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Match Previews

HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU: Forest Green Rovers

We take a closer look at Saturday's opponents

22 December 2017

After success in the FA Cup replay against Gillingham in midweek, United will be aiming to mark their return to league action with three points as they make the visit to Forest Green Rovers.

The Blues have lost just one of their last five in all competitions and will be hoping to pick up a victory to kick-start the hectic festive season.

But recently-promoted Rovers will themselves be keen for another three points as they look to move up the table.

We put Mark Cooper’s men under the spotlight ahead of our visit to the New Lawn:

Desperate For a Win

In their first season in the Football League, Rovers started the season slowly as they won just one of their first five games in all competitions.

But some positive form followed which saw them climb clear of relegation danger - only for results of late to slip once again.

Cooper’s side have lost their last three outings, two in Sky Bet League Two and one in the FA Cup, and have won only once in the league since the start of November.

That form has seen Rovers fall to rock bottom of the fourth tier, and they’ll be desperate to work their way up the table as soon as possible.

Defensive Discipline Needed

No team in Sky Bet League Two have a worse defensive record than Forest Green, who have shipped 42 goals in league action this season.

In fact, that tally means that Rovers have conceded more times than any other club in the top four tiers of English football.

With only two clean sheets kept in the league this season, it seems that the Nailsworth outfit will need to shore up their backline if they want to climb the table.

What Does History Tell Us?

The two sides have only met twice - both during the 2004/05 season - as each team claimed a victory away from home.

United travelled to Forest Green in August of their Conference season and ran out 3-0 winners at Rovers thanks to an early Andy Preece strike and goals after the break from Magno Vieira and Peter Murphy.

The return fixture at Brunton Park in April saw Rovers claim revenge as they claimed a 1-0 triumph against Paul Simpson’s promotion-chasing side.

Damon Searle netted the only goal of the game just after the hour mark to sentence the Blues to defeat.

Ones to Watch

+ Scott Laird - An experienced full-back, the 29-year-old joined Forest Green after his release from Scunthorpe United in the summer. Comfortable playing at left-back or in a more advanced position, Laird began his career at Plymouth Argyle before moving on to Stevenage where he helped the Boro clinch back-to-back promotions which took them from the Conference to League One. He then followed manager Graham Westley to Preston and made the switch to Scunthorpe in 2015. With plenty of pace to burn and a great delivery, expect Laird to contribute in both areas come Saturday.

+ Christian Doidge - The Welsh striker made the move to Rovers in 2016 and has gone on to become a cult hero having scored prolifically since his arrival from Dagenham and Redbridge. With 27 goals to his name in all competitions last season, Doidge played a key part in helping Forest Green to promotion and has continued his fine individual form this campaign. With 11 goals to his name already this season, he’ll need to be watched carefully at the New Lawn as he poses a real threat in the air and with his fast reactions in the box.

+ Bradley Collins - A Chelsea youngster, Collins was loaned out to the New Lawn to offer some more competition between the sticks. The 20-year-old joined Chelsea as an under ten player in 2010 and has progressed through the youth ranks, recently signing a new contract which will keep him at Stamford Bridge until next summer. In order to gain some more first team experience, Collins joined Rovers on a season long loan and has looked impressive so far, offering a commanding presence in the penalty area.


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