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Cooper urges Forest Green to step up to the plate after a third successive defeat

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Boss Mark Cooper has urged his side to ‘step up’ after watching Forest Green fall to a third defeat on the spin.

Veteran striker Ian Henderson bagged a brace as Salford City reignited their play-off hopes with a 2-0 win at out of sorts Forest Green.

Rovers were toothless upfront as their automatic-promotion ambitions took another tumble with seven games of the regular season to go, but remain just two points outside the top three.

Boss Cooper urged his side to take responsibility as the season enters the final furlong.

“The players need to step up and take their opportunities,” insisted Cooper. “If you don’t match the opposition for work rate, you’ll get beaten.

“We have been fantastic up to last three weeks, but somebody has to step up and walk through the door and put their hand up.”

Ebou Adams returned after injury and Cooper lauded the impact of his key midfield lynchpin.

He said: “If we had eleven Ebou Adams’ we would be 50 points clear at the top of the table – he played on one leg today and when I talk about desire and spirit, he might not be the prettiest on the eye and at times he winds people up, but he’s got a heart like a bucket – and I wouldn’t want to play against him.”

Meanwhile, Cooper was unhappy in the way Henderson was allowed to score his first-half howitzer and pointed the finger at captain Chris Stokes.

He said: “Chris Stokes didn’t go and head the ball and the most experienced player let the ball bounce and we got punished.”

Cooper is now looking for an end-of-season lift as Rovers travel to Walsall on Saturday.

“He said: “The players have got to lift everyone and not let the season fizzle out.”   

A moment of sublime quality broke the first-half mediocrity when 36-year-old Henderson thumped home his 13th goal of the season – a  sumptuous half-volley into the top corner of Luke McGee’s net from 25 yards on 38 minutes.

Henderson killed the game off for Salford with his second on 77 minutes thanks to fellow veteran  George Boyd, who stepped off the bench to deliver a pin-point cross for the in-form striker to volley comfortably across the exposed McGee.

Meanwhile, Salford boss Gary Bowyer toasted his first win since joining until the end of the season, he said: “Ian (Henderson) is popular and leads by example and you could see how everyone was pleased for him. Not just the players on the pitch, but the substitutes and the coaching staff on the bench as well.”

And the former Blackburn Rovers and Bradford City boss was delighted with his side’s application, but admitted a cautious approach to the remaining eight games, with his side sitting five points shy of the playoffs,  he added: “I thought we were terrific. It was a massive team effort against a very good side.

“We had to be really aggressive and press them because Mark Cooper gets them playing in a variety of ways.

“We worked ever so hard and I was delighted with the quality of the goals.

“It was great to see the smiles on the players’ faces at the end and hear the noise they were making in the dressing room.

“I’ve only been here a couple of weeks, but they have given me everything.

“It’s exciting in both League One and League Two at the moment with the number of sides trying to get into the playoffs.

“This club’s done brilliantly in the last couple of years to be where they are and what we’ll do now is take it one game at a time and see where we end up.

“This result keeps it alive and now we have to back up this performance. While there’s everything to play for we’ll keep going.”

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