Forest Green Rovers brought their Youth Alliance League campaign to a close on Tuesday afternoon, as they held champions Bournemouth to a 1-1 draw.
Khavarn Williams opened the scoring for the visitors, capitalising on a defensive mix-up to slot home after 13 minutes, but the Cherries weren’t ahead for long, as midfielder Dan Jones fired his side back on terms 11 minutes later.
Rovers had chances in and around the Bournemouth box throughout the second half, but couldn’t inflict a final-day defeat on the Premier League academy.
“It’s a mark of how far we’ve come as a group,” said head of academy Hannah Dingley.
“We played them back in August and got beaten 5-0, but on this occasion, we were actually disappointed not to have won the game.
“The boys have worked really hard. It’s been a tough period for them, but they’ve worked through it and they implemented the game plan well, and ultimately, we are disappointed we didn’t get the winner after the chances we had.”
It was a high-pressure strategy that saw Rovers take the points from Plymouth Argyle a week earlier, and Dingley’s side, although in a different formation, did much the same this time around.
“We set up slightly differently in terms of our shape,” she explained.
“We came up with a game plan to push Bournemouth into areas where we could win the ball back, and from there we’d spring a counter attack.
“We equalised by turning over possession in a really good area of the field, and Dan Jones produced a nice finish.
“It’s important we get goals from all the boys who play in attacking roles. Creating and scoring goals makes you stand out, so they all need to chip in.”
Having succumbed to a heavy defeat against the same opponents on opening day, Forest Green could have let their heads drop after going a goal behind, but Dingley’s side showed their character to hit back quickly.
“Bournemouth went 1-0 up, and I was a little worried at that point, especially after our score against them at the start of the season, but the boys showed great character and stuck to the game plan.”
“We knew Bournemouth were a threat going forward, so we set up to screen the ball away from their forwards,”
“We gave Harvey Bunker the responsibility of not letting the ball get through the gap and in behind the midfield.
“That allowed our midfield to press freely and have really good shape when we won the ball back.”
With Forest Green’s Youth Alliance season complete, they’ll once again compete in Merit League Two for the second half of the season, and we’ll announce fixtures in due coarse.