Vanarama Conference Premier
Aldershot Town 1
Forest Green 1
By Richard Joyce
A brilliant second half header from veteran Lee Hughes secured Forest Green a point at Aldershot Town and helped Rovers to the top of the Vanarama Conference table.
Hughes guided Rob Sinclair’s corner past Shots goalkeeper Phil Smith for his third goal of the campaign and to maintain Ady Pennock side’s unbeaten start to the new season.
Rovers perhaps should have gone on to win the tie but a combination of excellent goalkeeping and poor finishing proved to be their downfall.
Nevertheless, an eye-catching clash offered plenty for both sets of supporters to enjoy ahead of Rovers Bank Holiday derby with Bristol Rovers at The New Lawn.
The same eleven that started the club’s three previous fixtures were in place yet again at the Shots Electrical Services Stadium home.
They were part of a first half performance which took time to get going, for both teams, as Rovers paraded their new 125th centenary away jersey for the first time this season.
Damon Lathrope’s long-range shot early on failed to test Sam Russell after Clovis Kamdjo had been dispossessed in a dangerous area.
Efforts from Elliott Frear and Jon Parkin were easily gathered by former FGR trialist Smith in the Aldershot goal, until ten minutes before the break, when the Shots took the lead from the penalty spot.
David Pipe was judged to have felled Jordan Roberts on the edge of the area and the hosts leading talisman, Brett Williams, powered home from 12 yards.
It could have been worse for FGR who were facing their biggest test of the season so far only a few minutes before the half time whistle.
But fortunately for Rovers, Russell was on hand to make a fine diving stop to his right after veteran midfielder Mark Molesley had sent a curling effort towards goal.
The second half was a brighter affair and it was one that saw Forest Green pressuring the home team from the start.
Sinclair’s ball over the top set Hughes free on 48 minutes but the former Premier League star saw his final attempt stopped by Smith at the final moment.
Smith was at it again, making a vital one-on-one stop ten minutes later. This time Sinclair failed to convert after Jon Parkin’s stunning pass had set the former Aldershot loanee free.
From the resultant corner kick however Forest Green took the lead and Sinclair played his part.
His corner from the left hand side was met terrifically by Hughes, who with his back to goal, directed the ball past Smith into the back of the net to draw parity.
Rovers should have gone ahead just minutes later but this time Smith foiled Kamdjo’s attempt to lift the ball over him in another one-on-one situation.
There were to be no late final twists in what was an excellent advert for Vanarama Conference football.
Sinclair’s late free kick couldn’t find the target, while Frear’s superb work late on unsettled the Shots defence, but ultimately didn’t secure FGR a second goal.
Aldershot Town: P. Smith; J. Gibbs, G. Wilson, J. Oastler, C. Barker (A. Tonkin 39); M. Molesley (J. N'Guessan 64), D. Lathrope, S. Hatton, J. Roberts; B. Williams (D. Fitchett 79), J. Scott.
Subs not used: T. Derry, D. Thomas.
Forest Green: S. Russell; D. Pipe, L. Oliver, D. Coles, C. Stokes; R. Sinclair (J. Norwood 85), C. Kamdjo, S. Wedgbury, E. Frear; J. Parkin, L. Hughes; Subs not used: E. Oshodi, M. Kelly, L. Rodgers, S. Arnold.
Referee: N. Kinseley (Essex)
Star man: Rob Sinclair