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Chuffed Cooper shoots from the hip after his 300th win

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Jubilant Mark Cooper crowned his 300th managerial win and joked captain Chris Stokes will need a hip replacement after his first goal of the season helped Forest Green underpin their automatic-promotion hopes.

Goals from Stokes and Kane Wilson saw in-form Forest Green Rovers remain third in the table, just a point behind leaders Cheltenham Town and level on points with Cambridge United, who they travel to next Saturday. 

“Stokesy (Chris Stokes) will need a hip replacement after that great finish – he was great today and it was a worldie from Kane Wilson,” beamed Cooper.  

“Our game plan to let them have the ball and then counter-attack them – we chose to be compact.  

“That’s seven out of nine and I’ll l take that for every game now until the end of the season.  

Cooper insisted his side deserved a first-half penalty when Dom Bernard appeared to be tripped. 

“The referee admitted we should have had a penalty afterward, when Dom Bernard was brought down.” 

Elliott Whitehouse saw red for dissent deep into second-half stoppage time, with Cooper insisting a card was avoidable. He said: “The referee could have managed the sending off better, it just needed  a quiet word.”  

Cooper was happy to reach his  300th managerial win and his on-going longevity, he said: “If I achieve nothing else then it will be nice to look back on. I just need to see-off Jurgen Klopp and John Coleman  now.”  

Rovers took the lead after 22 minutes when on-loan Charlton striker Josh Davison’s flick from Nicky Cadden’s free-kick fell to captain Stokes who drilled the ball home through a crowded goalmouth.

Wilson then made it 2-0 after 50 minutes. A scintillating move saw the former West Brom man drive into the box, swap passes with Jamille Matt, before fizzing a shot across James Belshaw and into the bottom corner of the net.

Substitute Odin Bailey should have made it 3-0 with 22 minutes left but, after Elliott Whitehouse had released Aaron Collins, he dallied on the ball and saw his effort blocked.

With Rovers looking comfortable, the game was almost turned on its head in the closing stages.

Harrogate’s Jay Williams headed in a stoppage-time corner to reduce the arrears and Rovers midfielder Whitehouse was then sent off in the dying seconds for dissent.

However, Forest Green held on for a win that leaves them level on points with second-placed Cambridge, a point behind leaders Cheltenham.

Harrogate boss Simon Weaver felt his side were not at their recent levels that have seen them charge up the table. 

He said: “I was very disappointed at half time because we didn’t turn up with our usual energy and vigour. 

“For the first 35 minutes we were well short in all areas of the pitch, but I thought there was a reaction after the second goal. That’s a positive, but we didn’t do enough in a game that was winnable. 

“Overall, it was a disappointing day. There was a positive impact from the subs and I’m pleased for Jay Williams because he works hard and stays after training to improve himself, but we still came away with nothing. 

“We don’t want to be happy with mid-table, we want to push on.” 

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