Rob Edwards lauded his Forest Green side as the table-toppers gained the west country bragging rights over Bristol Rovers.
A Jamille Matt brace extended Forest Green’s lead at the top of the table to six points as Joey Barton’s Gas side fell to a first defeat in five.
Matt opened the scoring in the first half and added a second after the break from the penalty spot as Edwards’ side finished the game with 10 men following a Udoka Godwin Malife red card on 63 minutes.
On the whistle, and ecstatic Edwards celebrated with the fans in a style reminiscent of Jurgen Klopp as Forest Green underpinned their title credentials with a third win in seven days.
He beamed: “The fans were brilliant, and I was bouncing off them and I let out a bit of emotion at the end, but I think the fans enjoyed that and I certainly did and everyone can go home happy.
“Nine points in the week doesn’t often happen at any level and it has been a fantastic week for us.
“The performance spoke volumes today and I thought we were really aggressive and we deserved more than one at halftime and when we went down to 10, I thought we remained a threat and resilient and the penalty gave us a buffer.
“We’ve got to continue the momentum and are not even halfway through the season, but when you marry it up with hard work and fight for each other and back each other up, you’ve got a chance.”
Forest Green bossed the game from the get-go, flying Scotsman Nicky Cadden fizzing over the bar and then conjuring a cross for the stretching James Belshaw to superbly block Matty Stevens’ poked strike.
and finally unlocked Bristol Rovers as Ben Stevenson’s pass released the scampering Matt who ran through to plant the ball under James Belshaw for the opener on 20 minutes and then Matty Stevens nodded onto the bar from a Stevenson cross as Forest Green turned up the heat.
Joey Barton’s Rovers flickered into life – Connor Taylor’s stab bringing a reaction block from Luke McGee.
Bristol Rovers started the second half with intent and were given hope when Forest Green were reduced to 10 with 28 minutes to go – Udoka Godwin-Malife picking up a second yellow for a push on Harry Anderson.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, it was Belshaw who denied Jack Aitchison with 19 minutes to go, getting across to block, following a sweeping move involving Baily Cargill from a teasing cross from Cadden.
Matt bagged his second and 10th of the season from the spot with 13 minutes to go – drilling beyond Belshaw after Anthony Evans was adjudged to have handled Ebou Adams’ strike.
Disappointed Gas boss Joey Barton admitted Forest Green are the benchmark.
“I’m gutted for the lad,” he said. “It was a scrappy encounter against the side at the top of the table.
“At 1-0 I thought we were going to come on and get something. We’ve got to be miles better. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our day today.
“We’ve now got to dust ourselves down and use the FA Cup as a distraction and then refocus on the league.
“The handball for the penalty looked outside the box. It’s another refereeing error.
“We weren’t anywhere near the levels of performance, but credit to Forest Green, they showed us the work we’ve got to do.”