FOREST Green have entered into 2013 in sublime form, entertaining us all by playing to their full potential. Could that awful evening at Braintree have been the seasons tipping point?
What has happened to bring about such a turnaround? There were strong signs in the Boxing Day game at the New Lawn. Rovers certainly deserved something from that fixture. No-one however anticipated the New Year’s Day rout. Newport 0, Forest Green 5! No apology is made for writing the score again.
“My worst defeat as a manager” screamed Newport’s Justin Edinburgh after the game.
I shall not stay awake worrying on his behalf; instead all of us should savour a wonderful result, brought about by fine counter attacking play. Using the width of the pitch Rovers made the Newport defence look like a collection of traffic bollards, speeding by on either side.
The team could have justifiably sat back in the second half and defended a two- goal lead, but no – at last we saw an FGR side going for the jugular. How this result must have boosted our confidence. To thrash the league pace-setters on their own pitch is what our team did. We should do more than savour this; we should shout it from the Five Valleys rooftops.
Then came Hyde on Saturday. Optimism abounded and it was not misplaced. The Hyde ground, tiny but trim and the graciousness of the welcome represented all that is good in non-league football. The groundsman had worked hard on the well-used pitch but the monsoons had obviously hit Manchester as well. It played with the cloying consistency of Christmas pudding. This did not deter Rovers. After a shaky opening 15 minutes they took control of the match and never lost it.
Al Bangura was outstanding from the outset. In the holding midfield role he plays so well he dragged the team into the game, with both incisive tackling and passing. On a difficult surface he showed how important it was to get the basics right and the rest of the team followed his example.
James Rowe deserves a special mention. Many were surprised to see him in the side, but in his free role behind the strikers he has his best game for Rovers. Looking much fitter and stronger he covered a vast amount of ground, passing – probing and assisting both attack and defence.
Also, very mobile was Matty Taylor – not always eye catching in what he did but so unlucky not to be on the score sheet.
Perhaps it was his speed that deceived the linesman when his crisp finish should have given us a last minute lead. Most around me thought it was a good goal, including the Hyde PA man as he identified the scorer and approved the goal fully a minute after play had restarted following a free-kick. Matty also contributed some fine hold up play that contributed to the James Norwood goal – releasing him just at the right moment. Give James the ball now and he does the rest. Now a goal in front Rovers pressed on. More could have come and if ever there was a one – nil thrashing this was it. Reece proved an electric substitute when Rowe tired (Yan dropped back onto midfield) and there was unconfined joy at the final whistle.
Manager and players headed for the Rovers fans and there was mutual high fiving and rejoicing. If anyone thinks manager and players are indifferent to what happens they should have been at Hyde at 4.50pm on Saturday afternoon. It was a happy, united scene. Are the Green Devils finding not just a championship winning side, but a table-topping crowd as well? No there were not many there, but after scenes like that numbers will surely grow. The answer to how we increase goals is simple maintain this form in 2013.
Full credit must go to management and players.
Certainly Christmas had been sacrificed for hard work on the training ground. The manager had stuck to his principles, and who can doubt them?
The players have responded magnificently. Words from a Hyde supporter end this column. I quote verbatim.
"Good luck – you can win the championship. You are the best side seen here this season, using the width of the field to attack us. Your defence got better and better". None of us there could have put it better.