Forest Green Rovers bounced back from a run of three defeats in style as they ran out 3-0 winners at fellow promotion chasers Colchester United this evening.
Liam Shephard opened the scoring on his return from injury before Reece Brown added a second before the break, as FGR carved the hosts open with two superb goals from the back.
Christian Doidge then rounded off the night late on before the hosts were reduced to 10 men when Frank Nouble got his second yellow card of the game.
There were six changes to the starting XI that lost away to Morecambe just three days prior.
Lee Collins came back to skipper the team to join Shephard returning from injury, Farrend Rawson, Brown, Nathan McGinley and Reuben Reid.
Both sides looked to settle into the encounter early on, with a number of opportunities to get a foot on the ball and play arising for the home and away team.
Christian Doidge appeared to have been played through on goal after 11 minutes, but the offside flag prevented the striker from latching onto Brown’s defence-splitting pass.
The best chance of the first 15 minutes fell the way of the hosts as Lewis Ward couldn’t get a clean punch on a long throw before Mikael Mandron skewed his effort off target.
The Colchester faithful thought their side had opened the scoring after 20 minutes as Ben Stevenson let fly from the edge of the area, his effort flying just wide before striking one of the uprights behind the goal and deceptively ruffling the net.
Just one minute later, the visitors took the lead. Building from a Ward goal kick, Gavin Gunning showed excellent skill to pull the strings in midfield before he found Brown whose cross to the back post was brought down on the chest of Shephard and fired home from the right corner of the area.
Three minutes before the half-hour mark, Rovers had the ball in the net again as Doidge slid in Reid before collecting the return pass and firing home. The linesman’s flag was already up and the goal didn’t stand.
On the back of an impressive goal on Saturday, Nouble was in the hunt for another, but Ward was able to get a hand to his low effort and Shephard cleared.
Sammie Szmodics was next to try his luck for the hosts but it was the visitors who doubled their lead just moments later.
Once again from a goal kick, the ball was worked out to Brown on the left and he showed great skill to lose his man and play a switched pass out to the opposite flank. Reid’s reverse ball then set the goal scorer Shephard away down the right and his cut-back to the edge of the area was well finished by Brown.
As the fourth official’s board went up, Rovers had another chance to find the net after Doidge was felled on the edge of the area, the referee signalling a free-kick, despite play going on and the FGR striker forcing a superb save from Rene Gilmartin.
Mills stepped up and although his powerful drive broke through the wall, the deflection carried it wide.
The hosts had two late opportunities as they tried to find a way back into the game before the break, but Forest Green defenders were on hand to block on both occasions.
It didn’t take long for Rovers to pick back up where they left off as Carl Winchester set Reid away in a 3-vs-3 but as the forward cut inside, he found himself crowded out by three Colchester bodies.
On the hour mark, Ward was called into action again for Rovers as he got two strong hands to a powerful Nouble drive.
Just five minutes later, the U’s tested the Rovers backline again as Luke Norris turned in the area before seeing his effort crucially blocked by Farrend Rawson.
It seemed to be all Colchester as they pushed for a way back into the game and Ward was soon called into action again, this time diving to his right to deny Szmodics from outside the area with a superb stop.
However, the encounter was all but wrapped up after 82 minutes as, after some good work from Winchester on the edge of the area before seeing his shot blocked as he cut in on his left foot.
The ball dropped to Brown, who controlled effortlessly high on his chest before his ball through was picked up by Doidge, taking a touch before slotting into the net with acres of time.
The night got worse for United three minutes later as Nouble was given his marching orders for a second yellow card for dissent as FGR were making a substitution, having picked up his earlier booking in the first period for leaving a knee on Ward.
FGR were able to see out the game in relative ease from there, enjoying large periods of possession in their own half to send the travelling 109 fans, who braced the elements and a painful journey across country, home happy.
Colchester United XI: Gilmartin, Jackson, Kent, Senior, Norris, Szmodics, Eastman, Mandron (Dickenson 58’), Vincent-Young, Stevenson (Eisa 78’), Nouble
Unused subs: Barnes, Prosser, Roberts, Wright, Chilvers
Forest Green Rovers XI: Ward, Shephard (Godwin-Malife 84'), Collins (James 58’), Rawson, Winchester, Doidge, Brown, Gunning, McGinley, Mills, Reid (Mondal 74’)
Unused subs: Thomas, Grubb, Williams, McCoulsky
Attendance: 2,871 (109 away)
Referee: A Young
Man of the Match: Gavin Gunning