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I’m really proud of them: Steve Cotterill’s verdict on Forest Green defeat

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League Two

Forest Green Rovers 0

Accrington Stanley 1

New Forest Green manager Steve Cotterill was magnanimous in defeat in his first game in charge.

Nine points shy of safety, Rovers look cut a drift at the bottom of the table, leaving themselves a mountain to climb to beat the drop.

A defensive howler from Ryan Inniss presented Accrington Stanley a first-half penalty which Jack Nolan converted for the only goal of the game.

PSI WT Forest Green Rovers vs Accrington Stanley 27JAN23 088 | I'm really proud of them: Steve Cotterill's verdict on Forest Green defeat
Jordan Moore-Taylor and Mathew Stevens battle for the ball Pic: Pro Sports Images/ Wayne Tuckwell

The ebullient Rovers’ boss who was appointed on Thursday, felt his side more than matched play-off chasing Accrington, he beamed: “The first game is always key because I didn’t know obviously what to expect. Because, until you see them live, you never quite know. So I was pleasantly surprised by where we were today. We certainly didn’t deserve to lose the game and we’ve had more of the ball and more efforts on goal.

“I suppose if there is only a slight criticism of us today, I think that
we can hit the target a little bit more. But no, I’m proud of the boys today.”

PSI WT Forest Green Rovers vs Accrington Stanley 27JAN23 089 | I'm really proud of them: Steve Cotterill's verdict on Forest Green defeat
Forest Green midfielder Emmanuel Osadebe lets fly Pic: Pro Sports Images/ Wayne Tuckwell

With the transfer window due to slam shut on Thursday, Cotterill is working around the clock to bolster his threadbare squad: “My focus is obviously to try and strengthen the squad between now and Thursday.”

With 18 games to go and winless in the league since October, wily Cotterill knows their will be no managerial honeymoon period: “All the games are huge, I knew that when I took the job. I can make them better as a team, but I can only do what I can do with their consent, but as it stands at the moment, they’re all in.”

PSI WT Forest Green Rovers vs Accrington Stanley 27JAN23 084 | I'm really proud of them: Steve Cotterill's verdict on Forest Green defeat
Dominic Thompson gets on the front foot Pic: Pro Sports Images/ Wayne Tuckwell

Even for a club that thrives on the unlikely, this would be one of Forest Green’s greatest escapes. 

Earlier Rovers gained an early foothold – Matty Stevens nodding over after finding space in the box. Rovers were full-throttle – Stevens almost handing his side the dream start, but couldn’t get enough purchase on his sliding strike from Calum Jones’ cut-back. 

PSI WT Forest Green Rovers vs Accrington Stanley 27JAN23 077 | I'm really proud of them: Steve Cotterill's verdict on Forest Green defeat
Charlie McCann tried to make Rovers tick Pic: Pro Sports Images/ Wayne Tuckwell

Cotterill’s side were going for the jugular, but as so often this season, cut their own throats. All their good work was undone when beanpole defender Inniss inexplicably wrestled Henderson to the floor with keeper Luke Daniels looking to catch the ball with ease. Nolan struck the subsequent 21st- minute penalty home, sending Daniels the wrong way from the spot.

With seven minutes remaining, a period of pin-ball in the Stanley box saw Emmanuel Osadebe’s  skidder flash just beyond the post. Rovers cranked it up  – impish midfielder Charlie McCann watched his angled free-kick fingered over by Radec Vitek.

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Fankaty Dabo steps on the green gas for Rovers Pic: Pro Sports Images/ Wayne Tuckwell

Cotterill will have demanded a fast start after the break and he got that just 18 seconds in. Fankaty Dabo hooked a ball into the path of Osadebe, but as the net bulged in anticipation,  he dragged his shot  woefully wide.

Cotterill rolled the dice with 22 minutes to go ushering on Man United loanee Maxi Oyedele and Reece Brown. 

Rovers huffed and puffed as the clock ticked – Jamie Robson’s buccaneering run ended when Stevens toe-poked wide.

PSI WT Forest Green Rovers vs Accrington Stanley 27JAN23 035 | I'm really proud of them: Steve Cotterill's verdict on Forest Green defeat
Jack Nolan scores from the spot for Accrington Pic: Pro Sports Images/ Wayne Tuckwell

Match stats

Ratings out of 10

Forest Green: Daniels 5; Robson 6, Moore-Taylor 6, Inniss 4, Bernard 5 (Oyedele 68); Jones 6 (Brown 68), McCann 6, Osadebe 6; (Taylor 88), Thompson 5, Stevens 6, Dabo 6

Subs not used: Simkin, Johnson, Bunker, Omotoye 

Bookings: Inniss (21)

Star man: Matt Stevens

Accrington Stanley: Vitek, Shipley, Hills, Woods, Pritchard, Gubbins, Nolan (Baghuelou 53) , Martin, Henderson (Conneely 53), O’Brien, Woods 

Subs not used: Mellor, Quirk, Adekoya, Trickett, McIntyre

Bookings: Hills (42), Martin (45), Baghuelou (59), Woods (80).

Referee: A. Herczeg

Attendance: 2,238

Accrington fans: 135
Next up: Rovers travel to Danny Cowley’s Colchester United on Saturday.

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