slammed the crossbar from 25 yards with a clever floated shot and then Wright’s shot was deflected just wide. From the corner, Oshodi headed wide. FGR were dominating possession but nothing was falling for them in front of goal.
The game was bizarrely turned on its head after 36 minutes when the linesman flagged for a Braintree penalty. Mensah appeared to take a slight touch from the onrushing Russell and although keeping his balance, as he then went to ground, the flag went up, despite the referee not giving the penalty. Holman converted with ease. It was the second ill-judged advance from Russell this week at the New Lawn to lead to a visitors’ penalty and he was booked for this transgression.
Rovers responded positively to the setback and immediately forced a corner, followed by Kelly shooting over after nice work from Norwood and Wright. Wright’s shot was then blocked at close range after Oshodi had poked the ball forward. Half-time a goal down was harsh on Rovers but they had not scored whilst on top and had conceded a poor goal out of nothing.
Marcus Kelly should have equalised after a goalmouth scramble straight after half-time but miscued and after that near miss, FGR were increasingly dragged into a style of game that didn’t suit them. The crowd became impatient with the long ball and time wasting tactics of Alan Devonshire’s side but it was certainly frustrating Rovers.
Klukowski and Taylor came on for Wright and Barry on 62 minutes but then disaster struck on 70 minutes as an horrendous mix-up involving two defenders and keeper Russell all leaving the ball for each other led to a tap in for Braintree striker Mensah.
Again FGR responded, with a Klukowski shot on the run going close and then Norwood was just wide after a good first time trap and shot. Paul Green shot wide and Jared Hodgkiss should have had his third goal of the week when he missed an easy header at the far post as time was running out for Rovers.
On the whole though, it was huff and puff from FGR and a poor second half generally. Keeper Hamann was forced into his first meaningful save of the game on 84 minutes from a Hughes shot but to sum up Rovers’ night, the offside flag had gone up.
Rovers head to Tamworth on Saturday and will hope to quickly get this disappointing game out of their system.
FGR- Russell, Hodgkiss, Asafu-Adjaye, Oshodi, Racine, Barry, Green, Kelly, Norwood, Wright, Hughes
Braintree- Hamann, Peters, Hebergham, Isaac, Paine, Holman, Sparkes, Daley, Massey, Mensah, Wells
Att- 841 (10 away) Severn Sport Man of the Match – James Norwood