Noah Dougherty
Tuesday 07 January 2020

It needed to go to spot kicks, but Forest Green Rovers progressed to the next round of the Gloucestershire Senior Challenge Cup after a 2-2 draw with Bishops Cleeve.

Goals from Taylor Allen and Shawn McCoulsky saw the visitors ahead in the first half, but a quick fight-back from Cleeve saw them draw level before the hour mark.

Two smart saves built the platform for Rovers in the shoot-out, the youngsters holding their nerve from 12 yards.

Academy manager Hannah Dingley named four first-team players in her starting XI, Lewis Thomas taking his place between the sticks, with Dayle Grubb and goal-scorers Allen and McCoulsky bolstering the attack.

Both sides struggled to get a grip on proceedings, high, swirling winds and a greasy surface dictating the play for much of the encounter.

It was midfielder Harvey Bunker who first used the conditions to his advantage, dropping a tidy through-ball in behind for Allen to chase, but the winger couldn’t beat goalkeeper Mateusz Wieczorek as he cut in from the right.

Just two minutes later, with 15 on the clock, Allen got his goal.

Ethan Hill played a neat one-two with Grubb on the right before firing a cross into the middle, his cross evading everyone in the middle to find Allen, who had time control, set himself and fire home.

Allen, this time the provider, almost set-up McCoulsky for Rovers’ second of the evening as he delivered a cross towards the striker’s head.

McCoulsky couldn’t get the better of the wind though, and could only glance the header behind him.

With 33 first-half minutes played, two of the Rovers first-team players combined to make it two.

Grubb fizzed a wicked ball through the middle of the park for McCoulsky to chase, the striker nipping round the goalkeeper to tap into an empty net.

Thomas was called into action for the first time late on in the half, the Rovers stopper reaction quickly to save from Lucas Pace after the striker had made a darting run into the area.

From the resulting corner, Thomas had to bat away a vicious in-swinger, before Cleeve headed over from close range.

The wind having dropped off at the break, the hosts flipped the game on its head inside five second-half minutes.

Mahon popped up in the area after 53 minutes to volley home from an in-swinging corner, before, four minutes later, Iddles raced through to fire against the post before tapping the second ball into an empty net.

The hosts looked to have found a third with fifteen minutes to play, Jack Watts nipping in round the back to beat Thomas, but not the offside line.

Mahon was unlucky not to add a stylish strike late on, bringing the ball down on is chest before firing a half-volley just over from 25 yards.

Lewis Thomas saved both the first and third penalties, while Owen Orford, Bunker and McCoulsky all found the net.

Bishops Cleeve XI: Weiczorek, Payne, Mace, Maguire (Powell 6’), Thwaite (New 35’), Haswell, Iddles, Llewellyn, Pace, Mahon, Watts

Unused subs: Ward, Davies, Rhodes

Forest Green XI: Thomas, Grubb (Ogunleye 69’), Allen (Artwell 60’), McCoulsky, Saunders, Hill, Orford, I.Jones, D.Jones, Covil (Thayer 60’), Bunker

Unused subs: Bradshaw, Oladipo,

Referee: Fraser Lewis