Hockaday's side hold promotion rivals Wrexham
Buy this photo » SPEED MERCHANT: Magno Vieira steps on the gas. Pictures by Carl Hewlett
THIS was as good a goalless draw as any football spectator could hope to see, writes Andy Ward.
A young Rovers team, average outfield age just over 23, showed once again that they could compete with the best and most experienced in the league.
In the first two minutes Matty Taylor set the tone with a long-distance right-footer which swerved just wide of the right-hand upright.
Second-placed Wrexham, unbeaten in eight matches, had the better of the first twenty-five minutes and nearly scored when Martin Riley’s header was brilliantly clawed away by Rovers goalkeeper Sam Russell. But the 15 minutes before half-time belonged to Rovers.
Yan Klukowski took four corners in five minutes, and the same player’s dangerous free-kick saw a good Reece Styche header saved by Chris Maxwell. Styche’s fierce right-foot shot was also brilliantly knocked away by Maxwell, leaping to his right. An excellent Rovers move involving seven or eight slick passes saw Wrexham keeper Maxwell diving to cut out a fierce low cross from Chris Stokes.
And Klukowski looked to be through on goal only for his heavy touch to allow Maxwell to reach the ball first.
Brett Ormerod, who was playing for Blackpool in the Premiership only twenty months ago, hit a couple of long-range shots for Wrexham, including a lob that cleared the bar.
Ten minutes after half-time, Rovers had a heart-stopping moment when Reece Styche, having looked at his best, collapsed to the turf after challenging a Wrexham defender near the halfway-line. Styche, holding his left knee, left the field on a stretcher.
James Norwood thrilled the crowd with some speedy, skilful, dribbles, including one of over 60 yards in the first half. In the second half he created himself a good shooting chance but put the ball over the bar with his left foot. Norwood also combined well with Taylor before Taylor’s low left-footer was saved by Maxwell.
Wrexham came strongly towards the end and Russell made two crucial saves. He somehow kept out Danny Wright’s 78th minute header with his right hand and he blocked Adrian Cieslewicz’s shot with his legs, with Joe Clarke putting the rebound over the bar with five minutes left.
With the match looking to end as a fitting draw, the final chance came to Rovers in the sixth minute of stoppage-time. A hectic spell of total football began with central defender Eddie Oshodi, on the left wing, dribbling past defenders and it ended with left-back Chris Stokes, on the right wing, cutting up the bye-line to play the ball back for Magno Vieira, whose shot was a few inches too high.
Forest Green: S. Russell; J. Hodgkiss, J. Turley, E. Oshodi, C. Stokes; K. Forbes (J. Collins 89), A. Bangura, Y. Klukowski; M. Taylor, R. Styche (M. Vieira 59), J. Norwood (Y. Odubade 90).
Subs not used: E. Asafu-Adjaye, M. Bulman.
Star Man: Jamie Turley- Set for a higher level.
Next up: Luton Town (A) Saturday, February 9 (3pm).