By Gerry Prewett.
Bristol Rovers take their shortest away trip of the season this weekend as they head 25 miles up the M5 to visit Forest Green Rovers. This will be the first time the clubs have clashed in the EFL. Rovers only other competitive visits to the New Lawn were in the 2014/15 season in the National League, for a regular League game and subsequently a Play-Off game.
The first game took place on 25 August 2014 as the Gas were getting used to their new status as a National League team. At the time the home team were unbeaten. The Gas almost took a first-minute lead when Lee Mansell directed his free kick towards the right corner, but Forest Green stopper Sam Russell was on hand to make the save.
After an even first quarter, Rovers started to make inroads in the final third, with Ollie Clarke having a shot deflected wide and Mansell seeing his looping header go over the crossbar. Matty Taylor also had a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside. Forest Green's best moment of the half came just before the break when Rob Sinclair sent a header wide of the target after being found by a cross from Lee Hughes.
After 55 minutes the Gas broke the deadlock through Andy Monkhouse, who produced a fine header into the corner from 10 yards after being well found by Lee Brown.
However, the home side were back on level terms midway through the second half as Marcus Kelly drilled a right-footed shot which was deflected into the bottom corner by John Parkin.
That goal lifted Forest Green and they had the better of the final stages, with Hughes being particularly threatening around the penalty area. Kelly was denied with three minutes remaining when his free kick was superbly kept out by Steve Mildenhall, and that proved to be their final chance as Rovers hung on for a point.
Rovers second visit was the first leg of the Play-Offs which followed a last-minute draw at Dover which deprived Rovers of the chance of taking top spot from Barnet (despite thrashing Alfreton 7-0 in the final League game).
Rovers dominated the opening half, with shots from Chris Lines and Matty Taylor going close before the latter latched on to a long diagonal ball, rounded Arnold and slotted home against his former club from a tight angle on 17 minutes.
Rovers also hit the post through Ellis Harrison’s header before half-time and Taylor had another ‘goal’ ruled out for offside in the second half after Harrison headed a cross towards goal.
Rovers were down to 10 men on 77 minutes after Harrison made a challenge on Steve Arnold, after the Forest Green 'keeper collected a routine save. Harrison was already on a yellow card.
Forest Green piled on the pressure at the death and captain Charlie Clough saw his back-post header bounce back off the crossbar deep into stoppage time.