Hockaday: We lack belief
FOREST Green were far from hot to trot as they made heavy weather of playing against a promotion-chasing Mansfield side chopped down to ten-men.
It may have been 31 degrees pitchside, but Forest Green boss David Hockaday saw his team caught well and truly cold after just 19 seconds with Ross Dyer firing home against his former club.
Kieron Forbes (41) levelled things up before the break, but Rovers failed to breach a Mansfield side cut-down to 10 following Dave Howell's two-footed lunge on Forbes just before the interval.
The Stags shut up shop to frustrate Hockaday and the sun-kissed New Lawn crowd, who sweated through Rovers' third straight 1-1 scoreline.
Hockaday said: "Mansfield going down to 10 men was the worst thing that could have happened. We'd pulled back into the game at 1-1 and were the better team going into the second half, but then they got their man sent off and just went deep.
"They worked their socks off and kept their shape which we struggled to break down because as a young inexperienced team we haven't got the patience.
"In the final third we were poor, putting balls in from the wrong angles and not beating the first man.
"We lack belief. When these young players start believing in themselves then I believe we will do very well. Today was a lesson on how not to play against 10 men."
Earlier, Hockaday tinkered with his starting eleven. The Rovers boss surprisingly dropped the combative Wayne Turk and replaced him with James Rowe. Curtis McDonald made way for Jake Thomson.
Meanwhile, there was a welcome return for rookie striker Matty Taylor. However, Rovers were again missing the spine of their side with top scorer Reece Styche (knee), midfielder Al Bangura (knee) and defensive rock Chris Todd (hamstring).
Rovers certainly flagged in the heat after Dyer's early strike, but James Bittner had to show quickness of thought to smother at the feet of Luke O'Neill following Dyer's clever pass.
Gradually Rovers established ascendancy with a goal of sublime quality.
Charlie Griffin brought the ball down and swept the ball out to Thomson who fed the supporting Jared Hodgkiss who played a short pass to Forbes, his quick one-two with Rowe allowed him to fire impressively past Alan Marriot.
Seconds later Forbes cut a swathe through the Stags' defence, but his stinger flew just wide of the mark.
Rovers were up and running and should have taken the lead when Forbes' super pass to Thomson afforded diminutive winger the chance cut the ball back for Norwood, but the former Exeter man left-footed side-foot rolled agonisingly wide.
Mansfield saw red a minute before the break with Howell handed an early shower following his lunge on Forbes.
Rovers gained an early second half foothold. Norwood shot over and then Rowe saw a shot saved by Marriott following good inter-play from Chris Stokes and Norwood.
Mansfield responded with an O'Neil free-kick, which created a melee in the six-yard box, which saw Bittner superbly block and finished with Dyer's shot cleared off the line by Jamie Turley.
The Stags were on the attack. Former Cirencester Academy starlet Matt Green saw a prodded attempt deflect over and Dyer's flicked header from the subsequent corner clipped the far post.
Rovers tried to find a late winner. Taylor went close from a Rowe cross and Forbes saw his drive curl just wide.
The impressive Taylor wriggled into the box, but Marriott gathered his cross across the box.