Late Klukowski penalty secures a first day point against Cambridge United
YAN Klukowski drove home a late penalty kick to earn Forest Green a late draw with Cambridge United on the opening day of the season, writes Richard Joyce.
Klukowski’s 89th minute spot kick was no more than what Rovers deserved after applying plenty of pressure on a talented Cambridge squad who will prove to be one of the top sides in the Blue Square Bet Premier this season.
The last time the two sides met on the opening day of the season was back in 2005 when a Scott Rendell header secured Rovers a 1-0 win in Cambridge's first game as a Conference club.
Meanwhile Forest Green’s recent defensive injury problems saw Jamie Collins drop in to a central defensive position alongside Eddie Oshodi while Jamie Turley filled in at right full back.
Last season’s golden boot winner Yan Klukowski was looking to kick start his drive for goals this season early on and the 25 year old’s audacious chip in the opening ten minutes only just dropped over Jonathan Hedge’s crossbar.
Klukowski’s lob from the right by-line shortly after again almost dropped in as a stop-start opening to the game saw Forest Green goalkeeper Sam Russell left untested.
Rovers’ number one could do nothing however to stop a bullet header from the lengthy Tom Elliott handing the visitors the lead past the half hour mark.
Josh Coulson’s head height cross in to the box from the left was placed perfectly for Elliott to power a header past Russell to put Cambridge in front.
Rovers were almost back in it with a header of their own when Magno Vieira’s cross from the right to James Norwood saw a fantastic one handed stop by Hedge deny Norwood’s superb downward header.
Norwood then turned provider himself, his ball to the back post reached the on rushing Jamie Turley, but the ball was turned over by last gasp Cambridge defending while another Norwood ball was glanced wide by the head of Klukowski.
A final long distance effort from Kieron Forbes concluded the first period’s chances with Forest Green dominating the chances but with little to show for it.
Rovers began the second half in a similar style to how they ended the first, on top, and the Cambridge defence were struggling with Rovers intense pressure.
The Cambridge back line were playing very deeply in their attempts to deal with Rovers attacking threat, although a lack of clear cut chances saw Forest Green struggle to test Hedges.
The introduction of Reece Styche from the bench, as well as summer signing Ben Wright, saw Rovers boss David Hockaday attempt to ignite an attacking spark, and excellent defending saw both Styche and Wright denied in the oppositions box.
Further last gasp defending from the U’s saw Norwood denied after a powerful run while a block on the line from a Collins header from a tempting Norwood cross saw Forest Green creep further towards a leveller.
The final five minutes was immersed in Forest Green’s constant compression of the Cambridge goal and the equaliser Rovers so much desired was secured in dramatic fashion with just minutes to go.
Another surging run forward from Norwood saw the young starlet driven to the floor, and referee Darren Handley pointed straight to the spot to hand Forest Green their best opportunity yet to level the affair.
Klukowski, who had missed both penalties he had taken in pre-season, demonstrated just how important a figure he is to the club as he confidently stepped up to place the ball past Hedges and to hand Rovers a deserved share of the points.