by Richard Joyce
YAN Klukowski’s classy second-half finish earned Forest Green a draw with Skrill Premier rivals Dartford in the first round of the FA Trophy.
The free-scoring midfielder edged closer to scoring his 50th goal in all competitions for the club thanks to his well-taken equaliser which ensured that both teams will face each other again at The New Lawn on Tuesday.
Klukowski’s strike cancelled out Danny Harris’ first half effort which had given hope to a Darts side who went into the tie on the back of six consecutive league defeats.
The Dartford forward took advantage of some poor defending to push his side in front just before the interval, but Klukowski’s goal was enough to draw parity, and Rovers would have been disappointed that they didn’t sneak the win.
Newly-signed Stoke City loanee James Alabi was handed his debut in the front line in a Rovers set up which saw two other changes, with Jamie Turley returning to the back line in place of the injured Dale Bennett and midfielder Kieron Forbes back in action too.
An entertaining start saw Danny Wright almost slam Rovers in front early on after good work by Ed Asafu-Adjaye down the left while James Norwood brought a good save out of Dartford keeper Phil Smith shortly after.
The home side’s on-loan Portsmouth shot stopper then pushed away Klukowski’s low effort after a quick counter attack and Sam Russell also shone in the Rovers goal, making two solid saves to deny the lively Adam Birchall.
Despite a glut of chances in the first half, it looked like the game would enter the break without a goal, but Harris had other ideas, giving the hosts the lead just before the whistle.
A long ball over the top was misread by Eddie Oshodi who was caught wrong footed, and Harris strode onwards, driving his final effort past Russell to give the hosts the lead at the break.
So often recently Rovers have saved their best football for the second half of matches, and this trip to Kent was no different, as Alabi really began to demonstrate his strength and power.
The 19-year-old, who signed just before Thursday’s loan deadline, first sped into the box only to fire off a weak effort early.
But Alabi’s fine hold up play minutes later saw him feed the on rushing Klukowski, who powered down the middle towards goal, and applied an ice cool finish to deservedly seal his team an equaliser.
Norwood and substitute Anthony Barry fired efforts in on goal as Ady Pennock’s side had the ascendency heading towards the finish, and Rovers had a great chance to win it right at the death.
Further good work by Alabi down the right saw him muscle his way into the box where he squared for Norwood who looked certain to score, but a tremendous last moment block foiled the England C man, and ensured a replay in Nailsworth tomorrow night.
DARTFORD: P Smith, L Burns, C Essam, M Mitchel-King (A Woodyard 46), J Stevenson, E Bradbrook, T Stirling, N Collier, D Martin, A Birchall, D Harris (F Akinwande 88)
Subs not used: M Cornhill, R Vint, B Dembele
Forest Green Rovers: S Russell, J Hodgkiss, E Asafu-Adjaye, E Oshodi, J Turley, P Green (A Barry 59), K Forbes, Y Klukowski, J Norwood, J Alabi, D Wright
Subs not used: A Bangura, M Taylor, A Racine, A McHugh
Referee: Amy Fearn
Star Man: Jams Alabi