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Central League Report: Forest Green Rovers 1-3 Bristol Rovers

11 September 2018

A brace from Mo Baghdadi and goal from Alex Jakubiak helped the Development Squad to register a winning start to their Central League title defence.

For the opening fixture of the 2018/19 Central League campaign, Development Squad Manager Chris Hargreaves was able to field a strong starting eleven, littered with first-team players.

In the mix was Joe Partington, as the defender ramped up his return from injury in his first fixture since Easter. There was also a berth in the starting XI for Stuart Sinclair, following the midfielder making a cameo appearance at the Mem on Saturday afternoon. 

It was a quiet start to the game - as both sides took opportunities to settle on the ball when in possession.

In what was the first threat on goal that provided the game with its first goal. In what was a free-flowing move, a series of short and sharp passes through midfielder led to Joe Martin being released down the left. The left-back was able to break to the byline and launch a searching cross into the area that wasn't dealt with by the host's defence - reaching Mo Baghdadi at the far-post who had was able to power home from six yards. 

Chances were at a premium in the first-half - with Rovers perhaps edging the majority share of the ball. It was a first-time attempt from Cameron Hargreaves that came closest to extending Rovers' advantage further, as a well-directed first-time shot from the youngster forced Forest Green's Montgomery in action.

There was half-chance to follow for Rovers as the first half dwindled, with Alex Jakubiak seeing his powerful struck effort deflected wide and Hargreaves again asking a question of Montgomery in a similar fashion to his earlier opportunity, but it was Baghdadi's goal that the separated the sides heading into the interval.

At the interval, Rovers made two changes that saw Joe Partington and Stuart Sinclair depart, as Deon Moore and Ben Morgan were introduced. 

There was a notable increase in tempo from Chris Hargreaves' side that paid dividends straight away, as Theo Widdrington guided a pass to the feet of Alex Jakubiak on the edge of the penalty area. The striker rode a number of challenge and kept both his balance and composure to slot the ball into the bottom corner to stretch Rovers lead to two goals.

There wasn't a long wait for the third goal - which arrived seconds later. In a move the had shadows of how Jakubiak's goal originated, it was substitute Deon Moore on this occasion that was able to dance through challenges and break into the Forest Green area. With the time to look up, Moore picked out the unmarked Baghdadi, who slotted home for his second goal of the afternoon. 

On the hour mark, Joe Martin and Alex Jakubiak made way for Alfie Clarke and Cameron Ebbutt.

Substitute Ebbutt was involved instantly, latchining onto a through ball from WIddrington and shaking off challenges before his eventual shot was blocked by Montgomery.

With a steady flow of changes, it was the hosts that managed to pull a goal back to reduce the three goal defecit. Archibald curled in a threatening corner from the right, as Lee Collins broke free to head home inside the area.

Inside the closing stages, there was a chance for Rovers to add a fourth goal, with Cameron Ebbutt drfting a side-footed attempt wide of goal. At the other end, Alexis Andre-Jr made a diving save to tip wide a low effort from Tavon Campbell, before Rovers saw the game out to mark their new campaign with a win. 

Rovers: Alexis Andre-JR, Joe Partington (45' Ben Morgan), Joe Martin (60' Alfie Clarke), Alfie Kilgour, Rollin Menayese (60' Lewis Leigh-Gilchrist), Theo Widdrington, Luke Russe, Cameron Hargreaves, Mo Baghdadi, Stuart Sinclair (45' Deon Moore), Alex Jakubiak (60' Cameron Ebbutt).


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