April 27, 2015
Home Draw With Dover Athletic.
For the first time in the club’s history, Forest Green Rovers will contest the Vanarama Conference play-offs after clinching fifth spot thanks to a gruelling and nerve racking encounter against Dover Athletic.
It certainly won’t go down as much of a classic, but the outcome perhaps led to one of the most important results in the club’s 17 seasons as a member of the Football Conference.
Needing to match or better Macclesfield Town’s result down at Torquay, Ady Pennock’s side made it a second goalless draw of the campaign against a resolute Dover unit who were looking to spoil the party.
As eyes were cast elsewhere on the result down in Devon, Rovers got the job done in a gritty tie that means a double header against Bristol Rovers in the next week will be the next test ahead of a possible trip to Wembley.
Rob Sinclair passed a late fitness test to ensure he was available for the selection, and the midfielder was part of a starting eleven that was unchanged from the side that had emphatically defeated Gateshead in the north east the previous weekend.
The tension was obvious early on, although FGR’s first clear opening came courtesy of a Sinclair delivery from a corner on 11 minutes which saw Aarran Racine head wide.
Jon Parkin then looked to break the deadlock with two good chances in the space of two minutes around the quarter of an hour mark.
Fantastic interplay with Elliott Frear saw the club’s leading scorer blast over, while he hooked a shot just wide after Dale Bennett had done well to produce a cross from the right.
Stefan Payne has impressed in a Dover jersey this season, however the former Gillingham front man fired well over the bar on 25 minutes when it looked like he was set to burst the back of the net.
And the away side very nearly struck on the stroke of half time, only for Tom Murphy to spurn a wonderful opportunity when he fired straight at Steve Arnold.
A nervy first half continued in the second 45 minutes, although there were two good early opportunities for Forest Green who were eager to find a goal that would add some comfort to the afternoon.
Frear almost managed to head in Parkin’s looping cross and Stuart Fleetwood’s sweet attempt from 20 yards skipped just wide.
The imposing Solomon Taiwo tested Arnold with a low 30-yard strike after the match had passed the hour mark in what was the Kent club’s first real opening in the half.
While only a minute later Murphy was denied the chance to put the away side in front when Arnold produced a magnificent stop after the attacker had found himself through on goal.
With results elsewhere hanging on a knife-edge, a tormenting final 15 minutes ensued.
Dover looked the more likely to score. Payne tried his luck with two efforts on goal in quick succession, and Murphy again wasted a great opportunity when his headed attempt glanced wide.
A stunning last-ditch tackle prevented Ricky Modeste from breaking FGR hearts, the same way he had handed Bristol Rovers a major blow last weekend.
With news streaming through that Macclesfield had only managed to draw at Torquay, it meant Rovers had done enough to secure the Vanarama Conference’s final play-off spot, to the delight of a fantastic home crowd who can now look forward to two testing clashes with the blue half of Bristol.
(With thanks to The Green Devils and Richard Joyce for this match report.)