NEXT TIME OUT... Port Vale (H)

Matt Edwards
Saturday 08 February 2020

Forest Green Rovers suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Walsall at The New Lawn, despite a late strike from Josh March.

Second-half strikes from Josh Gordon, from the penalty spot, and substitute Wes McDonald were enough to give the Saddlers all three points.

Mark Cooper made two changes to the side that drew 2-2 away to Grimsby Town as Chris Stokes, a deadline day signing, was eligible for his second debut for the club.

Rob Hall also returned to the starting XI in the number 10 role behind Josh March, who was well supported in the South Stand for the match.

That support and a vocal East Stand had the match starting off in a good atmosphere and inside five minutes, Hall was picking the ball up and driving towards the opposition box, his shot well blocked by a red shirt on the edge of the area.

Josh Gordon, who had proved a thorn in FGR’s side in the Trophy, got a chance in the 12th minute as he did well to get past Ebou Adams in the box, but his shot-come-cross was blocked by Farrend Rawson and eventually fell to Conrad Logan.

Hall, who was looking lively in his more central position, had another chance in the 14th minute, Liam Roberts getting down well to save at a stretch to his right.

The game then seemed to stutter, neither side wanting to make a mistake that lead to the all-important first goal.

It took a couple of set-pieces to kick it back into life. In the 27th minute, Rory Holden’s delivery from the right looked an inviting one but Nathan Sheron could only find the side netting at the back stick.

On the half hour mark, Walsall players were appealing for a penalty when a ball in from the right was steered goalwards by Coalan Lavery, his effort striking the arm of Rawson, who was a yard away and the referee was having none of the appeals.

In the 37th minute, March thought he had opened the scoring in front of his travelling support.

A corner from Carl Winchester was flicked on superbly at the front post by the former Leamington striker, but he turned in agony as he saw the ball strike the far post, roll along the line and, somehow, hoofed clear by scrambling Walsall defenders.

March had another sight of goal with three minutes of the half remaining, out muscling Stuart Sinclair on the left corner of the box before his strike was well blocked behind for a corner.

Both sides went in level at the break, but it was Walsall who were to take the lead in the 52nd minute from the penalty spot.

Gordon spread the ball out wide to Liam Kinsella, who was adjudged to have been brought down on the edge of the area by Kevin Dawson.

Conrad Logan guessed the right way for the penalty, but he couldn’t get enough on it to deny Gordon finding the back of the net to give the visitors the lead.

FGR went looking for an immediate response but saw another good chance go begging in the 57th minute.

Bailey put in a good delivery from a corner from the right and March again flicked on at the near post. Stokes was there at the back post but his effort drifted across the face of the Walsall goal rather than troubling the keeper.

George Williams made his return from injury in the 70th minute, as a double change with Elliott Frear also entering the fray.

He got straight into the action, laying the ball off to Kitching down the left, his ball to the back post finding Aaron Collins, but he couldn’t connect cleanly, as Walsall were given a let off.

It was one they capitalised on two minutes later, when Lavery charged down Kitching's pass and McDonald was able to pick up the loose ball and drive at the box, finishing well over the body of the on-rushing Logan.

In the 80th minute, Liam Roberts pulled off a superb save to deny Collins on the turn, an effort that looked destined for the back of the net to give FGR a fighting chance late on.

A late strike did come for FGR from the head of March as he again connected with a Bailey corner, this time leaving no chance for anyone, or the woodwork, to deny him.

Rovers fans were on the edge of their seat in the 93rd minute when Kitching delivered a fine diagonal ball from deep and Aitchison got there in the box at full stretch but couldn’t get enough direction to beat Roberts.

The script was set for a fairy tale finish for Williams when Bailey delivered from the right in the last minute, Williams rose in the middle but the Welsh forward couldn’t get enough on His effort and Roberts again foiled Rovers to clinch all three points for the visitors.

Forest Green XI: Logan, Rawson, Winchester (c), Adams (Williams 70’), Hall (Collins 57’), Dawson (Frear 70’), Kitching, March, Aitchison, Stokes, Bailey

Unused subs: Thomas, Bernard, Stevens, McGinley

Walsall XI: Roberts, Pring, Sadler (c), Scarr, Sinclair, Kinsella, Lavery, Gordon (Adebayo 73’), Holden (McDonald 53’), Facey, Sheron

Unused subs: Rose, Norman, Adebayo, Guthrie, Nolan, Jules

Referee: Anthony Coggins

Attendance: 3,136 (995)

Man of the match: Carl Winchester

Match sponsor: Any Time Fitness

Ball sponsor: Tetbury Audi, Attwolls

Next time out: Port Vale, The New Lawn, Tuesday, February 2, 7.45pm