Late Russell heroics earn Rovers a point
A TRULY gritty Forest Green performance ensured they did not leave Cumbria empty handed as Sam Russell saved a late penalty kick to earn Rovers a point, writes Richard Joyce.
The January transfer window signing brilliantly prevented Richie Baker from securing a late win for hosts Barrow after Rovers had battled all afternoon following Jamie Collins sending off in the first half.
Illness prevented Eddie Oshodi and Matt Taylor from turning out at Holker Street so Luke Graham and Tommy Wright earned recalls off the bench as Forest Green took on a Barrow side who had lost just twice at home all season.
And Rovers are developing a habit of scoring early goals and they were ahead early on again when Yan Klukowski smashed in from close range.
A dominant Rovers opening saw Dave Hockaday’s side barrage the Barrow box with crosses and it was Kieron Forbes' second minute direct run and cross from the right that found Klukowski who netted for the eleventh time this season.
Despite their clear early control, Rovers failed to capitalise on their positive start and were held back for much of the first half by a Barrow attack that were left frustrated at the break by a terrific first half display from Rovers shot stopper Sam Russell.
The 29-year-old goalkeeper stopped Jack Mackreth from firing in after he had turned on the edge of the box and he also held on to an edge of the box free kick from Richie Baker, just before the half hour mark.
Andy Cook’s neat footwork inside the box for the hosts allowed the Barrow number nine the opportunity to get a shot away but Russell was again equal to Barrow’s latest effort.
The final ten minutes of the first half saw the games tempo quickly heighten as an increased number of fouls along with the home support voicing their frustration led to a number of tricky decisions for the match officials.
And it came to a climax five minutes before the break when Rovers were reduced to ten men as Jamie Collins received a straight red card for a raised arm on Barrow midfield man Alex-Ray Harvey leaving Forest Green with a difficult second half challenge.
Rovers threatened on the counter attack with James Norwood working hard up front on his own at the start of the second half but continued Barrow pressure told when the Bluebirds found an equaliser.
Paul Smith’s cross from the right hand channel found Cook who had drifted from his marker at the back post and the striker headed in past the helpless Russell to level things up.
Barrow continued to demonstrate the impressive qualities that has earned the Cumbrians such a highly reputable home record this season although Rovers could gain encouragement from the positive forward runs that midfield man Forbes continued to produce against a Barrow defence that struggled with the future England C international's pace.
Chris Stokes left footed strike a few minutes from time was stopped by Barrow keeper Shaun Pearson as Rovers tried their best to snatch a late winner whilst Cook skied over for the hosts late on as well.
With normal time almost up, what looked like being a fantastically earned point for Rovers was almost undone as Jake Thomson’s foul on Harvey in the box saw referee Stockbridge point straight to the spot.
Just weeks earlier Rovers fans had seen goalkeeper Russell become the hero as the former Darlington man had saved Wrexham’s late spot kick to hand Forest Green a monumental victory at The New Lawn.
And Russell turned hero again at Barrow when he brilliantly turned away Baker’s late spot kick effort out for a corner.
Even still as the game reached stoppage time Forest Green had the chance to win it but Klukowski’s steered free kick was deflected out for a corner as both sides settled for a point in a full blooded affair at Holker Street.