Former Forest Green boss Mark Cooper heaped praise on his old side as Rovers opened up a five-point lead at the top of League Two with a 2-0 win.
A Matty Stevens brace ruined Cooper’s homecoming, but the experienced boss pointed insisted Rovers’ infrastructure is something his current side Barrow need to replicate: “We can only aspire to what Forest Green are as a football club – the way that it’s run, the way they do things – we can only aspire to that. That’s the standard of where we need to be off the pitch.”
Meanwhile, grounded Forest Green head coach Rob Edwards insists the season is still in its infancy. “It’s just 17 games gone and we have to keep consistent and relentless in what we do,” admitted Edwards. “We weren’t at our best in the first half and needed more intensity, but full credit to the lads, we found a way in the second half and had to dig in.”
Edwards was delighted with the impact of substitute Jack Aitchison who played his part in Rovers’ second.
“Jack Aitchison did well to riggle free and showed strength to find Jamille Matt for Johnny on the spot Matty Stevens to get his goal. Overall, defensively we were good and it was a really important tackle by Baily Cargill at the start of the second half.
Edwards afforded praise towards former Forest Green boss Cooper and coach Richard Dryden who frustrated Rovers in the first half.
He said: “They’re good coaches and experienced in what they do and set up well, but we found a way to win and on a cold night, you’ve got to be happy with a win and a clean sheet.”
Nine of Rovers’ starting eleven were brought in by Cooper, who returned to Rovers for the first time since his sacking last season and the Barrow boss will bemoan the loss of a number of his squad, including the unwell Jordan Stevens, as his side fell to another defeat with just four wins from 18 games.
Cooper added: “We deserved something from the first-half and our keeper was fouled in the build-up to the first goal, so it was a frustrating night.”
Earlier, in a war of first-half attrition, the game failed to gain any momentum from the get-go as a clash of heads involving Ebou Adams and Ozzy Zanzala inside the first minute forced a lengthy stoppage.
Rovers’ Nicky Cadden tried to find a spark – fizzing wide from a Kane Wilson cross. At the other end, Josh Gordon was a whisker from connecting with a Patrick Brough cross as the Cumbrians upped the ante.
On the cusp of the break, Paul Farman repelled Cadden’s stinger following a driving run from Regan Hendry.
Baily Cargill’s last-gasp tackle on Josh Gordon after the restart proved pivotal as Rovers took control of the game.
The deadlock was broken on 61 minutes, Stevens rising to glance home Ben Stevenson’s corner.
Rovers sealed the win on 83 minutes when substitute Jack Aitchison fed Jamille Matt for Stevens to grab his second with a fizzing finish beyond the stranded Farman.