FOREST GREEN sailed into the First Round Proper of the FA Cup with a triumphant character-filled display at Blue Square Bet Premier rivals Dartford, writes Richard Joyce.
Dave Hockaday’s side can now look forward to an exciting tie at home to Port Vale, who are second in League Two, on Saturday, November 3.
A tasty first half saw six players booked, and after Harry Crawford had given the home side the lead, Yan Klukowski’s expertly taken free kick ensured both sides entered the break level.
Darts goalkeeper Louis Wells, who had performed brilliantly in Gloucestershire on Saturday, was then at the centre of two big errors that gave Rovers a two goal advantage before substitute Magno Vieira wrapped things up right at the end.
At the weekend, James Norwood had got Rovers off to the best of starts in the tie with a fine goal that was eventually cancelled out and the 22-year-old speed merchant almost handed Forest Green an early lead once again, but after rounding the keeper his effort was forced wide.
Eddie Oshodi then headed a Klukowski corner into the side netting and Norwood tried his luck again from distance with Wells unconvincingly shipping the ball out for a corner.
But then just before the half hour mark and completely against the run of play, Dartford danger man Crawford glanced in a header from the left to put the hosts ahead.
Rovers’ response was swift as just a couple of minutes later James Norwood smashed in. However, astonishingly referee John Hopkins called back play and awarded Forest Green a free kick on the edge of the box after a foul .
Shocked by the decision, Klukowski provided the perfect reaction as his finely struck free kick nestled in the top corner to bring the game level.
A snap shot from Reece Styche was all that was left of a first period that grew in its fired up nature towards the interval with four yellow cards being handed out in the final 15 minutes alone.
Rovers were forced to fend off a persistent Dartford attack after the break, and despite desperate six yard box defending and a smart save by Sam Russell from an Elliot Bradbrook shot, Rovers held on before Klukowski scored his second.
Last season’s golden boot winner tried his luck from 30 yards with a low drive that was terribly mishandled by Wells and Forest Green found themselves ahead as the ball rolled in.
Matty Taylor then stuck a shot past Wells only for the hit-man to be ruled offside following a Kieron Forbes flick on and moments later Rovers extended their lead with a helping hand once again from the hapless Wells.
Norwood fired in an effort on goal from distance which the former Staines Town keeper failed to grasp, but the ball fell to Taylor and the fox-in-the-box did the rest.
The impressive Dartford support was at this point silenced and a shot that struck the post from substitute Ed Asafu-Adjaye and a blast over following a superb run by Norwood almost added to their woes.
The hosts did attempt some desperate final efforts but they were foiled by a determined Forest Green defence who were overjoyed to see Magno Vieira notch a satisfying fourth.
The Brazilian attacker had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes but his coolness in front of goal saw him steer a shot past Wells from a narrow angle to send Rovers into the first round.
* Gloucestershire Police have ordered Forest Green’s Blue Square Premier encounter with Luton Town this Saturday (3pm) is an all-ticket affair – meaning tickets must be purchased in advance of match day – in what could be the biggest game of the season for Rovers.
Tickets are available from the club reception on Thursday and Friday (9am-5pm), and also from the ticket office on Thursday evening (5pm-9pm).