Skrill Premier: Cambridge United 2 Forest Green 1
2:08pm Tuesday 24th September 2013 in Sport
FOREST GREEN slumped to back-to-back defeats for the first time this season in an entertaining clash with Skrill Premier leaders Cambridge United, writes Richard Joyce.
Goalkeeping transgressions in both ranks contributed to the game's defining moments in an open affair between two excellent footballing outfits.
The hosts were ahead from as early as the first minute after a rare Sam Russell mistake allowed Luke Berry to slam home, and Tom Champion's early second half header squirmed under the shot-stopper too, although he made three outstanding stops to limit the hosts.
Yan Klukowski's close range finish after coming on as a substitute at half-time proved to be merely a consolation as Forest Green slipped to tenth.
You certainly could not accuse Rovers of going into the game with a tentative attitude though, as David Hockaday's side lined up with an attacking 4-2-4 formation with Andy Mangan earning his first start of the season alongside Matty Taylor, Danny Wright and Matthew Barnes-Homer in the front line.
It was a disastrous start down the other end of the pitch, though, just 45 seconds in that would put Rovers on the back foot early on.
Richard Tait's hoisted ball into the box from the right was poorly palmed away by the outstretched Russell and midfielder Berry was on hand to add a simple finish to get the Abbey Stadium rocking early on.
The Rovers response was excellent and they went about dominating the majority of the first half with Cambridge keeper Chris Maxwell making a good stop to deny Taylor from heading in a Mangan cross.
Forest Green were finding space in the early exchanges, and Anthony Barry had his eye in on goal yet again as he unleashed a couple of long distance strikes that forced Maxwell into action.
Barnes-Homer also tried his luck from the edge of the box but his low strike skipped wide as Cambridge's on-loan front man Kwesi Appiah worked Russell into a comfortable stop midway through the half.
Russell was made to produce the first of three excellent saves five minutes before the break though when he tipped Tait's scorching long distance thump onto the crossbar.
Klukowski was thrown into the fray at the break in place of Taylor although it was Cambridge who would seal the perfect start to the second half as Champion helped the U's crowd erupt again.
Former Gateshead winger Ryan Donaldson's lofted back post corner was met by Champion, who headed the ball downwards, and Russell saw the ball squeeze through underneath him as Cambridge earned themselves a two-goal cushion.
It was a fast response from Rovers, however, and it came with another goalkeeping error - this time from U's shot-stopper Maxwell.
Dale Bennett, who was free to play after having his red card against Welling on Tuesday rescinded, delivered a ball into the six yard box which was fumbled by Maxwell and Klukowski was on hand to tap in to get his side back into the game.
The hosts tried to restore their two-goal cushion but they came up against a determined Russell, who made two fantastic stops.
The former Middlesbrough stopper denied Adam Cunnington, who had put four past Rovers last season for Tamworth, with an excellent save using his legs.
And he then stopped the lively Nathan Arnold from furthering Cambridge's advantage when he produced a stand-tall save when the tricky winger thought he had found the net.
Rovers applied pressure late on, although with little effect, and were unfortunate to see a dubious handball incident waved away by referee Robert Whitton at the death, as Cambridge held on to maintain their excellent home record and leave Forest Green frustrated that they left with nothing.
- Forest Green are at home to Tamworth tonight (7.45pm).
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