Committed Rovers undone late on
FOREST Green were left undone by Conor Townsend’s late set piece winner despite putting on a truly hard working performance at Grimsby, writes Richard Joyce.
The Grimsby Town left backs late free kick was the result of a frantic last ten minutes which saw Rovers keeper Sam Russell pull off a fourth consecutive penalty save after Forest Green had come from behind in the first half to score from a Yan Klukowski penalty kick.
A toe injury kept England C international defender Jamie Turley out of action with Luke Graham stepping up to the starting eleven whilst there was a welcome return on the bench for star striker Reece Styche in Dave Hockaday’s line up.
Neither side provided much of an early threat at a spring like Blundell Park but the lack of action in front of goal was quickly aborted in the 13th minute when Grimsby took the lead.
A cross from the right found the head of Anthony Elding and the former Stockport County man headed the ball back across the face of goal to find the potent Liam Hearn whose volley was quickly found settling in the back of the net.
The Rovers response was swift and the impressive James Norwood spooned an effort immediately over the bar and was then involved in securing Rovers their leveller.
Another burst in to the box saw the 21 year old upended and referee Richard Wigglesworth was quick to point to the spot to award visiting Rovers a penalty kick.
Yan Klukowski stepped up confidently to slam past Grimsby keeper James McKeown to continue his fine goal scoring form and to put Rovers level.
Rovers shot stopper Sam Russell was called upon to make a good stop on the half hour mark when he prevented former Bristol Rovers man Craig Disley from firing in after Grimsby had threaded the ball through to the midfielder in a fine move.
The final ten minutes of the first period oozed with Rovers pressure as Hockaday’s men produced some irresistible football in and around the Grimsby box that led to a number of chances.
Norwood’s break in to the box and low shot was stopped by McKeown whilst Kieron Forbes inch perfect pass for Matty Taylor a few minutes later led to the former Oxford United man, who signed a contract extension earlier this week, to earning Rovers a corner from his shot.
Grimsby could do little to keep the hard working Norwood out of the game in the first half and the Rovers number seven again went close with a low shot just before half time which was pushed out for a corner by McKeown and the former Exeter City attacker headed the resultant Jake Thomson corner just wide.
The hosts again recorded the first chance of the afternoon at the start of the second half when the tenacious Hearn almost slotted in from the narrowest of angles only for Russell to deflect the ball out behind goal whilst immediately at the other end, Taylor’s driven pass reached the hard running Chris Stokes who should have done better with his left footed strike which rolled wide.
Stokes did go on to produce a terrific left footed cross a little while later in the half which was narrowly headed over by substitute Tommy Wright who was appearing against his former employers.
With the game reaching the final ten minutes of normal time both sides were strongly placed for an exciting finish and Elding had the ideal opportunity for the hosts to put them ahead but he blasted over with Russell left stranded and with an open goal to aim at.
Grimsby would be handed another fantastic opportunity just moments later however as Thomson was ajudged to have unluckily handled the ball and the linesman pointed to the spot to hand the hosts a spot kick.
Since joining Rovers, shot stopper Russell had saved all three penalties blasted at him by opposition players so it was no surprise when he kept out Elding’s effort from the penalty spot – his fourth penalty save in a row.
Even Rob Duffy’s smashed effort a minute later pelted off the woodwork to ensure Rovers remained level but Forest Green and Russell could do nothing to stop Grimsby from securing their winner in virtually the final minute of normal time.
A free kick given away on the edge of the box was stroked in by Conor Townsend past the Rovers wall to seal a late win for the Mariners against a Rovers team whose superb battling effort was undone by the hosts dramatic late winner.
Report: Richard Joyce
Picture: Shane Healey