THE hype and camera crews are long gone, but tomorrow’s trip to Welling United will be no less special for Forest Green manager Ady Pennock.
Fortunate to escape with a draw from Monday’s West Country derby clash with Bristol Rovers, Pennock’s side must put their unbeaten Vanarama Conference record on the line again in Kent (3pm).
Few can claim to be more familiar with Park View Road than the New Lawn boss, who cut his managerial teeth at part-timers Welling almost a decade ago.
And he is relishing his first venture into the away dugout at one of the division’s less glamorous venues, watched by a crowd significantly smaller than the 3,781 who descended on Nailsworth four days ago.
“Welling will always be a special game and a special place for me because they gave me my first managerial job,” Pennock said.
“There are some fantastic people there and it’s a proper family club who looked after me well.
“But as soon as that whistle goes it won’t be such a special place because we need the three points.
“Bristol Rovers was a fantastic occasion and we want to play in front of full stadiums every week, but to earn that right we need to win at places like Welling.
“It’s never an easy place to go and we will need to play
better than we did
against Bristol Rovers.
Forced to retire from playing at the age of 32, Pennock had a brief spell as assistant manager at Gravesend and Northfleet before taking the top job at Welling.
Then a Conference South outfit, he led them to their highest league position for six years in 2005-06 but left at the end of the following campaign to take up a coaching position at Stoke City.
To add further intrigue, Pennock will be up against the man he made captain at Park View Road in Wings boss Jamie Day.
Another man who had hoped to return to familiar surroundings was Rovers forward Kurtis Guthrie, a member of Welling’s promotion-winning team in 2012/13.
But he has failed to shake off the knee injury that kept him out of the 1-1 draws with Bristol Rovers and Aldershot Town.
Pennock could well make changes to his starting XI for the first time this term, with wide men James Norwood and Marcus Kelly both pushing for selection after impressing from the bench against the Pirates.
Veteran striker Lee Hughes might be due for a rest, with Luke Rodgers the favourite to replace him.