League leaders halted by super Rovers
FOREST Green pulled off a fantastic first win of the year as a night of pure entertainment knocked league leaders Wrexham off their top of the table perch, writes Richard Joyce.
Night games at The New Lawn are always famed for their entertainment value and the visit of high flying Wrexham led to another superb evening of footballing drama for Rovers supporters.
Manager Dave Hockaday kept faith with the same side that earned a draw at Wrexham’s Welsh league rivals Newport County on Saturday and they were quick out of the traps in search of a goal as Matt Taylor and Kieron Forbes both attempted to hit the target.
A flurry of first half corners was the best Andy Morrell’s side had to offer Rovers early on as Jake Thomson almost curled in a tremendous right footed effort after Taylor had picked up a misplaced Jay Harris pass.
Klukowski then had his low run and shot scooped away by Wrexham shot stopper Joslain Mayebi but it was Rovers man in between the posts, Sam Russell, who was making his first home performance since joining Rovers from Darlington, who pulled off a spectacular one handed stop from Mathias Pogba just after the half hour mark that left the score line untouched.
James Norwood tried his luck from distance only to be thwarted by Mayebi after a terrific nutmeg on Harris and Thomson was again pumping shots in from distance as the Trinidad & Tobago internationals late effort was deflected out for a corner just before the break.
Having bossed the first half Rovers would no doubt be disappointed with their failure to hit the back of the net however it didn’t take long for the hosts to secure what would be the games definitive goal.
Norwood’s powerfully hit ball in to the box was touched on superbly by Taylor who knocked in a 48th minute winner to secure the former North Leigh front man a much needed and crucial goal.
Any intentions for Rovers to settle on their narrow lead were ignored as the hosts continued to fire in efforts on the Wrexham goal with Liam Henderson and the pacey Kieron Forbes testing Mayebi.
A 77th minute thunderbolt strike from Poland under 19 international Adrian Cieslewicz which hammered against the crossbar from 25 yards then proved to be a vital reminder of the threat the Welsh visitors still posed.
Henderson tried his luck again for Forest Green but his edge of the box strike was fantastically picked out of the air by Mayebi as the exciting 24 year old former Hakoah Ramat Gan goalkeeper prevented Rovers from sealing an important second goal.
And the Cameroonian goalkeeper was made to produce another great save minutes later as the newly introduced substitute Michael Uwezu saw his run and skittling shot palmed away for a corner.
The visitors piled on the pressure late on and as the second period approached its additional minutes a manic scramble in the box saw Rovers somehow end the event unscathed as a good stop from Russell and dedicated defending led to the ball being cleared.
The hosts feared their great work would lead to them being punished however with just a minute left of additional time when the away side were handed a penalty following a last gasp foul in the box by referee Rob Merchant.
Wrexham skipper Dean Keates bravely stepped up to try his luck from 12 yards but the former Walsall midfield man was prevented from finding his side a late equaliser by the outstretched legs of Russell who brilliantly stopped the visitors from gaining any share of the spoils as the Rovers supporters celebrated a massive victory on a night of high drama at The New Lawn.