May 3, 2015
Forest Green Rovers march into battle at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday for the second leg of the Vanarama Conference play-off semi-finals (12:45pm).
The Little Club on the Hill will look to scythe down Bristol Rovers attempts to get back to the Football League at the first attempt, in what’s sure to be a hostile and noisy atmosphere in front of a five-figure crowd.
Wednesday night’s first leg encounter at The New Lawn saw FGR old boy Matty Taylor pinch a first half goal to ensure the Gasheads take a 1-0 lead into Sunday’s tie, which is sure to be intriguing, with the hosts desperate to shake off their non-league status.
Ady Pennock’s side know all about what it takes to pick up a win at the Memorial Stadium though having been one of the few sides to achieve the feat this season.
Victory on aggregate would take the club to another famous Wembley final, and would rank highly among the best ever results achieved by the club in its romantic 125-year history.
Backed by a dedicated and loyal large FGR following, it’s a time for heroes to step up and make their mark, with Wembley and the chance of edging nearer to the Football League dream well and truly in sight.
Tom Bender is facing a fight to be fit for Sunday’s match after the left back missed Wednesday’s first leg meeting.
The squad is likely to be otherwise unchanged from the selected personnel that featured in the first leg.
James Norwood may be potentially involved again after the club’s record all-time Conference goal scorer featured for the first time since the first week of April in Wednesday’s clash.
The game will offer David Pipe and Danny Coles the chance to return to the club where both experienced significant spells.
For defensive man Charlie Clough meanwhile, he’ll return to a club in which he served as a youth team and senior team player.
After his sending off at The New Lawn on Wednesday, Bristol Rovers will be missing Newport born forward Ellis Harrison for this weekend’s second leg.
That may mean Nathan Blissett, recruited by the Pirates during the campaign from league rivals Kidderminster Harriers, may start in his place up top alongside former Forest Green forward, Matty Taylor.
Taylor’s first half goal on Wednesday is what separates the two sides at the moment. The nimble forward moved to the Memorial Stadium in the summer having been let by go ourselves.
It’s otherwise likely that the Gasheads will start with Will Puddy in goal for the game. The former Cheltenham Town youngster kept a clean sheet in the first leg but did concede eight goals against FGR in two games when playing for Salisbury City last season.
Defensively the experience of Mark McChrystal will provide a boost alongside one-time Leicester City youngster Tom Parkes.
Chris Lines stood out in the Pirates midfield on Wednesday. He’s on loan at the Memorial Stadium from League One Port Vale. It’s his second spell with the Bristol club after he had come through their youth system having been born in the city.
The leadership of Lee Mansell in the middle was also effective. They kept Colombian born wide man Angelo Balata on the bench so he’s a possible option, while Stuart Sinclair, brother of our very own Rob, could come off the bench to feature at some point.
Matty Taylor and Nathan Blissett are the likely forward partnership. Wales international Jermaine Easter is ruled out of the tie through injury.
Only two teams have been to the Memorial Stadium and recorded victories during the Vanarama Conference league campaign.
Eastleigh earned a 2-1 win in Bristol in March, while the other side to win in the league there this year was ourselves. Danny Coles’ first half header gifted us a 1-0 success back in October.
Bristol Rovers ended the league season on an eight match unbeaten run. Their last outing at the Memorial Stadium saw them host Alfreton who they smashed 7-0.
A crowd of 3,336 were at The New Lawn alongside the BT Sport cameras on Wednesday night to see Bristol Rovers nudge in front in the tie thanks to Matty Taylor’s first half goal.
Despite having made a positive start, we were pegged back when on 17 minutes Taylor popped up to finish well with a low finish from a tight angle.
The Gasheads then nearly doubled their lead as the hit the woodwork, and good defensive duties from Jon Parkin denied the visitors.
In the second half, Ady Pennock’s charges came more into the game, and were unlucky not to equalise, particularly deep into stoppage time, when Aarran Racine’s header smashed against the woodwork.
Read the full match report from Wednesday’s meeting by clicking here.
FGR: Arnold, Bennett, Pipe, Racine, Clough, Sinclair, Wedgbury, Fleetwood (Norwood 64), Frear (Marwood 89), Parkin, Guthrie
Subs not used: Russell, Kamdjo, Coles