Salford City boss Gary Bowyer has tipped rookie Forest Green head coach Rob Edwards for bigger things after seeing his side dismantled by the League Two table-toppers.
In a high-octane win, three outstanding goals underpinned Rovers’ position as the title front runners.
Flying Scotsman Nicky Cadden’s stunning free-kick cancelled out Brandon Asante’s first-half opener before Kane Wilson’s fine individual strike and substitute Jack Aitchison’s neat finish won it for Edwards’ side.
Bowyer, who was handed a stoppage-time yellow card, lauded Edwards’ start at the Gloucestershire side after joining the club in the summer from Gareth Southgate’s England youth set-up.
He said: “Their biggest challenge is keeping hold of the two coaches (Edwards, and Richie Kyle) that are leading Rovers ever so well at the moment – and if they maintain that – and stay where they’re – they obviously become an attractive proposition for other clubs.”
Bowyer bemoaned his side’s growing injury list on a chastening afternoon for the Greater Manchester side.
He added: “We’ve had a tough afternoon, you can see why they’re top of the league. We’ve conceded a debatable free-kick and fair play to their lad he’s stuck it in, but their keeper has made two good saves from Matty Lund and even with the disruptions, we carried a threat with 10 players missing.
A breathless first-half saw Rovers’ Ebou Adams plant a second-minute free header wide from an exquisite Wilson cross. Baily Cargill’s audacious lob from just inside the Salford half almost caught out the retreating Connor Ripley as Rovers turned up the heat.
However, it was Salford who took the lead on 16 minutes. Against the run of play, Asante brought the ball down in the box to switch his feet and rifle the ball beyond Luke McGee. Matty Lund forced McGee into a stunning gloved save. Rovers responded – Matty Stevens induced a fine parry from Ripley from Wilson’s cross. On the cusp of the break, Cadden bent a free-kick over the wall and into Ripley’s top corner for his fifth goal of the season.
A tight second-half was punctuated by a sumptuous Wilson strike – picking the ball up just inside the Salford half he embarked on a buccaneering run to slip his marker and plant a sprawling strike from just inside the box to beat Ripley all ends up with 19 minutes to go. Aitchison wrapped things up in stoppage-time – driving into the box and planting the ball home from a Jamille Matt assist.
Meanwhile, a delighted Edwards joked that his backside splinter injury during his pre-match interview in the week had nothing to do with his 90 minutes of prowling in the technical area as he cajoled his table-toppers to a scintillating victory.
“I managed to get that splinter out thank goodness for that – it was a big splinter and it certainly hurt.”
Edwards admitted all three goals would have graced any stage, he added: “All three goals were outstanding and would grace any pitch at any level in the world and I was delighted for all three of them. Overall, it was a fantastic three points for us.”
Rovers have chalked up 30 points from 14 games and are now five points clear at the top of the table.