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Match Previews

PREVIEW | Forest Green Rovers v Wrexham

Back on the road again with another trip south

26 February 2024

Match Previews

PREVIEW | Forest Green Rovers v Wrexham

Back on the road again with another trip south

26 February 2024

Forest Green Rovers desperately need points to give themselves a chance of survival, while Wrexham need to find their ruthless streak after two good away performances yielded just one point.

THE WREXHAM ANGLE

Plus ça change, eh? Wrexham have successfully addressed the issue of failing to perform in away games, but while the way we played at MK Dons and Gillingham was unrecognisable from the Salford and Newport matches, the points yield wasn't much better. Long periods of domination only served up one goal in those games, so while Phil Parkinson's side have taken his advice on board, they now need to turn those threatening periods into goals.


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The good news for Parkinson is that there didn't seem to be any fresh injury problems from the game at Priestfield, but he is likely to rotate his side as the miles rack up during this gruelling sequence of long away trips. Paul Mullin looked lively again off the bench and will surely be in his manager's thoughts. 

LAST MEETING

THE OPPOSING VIEW

I don't think anyone would object if I described Forest Green's season as "torrid". Relegated from League One last season, their campaign has been disrupted by managerial changes, controversies and some deeply disappointing performances. However, under Steve Cotterill they seem to have turned a corner, and victory over Tranmere Rovers on Saturday means they are just four points short of survival.

Cotterill was appointed as manager after the brief, combustible reign of Troy Deeney ended dramatically. Incredibly, he was the club's sixth managerial appointment in 20 months, but the experienced ex-Shrewsbury boss, who has a fine track record, gaining promotion with Cheltenham, Bristol City and Notts County while racking up nearly as many games as a manager as Phil Parkinson, will hope to bring stability. 

He has certainly made a good start. Two wins and a draw in six games is a genuine improvement on Rovers' form before his appointment - they hadn't won in nine games and their most recent league victory was in October. The nature of their wins under Cotterill are significant too: first, they beat Barrow on their own turf a fortnight ago, and last Saturday they overcame adversity to dig in and beat Tranmere 1-0 through a superb Charlie McCann goal. Cotterill told Gloucestershire Live:

“The football before it was excellent and the goal itself, it was just such a clean strike. I actually thought just before that, Harvey Bunker’s might’ve gone in as well because they were two similar ones, but that wasn’t meant to be. I am pleased for Charlie because he has been bang at it since I came in here.”

Rovers endured a nervous conclusion as Tranmere pushed on in search of an equaliser through 8 minutes of added time. The home side's task was further hampered by the dismissal of Ryan Inniss for a second yellow card, which will rule him out of the Wrexham game. Cotterill was sympathetic with his player:

“He slipped, the second one is an absolute blatant slip. I thought he was tremendous today....I thought him along with the rest of the team were fantastic today. They got in a lot of blocks, a lot of tackles and those things are important if you want to keep a clean sheet.That at the end there, that last 10 minutes where we are having to defend for our lives, that is what you have got to do. I don’t know how many clean sheets we have had this season, but I wouldn’t think it would be too many. “I just said to our guys ‘when was the last time we won here?’."

"It is nice for our supporters to see that and to keep a clean sheet and we scored a great goal. I think we could have had a few more passing moments if I am honest. We ended up changing shape a couple of times and changing our personnel.”

“Just keep getting behind them because it gives you such a lift when you have got the supporters on your side and to be as noisy as they possibly can for whoever we play.”

-Steve Cotterill's message to the FGR fans

Cotterill's praise of his players is a stark contrast to how Deeney spoke about them, and it's surely no coincidence that he's coaxing better performances out of them. The enthusiasm he's injected into the side is reflected in the efforts of Nathan Holland and, in the previous game, Maxi Oyedele. Both were short of match practise but, asked to put in a shift by Cotterill, responded by emptying the tank in the name of Rovers' cause. Again, Cotterill was glowing with pride about their efforts:

“It is really tough when you put a lad on and all of a sudden you are seeing him wilting at the end. So fair dos to Nathan Holland, he ran his socks off for that period of time, but we couldn’t let that last five minutes or so be costly. It was the same a little bit with Maxi last week, when lads haven’t had a lot of game time, they go on and they end up blowing up.”

