Forest Green boss David Horseman has been pleased with his players and delighted with the supporters as the side prepares to host Newport County in League Two on Saturday afternoon.
The Nailsworth side have just one win from four in 2023/24 but performances are improving by the game, with the late defeat to Swindon a real step in the right direction before a red card changed the complexion of the match. There was also heavy praise for the support the Rovers fans provided the players on Tuesday evening.
Horseman was particularly happy with his players in the first half, which could have seen them much further in front than just the one goal if it wasn’t for the heroics of Swindon keeper Murphy Mahoney. Matty Stevens and Kyle McAllister caused serious problems for the opposition back line and had the home fans up on their feet at regular intervals. Thursday’s announcement of Troy Deeney as player-coach will also help to bolster the squad in the attacking positions.
“I actually thought there were crosses into the box but we headed them away and there were a few scrambles, but we actually dealt with it all. It’s a disappointing end to a pretty good performance, particularly 11 v 11,” said Horseman.
“Matty looked a handful tonight, probably back to a level that he was at when he scored all those goals and if you look at him tonight you think you are going to get a fair few and Ty (Omotoye) again with all his energy.
“Kyle’s been fantastic since I’ve come in, brilliant lad and works his socks off. He’s a key player in this team.
“We are absolutely delighted to get a player of Troy’s calibre. Troy brings us an ability to take the ball under pressure and bring others into the game. We know he is a proven goalscorer but also a creator for others.
“I have reiterated we are four weeks in. It is going to take some time, but what we have done in four weeks is give (the fans) a style of football which is exciting to watch.
“I really would like to say thank you to them because coming off afterwards their support was unbelievable and we are going to need them.”
There have been mixed fortunes for visitors Newport so far this season, a 3-0 opening day loss to Accrington Stanley was followed by an EFL Cup victory and a 4-0 win against Doncaster Rovers.
Following Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Crewe, both sides have one win and two losses from their opening three games. Newport have been solid in attack but disappointing in defence, conceding seven in two away games, with manager Graham Coughlan describing his side’s second half performance as “defending you wouldn’t see in a public park on a Sunday morning.”
The South Wales side has had issues with striker availability so far this season, with Omar Bogle out injured after bagging 19 goals in 2022-23 and the club has found it difficult to recruit an experienced goalscorer in his place.
“I would like someone seasoned,” Coughlan said.
“I would like someone who has been there done that, and got the T-shirt. But that might be out of my remit, my reach, financially.
“I have to look at those two [away games]. I have to look at our preparation, I have to look at our travel, I have to look at our training previously and look at our personnel.
“I cannot have that mindset, I cannot have that mentality in the camp.”
Forest Green will be without the suspended Harvey Bunker on Saturday, who was sent off in the defeat to Swindon and it is doubtful that Jordan Moore-Taylor will recover from the injury that left him hobbling off in the 24th minute on Tuesday. 19-year-old loanee Reece Welch replaced him and battled through a heavy nosebleed to deliver a strong performance from the centre of defence.
Horseman said: “The only good thing (about the injury) is it might be too high for it to be structural, but we are going to lose Jordan for probably a period of time.
“I hope he is okay because I think the game changed a little bit when he went off, before he was brilliant.
“Part of (Welch’s) journey is putting up with people who are going to play on him and beat him up and he’ll be better for this experience. Everton have produced a really good player and he needs (the battle) to go on to the next level.”
Bunker’s red was the first of the Horseman era, and the side found it difficult to relieve pressure when defending in the last half an hour, falling deeper towards their own goal with an incoherent plan to get the ball further up the pitch, something the head coach admits will have to be worked on sooner rather than later.
“We were trying to get them up and I also thought we went long when we could have played a little bit more and took a little bit more sting out the game.
“Obviously it is hard to get a message on when the crowd are buzzing and there is a lot of singing. We have not done our ten-man strategy yet because obviously we have not been in long enough to do it, but we are probably going to have to do it quite quick because it seems very quick with yellow cards this year.”