Manager Darrell Clarke and his squad arrived back at Bristol Airport, from their training camp in Portugal, at 1.30am this morning, their flight back from Faro Airport having been delayed by an hour.
Nevertheless the players who spent four days under the hot Portugese sun all travelled to the New Lawn to take on the EFL’s newest team.
There were encouraging passages of play by Rovers, particularly in the first half, when their slick passing movements were easy on the eye. However, there were few opportunities for the strikers to shine and they fell behind to Liam Noble’s 15th minute goal and conceded again after the break when Shamir Mullings headed home.
In contrast to the temperatures abroad, this game began in almost arctic conditions and torrential rain, but it was Rovers who were first to show as an attacking force and Billy Bodin saw his drive blocked by a homer defender.
Tom Nichols was then denied a shooting opportunity by Dale Bennett’s last ditch challenge before Christian Doidge got in behind the Rovers defence only to be thwarted by Adam Smith, who rushed off his line to smother the striker’s shot.
Smith then made a routine save from Noble as the home side looked for an opening and they found it on 15 minutes when Noble curled a superb free kick past the keeper after a free kick had been awarded for Tom Lockyer’s challenge on Charlie Cooper on the edge of the area.
Rovers response came from a Tom Nichols free kick, awarded after Noble’s challenge on Byron Moore, but his effort cannoned off the defensive wall.
Liam Sercombe picked up the loose ball and saw his shot deflected behind for a corner which was comfortably cleared by the home defence. Sercombe hit a shot over the bar as Rovers looked to get themselves back in the game.
The home side created two more opportunities just after the half hour mark. First up was a header by Lee Collins, from a Cooper corner, that was just wide of goal, and then Doidge saw Smith make a fine save to touch his shot round the post.
However Rovers continued to knock the ball around quickly on the greasy surface and were desperately unlucky not to equalise on 38 minutes when Byron Moore picked up Sercombe’s ball into the box only to see his ferocious drive touched on to the bar by keeper Bradley Collins.
Final chance of the half fell to Ollie Clarke, but his effort was always rising and comfortably cleared the bar.
Rovers made five changes at half time, but it was one of their former players, Luke James who almost opened the scoring when he saw his low drive just drift past the upright.
Chris Lines then went close for Rovers with a free kick from just outside the area, though Collins saved his effort quite comfortably.
Home defender Jack Fitzwalter managed to get himself booked, an unusual occurrence in a friendly, for a foul on Lines before both sides made a number of substitutions.
Nevertheless the home side doubled their lead on 67 minutes when James crossed from the right and substitute Shamir Mullings beat Sam Slocombe with a powerful header.
Ryan Broom and Nichols linked up well down the right for Rovers and the former Exeter player saw his angled drive deflected into the side netting.
Referee Sam Allison showed his second yellow card of the game in the final minutes, Ellis Harrison being the recipient on this occasion for his rash challenge on goalkeeper Collins. Marc Bola quickly followed, his yellow card brandished for kicking the ball away.
Forest Green Rovers: Bradley Collins, Dale Bennett, Scott Laird, Lee Collins, Manny Monthe, Liam Noble, Christian Doidge, Reece Brown, Charlie Cooper, Jack Fitzwalter, Luke James
Substitutes (All Used): Sam Russell, Will Davidson, Keanu Marsh-Brown, Omar Bugiel, Jordan Simpson, Shamir Mullings, Alex Hallett, Dan Wishart, Callum Evans, Nathan Trueman, Trialist, Olly Mehew
Bristol Rovers: Adam Smith (Sam Slocombe, 46), James Clarke, Tom Lockyer Rollin Menayese, 63), Jonny Burn Tom Broadbent, 46), Lee Brown (Marc Bola, 46), Chris Lines (Cameron Hargreaves, 63), Liam Sercombe (Luke Russe, 63), Ollie Clarke (Ellis Harrison, 46), Tom Nichols, Billy Bodin (Ryan Broom, 63), Byron Moore (Rory Gaffney, 46)