Little can separate Rovers and Eastleigh
Elliott Frear marked his hundredth league appearance for Forest Green Rovers by setting up the equaliser in a hard fought draw with Eastleigh at The New Lawn, writes Richard Joyce.
Two of the National League’s most fancied sides met under lights for a keenly fought contest, which saw Rhys Murphy’s finish from a Frear cross cancel out Mikael Mandron’s opener for the Spitfires a few minutes earlier.
Looking to bounce back from Saturday’s loss at Dover, Mark Cooper made a number of changes to his starting XI, and one returning player, Ben Jefford, drew a wonderful ball back for Liam Noble to try and finish after just seven minutes in one of the night’s early openings.
Sam Russell produced the first of a number of good saves shortly after to deny Mandron, however one of his stand out stops came on 26 minutes, when he reacted brilliantly to deny Luke Coulson’s hit that looked destined to find the bottom corner.
After he had saved from Mandron again shortly before the interval, Russell was left with no chance when the former Sunderland youngster slammed the visitors into the lead shortly after half time.
He powered home into the roof of the net after latching onto Coulson’s low ball into the danger zone to hand Ronnie Moore’s side the lead.
Only a few minutes later Frear was thrown into the battle, and the century appearance maker made an instant impact, setting up the goal that would see Murphy earn FGR a point.
Frear’s driving run ended with him drawing the ball back for leading marksman Murphy, who guided home inside the area.
Eastleigh responded by almost stealing the lead back minutes later. Russell came to the rescue though when he pulled off a magnificent stop to prevent James Constable from smashing home when one-on-one after he had broken through.
The tie was finely poised heading into the last quarter of an hour, and Darren Carter’s firm drive that flew narrowly over the crossbar almost pushed FGR in front.
There was to be no dramatic finale, and apart from a Noble shot where the midfielder couldn’t quite find his range, the match ended in just Forest Green’s second draw of the season.
Report: Richard Joyce
Photo: Shane Healey/Pro Sports Images
Highlights: Ryan Harmer & Richard Joyce