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Forest Green: First-half fireworks lift Rovers to sixth

By The Citizen  |  Posted: March 18, 2014

Lee Hughes

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A fabulous first-half display catapulted Forest Green to within one place of the Skrill Premier play-offs zone.

Lee Hughes' sixth goal in 12 Rovers appearances gave his side an early advantage, extended by Eddie Oshodi before the break.

A vastly improved Grimsby hit back through Scott Neilson in the 58th minute, but they could not prevent their hosts shooting up five places in the table.

Dale Bennett's recovery from an ankle injury was handily timed, enabling him to return in central defence at the expense of the suspended Aarran Racine.

Skipper Anthony Barry was also recalled along with Hughes, and the veteran striker showed his enduring class in the third minute when a pounced on a high diagonal ball and jinked his way past two defenders before clipping the ball home.

Predictably barracked by the travelling fans, he rammed the taunts back down their throats by performing his trademark celebratory jig right in front of them.

Rovers maintained a fantastic early tempo, and James Norwood was desperately unlucky not to make it 2-0 on 11 minutes when he connected sweetly with a first-time drive that cannoned off the post with goalkeeper James McKeown beaten.

The Mariners took time to settle, eventually forcing McKeown's opposite number Sam Russell into serious action in the 22nd minute via Connor Jennings' curling shot that was routinely saved.

Five minutes later Neilson was not properly tracked from a low corner routine and saw a low goal-bound effort blocked.

Suitably warned, the home side doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark when Marcus Kelly's inswinging corner was met with an emphatic Oshodi header – the defender's first goal of the season.

Russell had to pull off a sharp one-handed save to preserve the cushion after Sam Hatton's free-kick had ricocheted into the path of Andy Cook for a scuffed shot.

Hughes remained a constant pest to Grimsby at the other end, and his flicked header from Barry's corner was not a million miles from finding the target.

Rovers must have expected a rousing response from the visitors at the start of the second half, and Russell – making his 100th consecutive league appearance for the club – had to be on his toes to help over Cook's header from a Scott Kerr cross.

The Forest Green keeper was almost caught out on 55 minutes when Aswad Thomas swung over a delicious ball from the left for the onrushing Cook, only for his header to land on the roof of the net.

A minute later the frame of the goal came to the home side's rescue when Neilson saw his shot come back off the post.

He was not to be denied for long, as Kerr's corner was only partially cleared and the Town winger drilled home via the inside of the upright.

Rovers badly needed to regain a foothold, and Taylor almost eased some nerves with a header from Kelly's free-kick that flashed across the face of McKeown's goal.

Grimsby did not threaten again until Shaun Pearson headed over under pressure, while substitute Luke Rodgers could have sealed it for the hosts when he burst clear and failed to lift the ball over McKeown.

Last-gasp drama almost yielded a point for Town, but Patrick McLaughlin was denied a leveller by Paul Green's clearance off the line.

Forest Green: S. Russell; J. Turley, D. Bennett, E. Oshodi, C. Stokes; J. Norwood (E. Asafu-Adjaye 90), P. Green, A. Barry (J. Hodgkiss 88), M. Kelly; L. Hughes, M. Taylor (L. Rodgers 80); Subs not used: D. Wright, P. White.

Grimsby Town: J. McKeown; S. Hatton, A. Boyce, S. Pearson, A. Thomas; C. Disley, S. Kerr, A. Thanoj (P. McLaughlin 86), S. Neilson (R. Hannah 81); A. Cook (O. Tounkara 72), C. Jennings; Subs not used: P. Bignot, A. Rodman.

Referee: A. Bromley (Plymouth)

Attendance: 1,219

Star man: Lee Hughes

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