A late equaliser from Forest Green Rovers’ striker Dan Ogunleye secured a well-deserved 1-1 against local rivals Cheltenham Town in the first EFL Youth Alliance South West Division game of the season.
On a sunny Saturday morning at the Cheltenham training ground, it was the home side who had the initial good start with the very first attack of the game.
A good run down the right-hand side allowed the cross to come in for Cheltenham’s Oliver Price with the midfielder being found six yards out, but his toe-poke went just past the FGR goal.
The away side responded well moments later as they had their first attack of the game which left the Robins’ defence scrambling, after a smart routine which led to an opportunity for a shot from Rovers which went over the bar.
Cheltenham then began to start applying the pressure on their rivals as the influential Will Dawes led a three-on-two attack, before laying off Charlie Stanton whose shot was well tipped onto the post by the impressive Dec Lehmann in the FGR goal.
Lehmann again was called into action moments later, as Price couldn’t beat the Rovers keeper one-on-one, with the youngster tipping his low shot onto his right-hand post.
However, after an initial slow start, FGR started to threaten the home side’s goal with winger Destiny Oladipo being put through on goal.
But the forward was unable to keep his effort down as he drove into the Cheltenham Town penalty area.
This move had a chain effect as the away side began to look the more threatening side and had a string of attacks where they had the opportunity to find the game’s opening goal.
The first of these chances came from midfielder Daniel Bradshaw’s free-kick down the left-hand side, as the ball was initially cleared before falling to Elias Youssef on the edge of the area, but his low first-time volley was just wide of the goal.
But the better of the two chances fell minutes after with Oladipo as he was put through one-on-one, with his shot beating the keeper but unfortunately smashed off the outside of the post.
The pressure from the away side did not stop there however, with FGR continuously attacking the Cheltenham Town back-line and looking like they would be taking a well-earned lead going into the break.
But just as FGR looked like they’ll go ahead, their rivals could have nicked a goal themselves in the last few seconds, had it not been for Lehmann once again.
A rare mistake from defender Rendijs Kalnins allowed Price to intercept and be put through one-on-one, with Lehmann out quickly to narrow the angle and make the forward smash it over the bar.
As the second-half started, spectators didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal as the home side scored just five minutes after the restart through Price.
A long ball forward from the Robins was flicked on from Stanton for strike partner Price, who did well to hold off his man and coolly clip the ball over Lehmann, who was unfortunate to not keep the effort out.
Whilst FGR went behind, this only made them look the more impressive as they went in search of an equaliser that many would argue they deserved.
Just five minutes after falling behind, a string of FGR corners led to the first real chance for Ogunleye, who was unable to find the back of the net with a strong header having done well to climb above two Cheltenham Town defenders.
As the away side started to dominate, midfielders Daniel Bradshaw, Elias Youssef and captain Lewis Spurrier started to dictate the tempo of the game and in turn, were able to use the threat they had out wide with Oladipo and the impressive Jay Malshanskyj.
With the tactic of counter-attacking looking to be the way FGR would capitalise, it would be through this kind of move that Rovers would finally get that all-important equaliser with less than 10 minutes left to play.
In similar style to Cheltenham Town’s opener, a long ball forward led to a foot race between Ogunleye and centre-back Grant Horton, with the striker and recent first-team member coming out on top.
Ogunleye then showed great composure to beat onrushing keeper Freddie Lapworth with a cleverly clipped volley over him and earn a well-deserved equaliser for his side and his first goal of the season.
This goal led to mass celebrations and relief for the FGR players.
The substitutions of Oliver Artwell, Ethan Hill and Taylor Marsh, gave the away side fresh legs and one final chance of the game that could’ve seen FGR snatch all three points in the last few moments.
A great ball in from a deep free-kick from Spurrier, found Ogunleye again with a great looping header that caused a great last-minute save from Lapworth, who actually stopped the effort with his face.
But a late call for offside ended what was an end-to-end clash and gave players and coaches alike a chance to catch their breath from what was a well-contested encounter.
FGR will now turn their attention to next Saturday’s EFL Youth Alliance game against Swindon Town at the Royal Agriculture Univesity.
FGR starting XI: Declan Lehmann, Alfie Saunders, Will Turner (Oliver Artwell 65’), Rendijs Kalnins, Isaiah Jones, Daniel Bradshaw, Elias Youssef (Ethan Hill 65’), Lewis Spurrier, Destiny Oladipo, Daniel Ogunleye, Jay Malshanskyj (Taylor Marsh 80’)
Unused subs: Louis Owens