Scotland international Liam Kelly’s stunning first half strike ensured Forest Green suffered their first pre-season defeat at The New Lawn, writes Richard Joyce.
The former Kilmarnock man unleashed a fantastic curving shot just ten minutes in to settle a competitive affair with a full strength Bristol City boosted by the presence of former West Ham United man Marlon Harewood featuring as a trialist.
A number of regulars earned recalls to the Rovers starting eleven after sitting out Wednesday’s victory at Slimbridge with newly confirmed signing Marcus Kelly a consistently effective presence in the midfield three.
David Hockaday’s side had chances to win it, especially in the second half as Danny Wright and Yan Klukowski spurned efforts, but there were plenty of positive signs for Rovers who welcome Premier League new boys Cardiff City on Wednesday.
Sam Baldock’s early header left Rovers with little to be concerned about early on, but minutes later they fell behind to a fabulous attempt on goal by Kelly, who cut inside and fired a tremendous drive past the helpless Sam Russell.
The Rovers shot-stopper had little problems saving Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’s powerful free kick shortly after as Forest Green began to enforce themselves on the game for the rest of the half.
A whole new eleven took to the pitch for City after the break but it was Rovers who had firm control of the second period.
James Norwood’s introduction as a substitute saw him try his luck early on with a long distance strike while it was the England C man who played a part in an extraordinary series of chances that should have seen Rovers equalise.
His perfect through ball for Wright led to the former Wrexham front man firing an effort against the post when one-on-one with City keeper Elliot Parish who blocked Klukowski’s follow up effort, only for Klukowski to then drill that final rebound against the woodwork once again.
It looked like it wasn’t going to be Rovers day in front of goal, especially when Matty Taylor dragged a late show wide after Klukowski had done well to win the ball in midfield.
One final opportunity did fall to the visitors but Ryan Taylor could only head over a James Wilson cross.
It was Kelly’s early stunner that won it for League One City though, and despite the fact Rovers tasted defeat for the first time this summer, they can look back on an excellent work out as they enter the final half of their pre-season schedule.
FGR: S Russell, J Hodgkiss, C Stokes (E Asafu-Adjaye 60), J Turley, D Bennett (E Oshodi 65), Kelly, A Bangura (M Vieira 74), Klukowski (Green 84), Mangan (Norwood 46), D Wright (O Koroma 74), M Taylor. Subs not used: S Williams, A Barry, B Wright
CITY: F Fielding, L Fontaine, L Carey, S Baldock, J Emmanuel-Thomas, L Kelly, S Wagstaff, J Wynter, G Cunningham, B Moloney, M Harewood, E Parish, J Wilson, A Flint, D Williams, T King, N Kilkenny, B Reid, J Bryan, S Davis, R Taylor, W Burns
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Star Man: Marcus Kelly