Noah Dougherty
Saturday 10 August 2019

A late strike from substitute James Hardy cancelled out Joseph Mills’ first-half penalty as Forest Green Rovers and Walsall shared the spoils on week two.

Rovers took their chance right at the end of the first half as captain Joseph Mills seized the responsibility from the spot after Aaron Collins was fouled in the area.

Despite a solid defensive performance for much of the second half, Rovers were dealt a cruel blow with three minutes to spare.

There was one change to the starting XI for Mark Cooper's side as George Williams was ruled out for up to five months with a broken leg sustained just three minutes into the league opener.

Carl Winchester returned from suspension and a knee injury sustained in pre-season to start in a more forward role alongside Aaron Collins, with Shawn McCoulsky taking up the focal point of the team.

It was a lively at The Banks’s Stadium, the hosts looking the more dangerous going forward in the early knockings.

Stuart Sinclair created the first opportunity of the encounter as he skipped into the areas before searching for a square ball to Josh Gordon who steered his effort wide.

Shortly before the 15-minute mark the Saddlers had another opportunity to break into the Rovers box as Elijah Adebayo darted inside the run of Nathan McGinley before Farrend Rawson needed to be on top form to somehow clear his low cross to Gordon, away from danger.

Adebayo had a shot of his own 31 minutes into the encounter, but it lacked power and proved more than manageable for the Forest Green backline.

Young stopper Lewis Thomas got his first real taste of the action 15 minutes before the break as he dived across to his right to push away a dangerous Cameron Norman free-kick from the edge of the area.

Such as is the case with Mark Cooper’s flowing football, Rovers’ first chance of the game came courtesy of two defenders as Nathan McGinley’s searching cross was just too high for full-back Dom Bernard at the far post.

With 39 minutes on the clock, Adebayo showed his strength again to drive in from the right before Rawson was called upon again to protect his goal,

Liam Kinsella could have gifted his side the opener with three minutes of the first half to play as his strike took a wicked deflection off Matt Mills, and Thomas had to react quickly to pull off a top save low to his right.

Deep into the allotted five minutes of stoppage time, Aaron Collins forced an error from Saddlers skipper James Clarke and pinched the ball off him as he tried to shield the ball out for a goal kick.

With the ball at his feet, Collins drove along the byline into the area and Clarke’s challenge was clumsy, sending the Welshman tumbling to the ground.

Joseph Mills stepped up, and made no mistake, slamming the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

Just after the hour mark James Morton was called upon to do his defensive duties, making btwo important blocks in quick succession.

A dangerous free-kick could have levelled things up after 72 minutes, but Thomas was alert to parry away a bouncing ball after Gordon let it run through from the Walsall left.

Thomas was involved again just one minute later as he leapt into action to gather a cross but took a nasty whack to the face in the process as Dan Scarr arrived late on the scene.

Ten minutes from time a delicately chipped ball into the area allowed Hardy to shoot on the angle, but the cat-like reflexes of Thomas were equal to his rising effort.

Despite Rovers resilience, The Saddlers would find an equaliser as Gordon took a cross well on his chest, and although he was incredibly unlucky to see his acrobatic effort bounce back off the post, Hardy was arriving to finish into the empty net with three minutes to play.

Walsall XI: Roberts, Norman (Lavery 74’), Pring, Sadler (Hardy 57’), Clarke (c), Scarr, Sinclair, Kinsella, Gordon, Adebayo, Liddle (Holden 57’)

Unused subs: Rose, Bates, Cockerill-Mollett, Jules

Forest Green Rovers XI: Thomas, Bernard, M. Mills, Rawson (Kitching 45’), Winchester, Collins (Stevens 68’), Morton (Adams 76’), Dawson, McGinley, McGinley, McCoulsky, Mills (c)

Unsused subs: Wollacott, Grubb, Allen, Mondal

Referee: Seb Stockbridge

Attendance: 5,205

Man of the Match: 

Next up: Charlton Athletic (Carabao Cup)