Cotterill had to deal with pre-match issues when Matty Stevens pulled up in the warm-up, and had to be replaced by Kyle McAllister: “We won’t know until we get a scan, but that was a disruption that we could have done without because really it was a flick of a coin then. ‘Who do I put upfront?’, but Kyle had more minutes than Tyrese (Omotoye) for instance.

“So I had a word with Kyle and I said to him, ‘where do you think you are at?’. He said ‘I think I might be alright’, so I just took a chance with Kyle really. "So I have got to be honest I was worried about it, I definitely didn’t want to chuck him in so early, I suppose I will sleep better tonight, thinking that he has got those minutes under his belt.”

“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know if I overtrained them a little bit on Thursday.

"I apologised to them for that, I just thought there were a couple that didn’t quite have the spring in their step today, even though they were magnificent to a man.”

HEAD TO HEAD

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Our last match at The New Lawn, in March 2017, was a horrible experience as a relegation-threatened Wrexham crashed to a 3-0 defeat. Rovers were enjoying a season which would end in promotion, but found Dean Keates' side to be stubborn opposition and didn't score until the 45th minute following a remarkable goalmouth scramble.

A bad-tempered match threatened to boil over as the yellow cards accumulated, and Wrexham were livid when a late challenge on Luke Summerfield by Liam Noble looked like a straight red but wasn't punished by referee Sam Allison. Noble went on to notch a penalty, and Christian Doidge completed the scoring with a superb lob. Rovers would have scored plenty more were it not for an inspired performance in Wrexham's goal by Chris Dunn.

The season before we played out another fiery affair, with Blaine Hudson and Connor Jennings each receiving red cards within the space of 3 second half minutes. However, an heroic rearguard action meant we emerged with a goalless draw.

In September 2014 we prevailed thanks to a magnificent long-range strike from Louis Moult. There seemed to be no imminent threat when Wrexham were awarded a free kick a good 30 yards out on the left flank, but Moult's magnificent strike gave ex-Wrexham keeper Sam Russell little chance, and ranks as one of our finest goals in the National League. 

We rounded off the 2013-14 season with a 1-1 draw at The New Lawn. James Norwood gave the home side an early lead as he tucked away a one-on-one chance, but they had issues at the other end: Russell went off injured in the 65th minute, and his replacement clumsily fouled Brad Reid in the last minute, allowing Johnny Hunt to equalise from the spot.

We won on our first three visits to the club, including our first trip there back in February 1991 when Forest Green were known as Stroud FC. It was for a Welsh Cup tie which we won 2-1 thanks to goals from Chris Armstrong and Gareth Owen, who were just breaking into the side then.

We followed that win up with two memorable victories for Dean Saunders. Our next trip to Forest Green in October 2008 was his first game in charge of Wrexham and ended in a dramatic 3-2 win. Saunders decided to throw Marc Williams, previously neglected by Brian Little, into the starting eleven and the striker repaid him with two goals as well as the goal-bound strike which led to the last minute winner, which Jeff Louis poked over the line.

The following season Saunders again profited from a surprise choice up front. He threw Wes Baynes, previously used as a wing back, into the attack and again his intuition was rewarded with two goals as Baynes’ strikes inspired the side to a 2-0 win.

We then went on a run of two defeats there, failing to score on either occasion. Saunders’ happy run ended abruptly with a 3-0 defeat in the second game of the 2010-11 season, and the following season we suffered a different kind of frustration when an injury time penalty offered us a chance to snatch a 1-1 draw but Dean Keates’ spot kick was saved by Sam Russell, who just doesn't seem able to avoid the limelight in this fixture.

TODAY’S OTHER FIXTURES

Harrogate Town v Newport County

Notts County v Sutton United

Salford City v Colchester United
 
Swindon Town v Tranmere Rovers
 
Walsall v Accrington Stanley
 

POTENTIAL MILESTONES

Ollie Palmer is the best on earth. : r/WrexhamAFCOllie Palmer's 575th career appearance.

Shrew-A-GT-073.jpgBen Tozer's 500th league match.

Brad-H-GT-053.jpgAaron Hayden's 250th career game. 

Gill-A-GT-085.jpgRyan Barnett's 200th career appearance.


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