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Edwards heaps praise on hot-shot Stevens

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Forest Green 2 Rochdale 1

Forest Green boss Rob Edwards heaped praise on hot-shot Matty Stevens after the striker hit a late winner made it 18 league games unbeaten for the runaway league leaders. 

Stevens’ goal four minutes from time saw Rovers come from behind to maintain their 10-point lead at the top. 

Stevens made it 20 league goals for the season and his 10th in as many games against a dogged Rochdale, drawing himself level with former Forest Green hot-shot Christian Doidge’s league tally. 

Edwards said: “Matty Stevens deserved his goal and to score 20 league goals is a massive credit to him, but to a man, the lads were a different class. The fans were brilliant and sucked the winner over the line at the end. 

“That was a really big three points. Rochdale are a good side and are in a false position – there wasn’t loads in the game.  

“We tried to stay patient and we found a way to get back into the game and go on and win it. We showed character to get back into it after going a goal behind. 

Earlier, Rochdale nosed ahead on 47 minutes – James Ball firing in. Rovers got back into the game with 17 minutes to go through Barnsley loanee Jack Aitchison before Stevens popped up at the death to make it 18 games unbeaten for Rob Edwards’ side. 

Pics: Shane Healey/ Pro Sports Images

Forest Green bossed a tepid first-half –  Aitchison driving into the box and inducing a diving save from Joel Coleman who did even better moments later with a  gloved response from Jordan Moore Taylor’s stinging header. 

Rochdale flickered into life and threatened Luke McGee’s goal with the former Portsmouth keeper showing quick feet to block  Conor Grant. Rovers upped the tempo with Ben Stevenson hitting the base of the post from the edge of the box. Ebou Adams came close to breaking the deadlock – fizzing his left-footed strike just wide from 25 yards. 

Rochdale took the stuffing out of Rovers just two minutes after the restart – Corey O’Keeffe cut the leaders open for Liam Kelly to pick out Ball who fired  beyond the exposed McGee. 

Rovers netted parity on 73 minutes – Jamille Matt feeding Aitchison to bury a sumptuous strike from the edge of the box. Baily Cargill headed against the bar from Dom Bernard’s cross as Rovers looked for the winner and they found it when Stevens’ header from Kane Wilson’s cross squirmed through the fingers of Coleman. 

Ball almost snatched a point for Rochdale in stoppage-time but dragged his shot wide at the death. 

Rochdale boss Robbie Stockdale was left fuming and said:  “I’m really frustrated with them. It took two mistakes from us to let Forest Green back into the game.  

“I look at myself after every game win, lose or draw and the players need to as well.  

“I told them they need to roll their sleeves up now. It’s no good saying we’re in a false position. 

 “In the main, we had to defend, but I don’t remember them having too many chances until we made mistakes.  

“Goal change the momentum of games and we gave two cheap ones away. 

“In the second half, we started really well, scored a goal and came off what we’d been doing.  

“I don’t get how at 1-0 up we stop playing football.” 

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