Hockaday wants to turn the New Lawn into a fortress
Buy this photo » SHOT OFF: Striker Matty Taylor in action at the New Lawn Picture: Carl Hewlett
DAVID Hockaday insists his team will have to turn the New Lawn into a fortress after they shared the opening day spoils with fellow promotion protagonists Cambridge United.
Rovers were grateful to last season's top scorer Yan Klukowski in earning a 1-1 draw. The powerful midfielder's 89th-minute penalty pegged Cambridge back after former Leeds United striker Tom Elliott headed in a first-half opener.
Hockaday said: "We have to make this place a fortress, so for us this is two points dropped.
"But considering the way the game went we have to be grateful that we took a point."
Hockaday felt his side looked nervy from the off on a sun-kissed afternoon.
He added:"I thought we were very nervy, as the first game is, and until Cambridge scored they hadn't allowed us to play.
"But after the goal it was like the shackles were off us, and although it wasn't the most fluent we've ever played we totally dominated.”
Forest Green stopper Sam Russell was underemployed throughout the match, in a stark contrast to his opposite number, who had his gloves well and truly warmed.
"Cambridge had one shot on target in the whole game, but their keeper was outstanding and I though their fans were magnificent because they kept their team going when they were chasing shadows,” added Hockaday.
Star midfielder Al Bangura was below par as Rovers struggled to produce their usual free-flowng football. The former Premiership ace failed to return after the break and was swapped for the fleet-footed James Rowe. Hockaday added: "I was disappointed because there was about an eight-minute spell before we scored when we started kicking the ball long.
"It's not about that, it's about believing in the way we want to play. We got the ball down and started getting into areas again.
"I cannot and will not ever fault the spirit of the team, and I thought we passed the legs off Cambridge at the end.
Hockaday highlighted the impressive performances of Ed Asafu-Adjaye on his debut and Jamie Collins who filled in for Jamie Turley who was forced to play at right-back in the absence of skipper Jared Hodgkiss.
He said: "I thought Ed Asafu-Adjaye was outstanding at left-back and Jamie Collins is a great lad and very vociferous, playing his part as he always does."
A set-piece caught Rovers out in the 32nd minute. Kevin Roberts’ cross fell to Josh Coulson for Elliott to pounce with a diving header.
Rovers flickered into life and Hedge had to deny James Norwood from close range. Turley came close after rampaging forward from right-back, getting on the end of Norwood’s cross and seeing a header deflected over, while the quiet Kieron Forbes sent a curling effort wide from 25 yards.
Rovers were missing the width of Hodgkiss and Chris Stokes, but as half-time approached, Matty Taylor watched his goalbound shot deflect off a defender.
Rowe offered Rovers a cutting edge after the break and forwards Ben Wright and Reece Styche were chucked on, but Cambridge remained resolute. Norwood found his feet and his jet-heeled run was blocked by a superb Roberts tackle.
However, Roberts was caught when he tripped the Forest Green speedster to earn an 89th minute penalty. Klukowski missed two penalties during pre-season but smartly sent Hedge the wrong way to net parity.
Forest Green: S Russell; J Turley, E Oshodi, J Collins, E Asafu-Adjaye; K Forbes, A Bangura (J Rowe 46), Y Klukowski; J Norwood, M Taylor (R Styche 79), M Vieira (B Wright 70).
Substitutes not used: A Racine, P Marsh.
Cambridge Utd: J Hedge; K Roberts, J Coulson, S Garner, J Jennings; R Willmott, R Wellard, R Jarvis, H Dunk (A Moke 64), L Berry (L Hughes 27); T Elliott (S Smith 72).
Substitutes not used: T Shaw, R McAuley.
Referee: D Handley (Lancs) Attendance: 1,128.
Star man: Jamie Collins.