Forest Green defender Chris Stokes returns from injury to hit a stunner at Gloucester City

RETURN: Chris Stokes  Pic:Bruce Fenn

RETURN: Chris Stokes Pic:Bruce Fenn

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CHRIS Stokes marked his return from injury with a stunning striker in 5-3 victory at Conference North outfit Gloucester City.

With Rovers already scheduled to play AFC Slimbridge on the other side of the M5, Ady Pennock sent assistant manager Dave Kevan to oversee a mixed squad of first team players and Academy products, with the elder statesmen getting first use of the pitch.

Yet the first chance fell to Gloucester City as Scott Wilson tried to curl in an ambitious right footed shot in after 15 seconds only to see his effort end high and wide.

After that early flourish, the first 10 minutes belonged to Rovers, and in particular Luke Rodgers whose intelligent movement and precise touch would be a feature throughout the match.

With only six minutes gone, Rodgers opened the scoring after latching onto a deflected Guthrie cross to smash the ball past Harvey Rivers from the end of the box.

The former Shrewsbury frontman had played Guthrie through after some neat build up play from Marcus Kelly in the centre of midfield.

But if Rovers thought they would have it all there own way, they were shortly to be given a rude awakening.

A wayward clearance from Eddie Oshodi, partnering the impressive Cameron Pirie in the centre of defence, was intercepted by Bill Jones who hit an absolute belter from 35 yards.

Rovers’ keeper Paul White appeared to spot to shot in plenty of time but could do nothing about.

With a shot that would have been a goal of the season candidate had it been scored in a league fixture, Jones muted response perhaps reflected the fact the shot was wasted on a preseason friendly.

The goal seemed to invigorate Rovers, who began producing some swift passing moves, with Kelly in the midfield and Rodgers up front releasing their wide men in the form of Kurtis Guthrie and James Fisher.

And it was another wide man, the returning  Stokes at left back, who was next on the goal sheet as he picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and somehow skipped past three would be tacklers without seemingly changing direction before chipping the 18-year-old Rivers in the City goal.

On 33 minutes, Danny Wright finally made his presence felt, after playing second fiddle to his striking partner.

The big striker shifted the ball onto his left foot from the right-hand edge of the penalty box and curled a well-struck shot beyond the City goalkeeper.

Just a minute later an Forest Green were in again, with Macauley Dodson, at right back, one of just three Academy players in the starting team, released Guthrie with a lovely pass, with the former Welling United wide man finishing well past Rivers.

At 4-1 it felt like Rovers would run away with the game, but Gloucester were to pull one back just before the interval.

A strong tackle from Tom Webb saw to ball deflect kindly to Will Morford through on goal who calmly chipped the on-rushing White from the edge of the area, as the Rovers custodian was left stranded.

A half-time score of 4-2 felt just about right, before Gloucester’s tranche of five changes at the beginning of the second half saw them grab the initiative.

But again it was Rodgers, the standout player on the night, who would produce a touch of class against the run of play.

Pinging a superbly floated precision pass to Wright, who found some space in the box, flicked the ball over a defender and finished with aplomb.

Gloucester pushed hard to hit back and went close through former Shortwood and FGR youth striker Adam Mann, whose deflected shot fell just over White’s crossbar, before a stabbed volley by ex-Shortwood and FGR trialist Sam Avery would from a goal back for the host following a pair of corners.

A final class save by White from a Matt groves shot would see the game finish 5-3, more than any of the 191 fans present could have hoped.

Gloucester City: H. Rivers, S. Avery, B. Jones. S. Hamilton (A. Connolly 45), S. Brooks (M. Green 45), M. Richards, T. Webb (L. Hogg 61), S. Wilson (N. Jarvis 45), W. Morford (J. Hartson 45), C. Griffin (A. Mann 45), E. Chamberlain (M. Groves 76).

Subs not used: M. Green.

Goals: Jones 12, Morford 44, Avery 60.

Forest Green Rovers: P. White, M. Dodson (J. Holmes 79), C. Stokes (S. Bevan 65), M. Kelly (J. Hanley 87), E. Oshodi, C. Pirie, K. Guthrie, S. Wedgbury, D. Wright (D. Martin 79), L. Rodgers (C. Gordon 83), J. Fisher (J. Allen 63).

Subs not used: L. Wright, H. Jones, W. Haywood, A. Simpson.

Goals: Rodgers 6, Stokes 25, Wright 33, 54, Guthrie 35.

Attendance: 191.

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