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History boys: Forest Green crowned champions on thrilling final day

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Mansfield Town 2 Forest Green 2

Beaming Forest Green boss Rob Edwards admitted winning the title on goal difference felt “surreal” on a climactic final day of the season.

Rovers knew they had to better Exeter’s result to wrestle back top spot and the title in spectacular fashion. The match had everything and kept pulses racing. Edwards’ side is nothing but resilient and twice came from behind to claim the point they needed to ensure they overtook Exeter at the summit, with the Grecians finishing second after losing at home to Port Vale.

The narrative was mouthwatering, with Nigel Clough’s side starting the day knowing they could go up automatically, reach the play-offs or miss out altogether.

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GET IN: Sub Josh March celebrates his dramatic late goal to claim the title for Forest Green Pic: Shane Healey/ Pro Sports Images

In a high-octane opening, it was Rovers who bossed the game from the get-go at a packed and baying Field Mill. However, on-loan Newcastle United midfielder Matty Longstaff put Mansfield ahead before the break.

With news breaking that Exeter were losing, FGR fans went into dreamland when Ebou Adams’ sublime finish on his 100th league start catapulted Rovers back to the top of the table just after the hour mark.

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CHAMPIONS: Baily Cargill, Regan Hendry and Ben Stevenson Pic: Shane Healey/ Pro Sports Images

Nonetheless, it was snakes and ladders at the top when Jordan Bowery nosed the Stags ahead on 78 minutes only for Rovers to net parity just 120 seconds later with sub Josh March writing his name into Rovers’ history books with a deft dink over Stags’ stopper Nathan Bishop to send Rovers up as deserving champions after topping the table since September and only being unseated for the first time last week.

Edwards purred: “It still is a little bit surreal. I know we’ve been there for a long, long time but maybe I still didn’t quite believe it was going to happen.

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GET IN: Forest Green boss Rob Edwards, players, and staff celebrate with the fans at the final while
Pic: Shane Healey/ Pro Sports Images

“But we’ve finished on top and it’s incredible and to win a league title over 46 games is difficult.”

Edwards, in his first season at the helm, lauded his side as players and fans celebrated in style: “I am just incredibly proud and pleased and proud of our performance, which I thought was excellent again today.

“We knew how tough a test coming to Mansfield would be, especially when they needed something from the game as well.

“But under a lot of pressure, we delivered a really good performance.”

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GOAL: Ebou Adams scores to put Rovers back on top of the table Pic: Shane Healey/ Pro Sports Images

Rovers’ character has never been in question and Edwards concurred: “We fell behind twice and showed a lot of character to come back with a couple of really good goals and in the end it worked out really well for both clubs.”

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Flying Scotsmen: Jack Aitchison, Regan Hendry and Nicky Cadden Pic: Shane Healey/ Pro Sports Images

Leading the table for most of the season, Edwards was stoked to jump back to the top: “But because we’ve been there all season long it just feels extra special. I am still in a bit of disbelief.

“Today was the cherry on the icing on the top of the cake.

“It was a dangerous game near the end as we needed to try to win it as at any point Exeter could have scored, so we took a few risks.”

MANSFIELD: Bishop, Perch (Hewitt 84), Hawkins, O’Toole, McLaughlin, Maris (Wallace 74), Longstaff, Quinn, Murphy (Akins 88), Oates, Murphy.

SUBS NOTS USED: Stech, Clarke, Stirk, Lapslie.

Ratings out of 10

FOREST GREEN ROVERS: McGee 8, Wilson 8, Bernard 8, Stevenson 8, Adams 9, Aitchison 8, Cadden 8, Matt 8, Moore-Taylor 8, Hendry 8 (March 79, 8), Godwin-Malife 8.

SUBS NOT USED: Thomas, Sweeney, Cargill, Allen, Young, Diallo.

REFEREE: Robert Madley.

ATTENDANCE: 7,374.

STAR MAN: Ebou Adams – outstanding all season and scored a stunning goal in what could be his final game for Rovers.

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