Noah Dougherty
Saturday 23 February 2019

Forest Green Rovers slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat away at promotion chasing Mansfield Town.

Tyler Walker opened the scoring after 69 minutes and Rovers couldn't find away back into the game despite late chances.

Manager Mark Cooper had no reason to change his starting XI from the same one that beat Yeovil Town 3-0 the weekend prior.

Goalkeeper James Montgomery made a welcome return to the bench having not featured since sustaining the facial injury in the reverse fixture less than four weeks ago.

With both teams packing a punch going forward, it was no surprise that the game started quickly with chances at both ends within the opening 15 minutes.

The first of these openings came after six minutes as CJ Hamilton raced free down the left but Lewis Ward stood up well to make the save with his legs before pouncing on the loose ball.

George Williams had a great opportunity to open the scoring just three minutes later as he picked the ball up from Christian Doidge after some great interplay. Mansfield full-back Mal Benning got across to make the challenge though, denying the Rovers number 11 the opportunity to get a shot away.

In what was quickly becoming a wide-open affair, Junior Mondal was next to try his luck, forcing a save from Jordan Smith on the angle as Forest Green caught Mansfield on the break.

Just shy of the half-hour mark Hamilton caused more problems for Rovers as he set away down the Mansfield left. This time he opted for the cross rather than the shot and Gavin Gunning had to show great composure to steer the ball wide of his own goal.

Benning’s speculative effort six minutes before the break could well have opened the scoring as it stuck Gunning but the Rovers defender will have been relieved to see his unintentional deflection bounce behind for a corner.

Ward was once again called into action late in the first half as he was forced to push Tyler Walker’s long-range strike over the bar.

Keen for a goal against his former side, Paul Digby tried his luck from range when the space opened up for him, but Smith got down smartly to push the ball away.

The Stags started the second half with no let-up in intensity whatsoever and Ward was called back into action just two minutes after the break. Gethin Jones was initially denied by Joseph Mills before Ward had to get down sharply to deny Walker as he shot on the spin.

Forest Green Rovers began to apply a little added pressure as the hour mark approached, a clever move involving Reece Brown and Digby almost set Mondal in but Mansfield were able to prod the ball behind for a corner which came to nothing.

Forest Green’s best chance of the opening hour fell the way of Williams after 59 minutes as he raced into the area and turned back on his marker before firing an effort goalwards, Matt Preston hurling his body in the way to make a great block.

With 69 minutes on the clock the deadlock was finally broken.

Despite FGR calls for offside as Hamilton was played into the box, play went on and his shot was saved by Ward with the ball going up in the air. Ward looked to be fouled as he jumped for the second ball with Walker and Mills couldn’t stop the striker’s header looping in.

With 84 minutes on the clock Williams tried to create something for the visitors as he drove into the area, beating two players as he did, but his cross was blocked by a third Mansfield player.

Doidge almost found the target from the resulting corner, but he couldn’t get quite enough on his header and the ball flashed wide.

Having found the net in his first league appearance last weekend, Mondal could have been the hero for Rovers as he pounced on a bouncing ball in the area to fire wide.

Forest Green were a matter of inches away from finding a late equaliser as Mills fired a low ball across the area which Doidge got a toe to, sending it looping up and landing on the roof of the net.

In a late twist, Mansfield’s goalscorer Walker was given a straight red for an incident off the ball.

Mansfield Town XI: Smith, Benning, Preston, Pearce, Bishop, Mellis, Tomlinson (Turner 90+3), Walker, Jones, Hamilton, Grant

Unused subs: Logan, MacDonald, Khan, Atkinson, Ajose, Smith

Forest Green Rovers XI: Ward, Collins (Godwin-Malife 88’), Rawson, Winchester, Doidge, Brown, Williams, Gunning (McGinley 81’), Digby (McCoulsky 81’), Mills, Mondal

Unused subs: Montgomery, James, Liddle, Reid

Attendance: 5,256 (171 away)

Referee: Matthew Donohue

Man of the Match: Paul Digby