Forest Green Rovers got their 2019/20 campaign off to a winning start as they beat Oldham Athletic 1-0 at The New Lawn.
19-year-old Taylor Allen stepped off the bench to mark his first league appearances with a goal, smashing home the winner after 72 minutes.
Mark Cooper opted to give goalkeeper Lewis Thomas his first Football League start, while five of the outfield players also earned Forest Green debuts.
It wasn’t the start to the season that Rovers had wanted as they were dealt a blow just three minutes into the encounter. George Williams hit the deck after a clumsy challenge from Zak Mills and stayed there, the winger eventually needing to be helped off the field before a stretcher took him back to the changing room.
The Forest Green backline were called into action inside the first 10 minutes, Farrend Rawson throwing his body in the line of fire to deny Johan Branger-Engone from hitting the target.
League debutant Lewis Thomas’ first touch of the afternoon came after 15 minutes as he stepped off his line to punch a dangerous looking cross clear, with Latics heads waiting in the area.
A couple of dangerous looking Joseph Mills crosses could have opened the Oldham backline, but David Wheater, who had been a Latic for less than 24 hours, was on hand to sweep up.
With half time approaching, Shawn McCoulsky got behind the Oldham defence, taking the ball to the by-line, but a moment of indecision saw the chance come to nothing as Aaron Collins could do very little with the ball back to him and lofted it behind for a goal kick.
Deep into stoppage time at the end of the first half, Joseph Mills, with few options in the middle, let fly from the corner of the box and his shot flew just over the bar.
A sharp interception from captain Joseph Mills set Forest Green driving forward with a three-on-two before Wheater’s late challenge brought the full-back down just outside the area.
Having won it, the skipper stepped up to drive the free-kick goalwards but his effort was bravely blocked by the Oldham wall.
Just shy of the hour mark, the influential James Morton started a move that almost saw Shawn McCoulsky open the scoring. The Bristol City loanee found Junior Mondal who’s ball between Alex Iacovitti and Sohny Sefil allowed the striker to test Gary Woods from the angle, the goalkeeper equal to the effort and able to push it behind.
With 72 minutes on the clock, substitute Allen opened the scoring in style.
After a creative corner had broken down outside the area, Matt Mills found his brother on the left and his ball round the corner saw Allen race behind the Latics backline and fire a rocket of a shot into the roof of the net.
The introduction of Matty Stevens look to help get Rovers a second and it almost did as his hold-up play saw Allen race goalwards once more.
Opting for the same type of finish, the young striker tried his luck once more, but this time Wood was equal the effort and managed to push it over the bar.
A late chance went a begging for the visitors as they looked to find an equaliser, but Urko Vera couldn’t turn home Gevaro Nepomuceno’s low cut-back from the left.
Referee: Neil Hair
Attendance: 2541 (554 away)
Man of the Match: Joseph Mills
Forest Green Rovers XI: Thomas, Bernard, M. Mills, Rawson, Collins (Allen 64’), Williams (Mondal 4’), Morton, Dawson, McGinley, McGinley, McCoulsky, Mills (c)
Unsused subs: Smith, Grubb, Stevens, Adams, Kitching
Oldham Athletic XI: Wood, Mills, Iacovitti, Sefil, Branger-Engone, Maouche, Wilson (Segba Azankpo 64’), Missilou, Sylla, Wheater, Hamer
Unused subs: Zabret, Stott, Vera, Nepomuceno, Fage, Eagles
Match Sponsor: Faith in Nature
Ball Sponsor: Simon Fortnam Personal Trainer