FOREST Green boss David Hockaday insists his side are in a good place after a frustrating Boxing Day defeat against promotion rivals Newport County, writes Richard Joyce.
Two inspired substitutions by Newport boss Justin Edinburgh paid off, as Ben Swallow and Ryan Charles netted late in the second half to deny Rovers a huge win after Stephen Brogan had handed them the lead.
Jamie Turley was sent off late on for a second booking, he looked to have won the ball in his final contribution but match official Wayne Barratt was quick to his pocket to ban the England C captain from Saturday’s clash with Kidderminster Harriers.
Hockaday said: "We’ve had all of the chances but we haven’t put them away when we should have. I cannot fault any member of my team for the effort they have put in. They’ve scored from a bit of a fluke of a corner and a good strike to be fair. I don’t think Sam (Russell) has had anything to do other than that.
"We were the better team but sometimes better teams don’t win. We’ve just got to manage the moments. It was there for us to win.
"We are doing a lot right and I know a lot of people know that. So we’ve just got to keep on believing. We are not going to change the way we play.
"They are the best in the league but I thought we bettered them today. We are where we are. We are 4th or 5th in the league, we have put on a great show, 2,300 people, super surface with all this rain, we are going toe to toe with the big boys.
"Newport County ex-Football League, Luton Town, all these top teams. We are here and we are pitching ourselves against them and we are doing better than okay so we are in a good place and yes we want to be better than that. We’ll keep on going, we’ll get our heads down and we’ll see where we end up."
A scrappy opening was lit up by Turley’s first yellow for a late challenge on Lee Evans. But rather than inspiring the Welsh side, it was Rovers who drew inspiration from the game’s first major talking point and both Brogan and Matty Taylor flashed efforts at goal.
Newport keeper Alan Julian would face a busy afternoon as Rovers barraged the Newport goal with efforts and the former Stevenage shot stopper was on hand to make an important save when Taylor had broken away from the usually sturdy County defence.
Julian was called upon once again just seconds before the break. Jared Hodgkiss, making just his third start of the season, lifted a dangerous cross, which looked to be heading for the top corner until Julian tipped it on to the bar.
The half -time break would give County some breathing space from Rovers intense pressure, and as sections of the Newport fans caused trouble in the away end, the second half would get underway with a similar level of intensity.
Rovers would finally fire past Julian and it was an excellent controlled volley by Brogan from a perfectly orchestrated Chris Stokes cross that would do the damage.
Hockaday’s side knew that just the one goal would not be enough, and Aarran Racine was on hand to almost double the score line however his powerful header was gloved away by Julian.
James Norwood then smashed a fierce shot on goal, which whisked inches over the crossbar.
Rovers continued to fail when attempting to convert their chances, and it would come back to haunt them when Swallow and Charles were introduced from off the bench for Newport.
Former Bristol Rovers youngster Swallow’s low corner kick somehow crept in at the near post to draw Newport level within minutes of the attackers’ introduction.
Then, Charles produced a moment of quality to make sure that maximum points would be heading back across the Severn Bridge to South East Wales.
The 23-year-old sprinted directly at goal and unleashed a fine left-footed effort that cannoned in to the back of the net to hand Newport a huge win.
Forest Green: Russell, Hodgkiss, Turley, Racine, Stokes, Green (Bangura 78), Klukowski (Styche 77), Collins, Norwood (Vieira 87), Taylor, Brogan.
Not used: Oshodi, Jarvis
Newport: Julian, Pipe (Anthony 90), Yakubu, James, Hughes, Porter, Evans, Flynn, Smith (Swallow 62), O'Connor, Washington (Charles 61).
Not used: Pidgeley, Minshull
Star Man: Chris Stokes
Referee: Wayne Barratt (Worcestershire FA)