Preparations step up with Shortwood win
FOREST Green romped to their biggest win of pre-season so far with victory over cross town neighbours Shortwood United at Meadowbank, writes Richard Joyce.
Shortwood, missing several key men, struggled to deal with a Rovers side filled with quality as a second half goal scoring romp saw Rovers come out on top.
Al Bangura’s early effort from the edge of the box flew just wide in a bunch of early Rovers chances whilst Ben Wright attempted the first of several efforts through the evening when his strike from an obscure angle was deflected on to the Shortwood goal frame and out for a corner.
A fine run from Matt Taylor followed shortly after but the attackers final effort was poorly struck and Rob Brown, filling in for the missing Tom King for Shortwood, produced a routine stop.
It had been all Forest Green up until just before the half hour mark when a clever free kick from the hosts saw two former Rovers youngsters link up.
Jake Parrott’s short ball from a free kick just inside the Rovers half fed John Cant and the left winger drove a shot across Matt Bulman’s goal that rolled just wide.
It was a rare chance for the hosts as business got back to usual for Rovers with Wright creating two more chances that failed to find the back of the net until an opening goal five minutes before the break that handed Rovers the lead.
The summer signing from Braintree Town, who has already managed one goal for Rovers so far in pre-season, was allowed enough space to fire a rocket in to the top corner of Brown’s net from 30 yards which certainly stands out as Rovers best goal of pre-season.
With Rovers ahead, the visitors almost made it two when Phil Marsh’s well struck shot was stopped by Brown whilst at the other end Liam Meredith tried his luck from distance after a Parrott corner had fallen to the former Brimscombe & Thrupp man.
Rovers would go ahead just in front at the break with Shortwood adding new faces to their second half starting eleven including former Forest Green trialist from last season, Kassim Suleman.
And it was the hosts who would have the second half’s first chance as substitute Joe Tustain fired straight at Matt Bulman.
A Marsh effort, again from distance followed, and the power behind the former Manchester United strikers strike saw the ball squirm under Brown but Taylor’s stab in to the net was ruled out as the Forest Green number 14 was offside.
Brown did better to palm away a strongly hit Wright effort a couple of minutes later only for Shortwood to draw level in the 53rd minute when the ball fell to James Coates who tucked in nicely past Bulman to cap what had been a better start to the second half for the hosts.
They were only level for a short while however when in the 59th minute Wright notched his second of the evening when a neat finish from the edge of the box found its way in to the bottom corner.
The classy Parrott was a typically stand out player for Forest Green’s cross town rivals and the former Rovers youngster illustrated his class with a free kick that clipped the top of the crossbar as Shortwood almost found themselves level again.
The hosts task would grow to be even more difficult however when Magno Vieira, within thirty seconds of coming on as a second half replacement, was left unmarked and the Brazilian rolled the ball in to the back of the net to extend Rovers lead.
Yan Klukowski, another second half substitute, was then unfortunate to see his impressive dinking run end without a goal but last season’s top goal scorer would get his chance in the 68th minute after Rovers were awarded a penalty after Joe Tustain had brought down Chris Stokes.
Klukowski couldn’t deliver though and his low penalty was well stopped by Brown, diving to his right.
Rovers would make up for Klukowski’s missed spot kick in the 76th minute with a fourth when Reece Styche picked up on a loose ball at the back and fed Vieira who steered in his second to widen the gap between the two sides even more.
Klukowski meanwhile, looking to make up for his rare penalty miss, drove in a fifth just seconds before the final whistle after good combination play inside the Shortwood box.
It was unfortunate for Shortwood that John Evans side were missing several key players but the game more than displayed the strength in depth now at manager Dave Hockaday’s disposal as Rovers cruised to a dominant win.