Whisper it very quietly, but Forest Green look set for League One.
Titles aren’t won at Christmas, but the champions-elect sit proudly on top of their throne with a staggering 43 points from just 19 games after an emphatic 4-1 victory at Harrogate Town last night.
Measured head coach Rob Edwards is taking it the proverbial game-by-game, but take a glance at the points haul and it makes frightening reading for the chasing pack. Going into the busy Christmas period, Rovers look well set, but fans will be mindful of previous implosions during the season of goodwill.
Keeping hold of their crown jewels when the transfer window swings open next month will be the biggest challenge for the Fully Charged New Lawn top brass. Supporters will be mindful of how Rovers lost Carl Winchester and Liam Kitching to Sunderland and Barnsley respectively last January and a freak hand injury to top scorer Jamille Matt ultimately derailed the team and paved the way for Mark Cooper’s departure last April.
January will likely see bids tabled for Rovers’ wing wizards Kane Wilson and Nicky Cadden, but with the remarkable feel-good factor and camaraderie within the camp, Edwards will hope this is a big enough distraction to keep his star duo beyond this season.
In truth, Rovers huffed and puffed for the first 19 minutes on a biting Tuesday night in Yorkshire against a Harrogate side brimming full of confidence thanks to their thrilling FA Cup victory at Portsmouth.
The game was turned on its head in a scintillating spell of breathtaking football. Fleet-footed Wilson danced down the right with the ball falling to Jack Aitchison who saw his deflected strike deceive keeper Mark Oxley to put Rovers ahead on 20 minutes. Five minutes later, a stray pass from Harrogate skipper Josh Falkingham was intercepted by the alert Matty Stevens and, after rounding Oxley, he squared the ball for Cadden to tap into the inviting net.
Wilson was pivotal once again as Rovers added a third goal on the cusp of half-time, slipping beyond a series of challenges on the byline before teeing up Matt for a close-range finish.
Shell-shocked Harrogate reduced the deficit when Lloyd Kerry found Luke McGee’s bottom corner after fine combination play by Jack Diamond and Luke Armstrong.
But the prolific Stevens ended any hopes of a comeback when he headed in from a yard after Warren Burrell’s powder-puff clearance had been returned into the six-yard box by Aitchison, allowing Stevens to register his 15th goal of the season.
Harrogate Town: Oxley, Thomson, Sheron, Burrell, Hall, Falkingham, Kerry, Pattison, Power, Diamond, Armstrong.
Subs not used: Cracknell, Attree, Williams, Orsi, Muldoon.
Goal: Kerry (55)
Booked: Falkingham (36), Kerry (88)
Forest Green Rovers: McGee, Wilson (Sweeney, 83), Bernard, Cargill, Sevenson, Adams, Stevens (Young, 83), Aitchison, Cadden, Matt (March, 76), Moore-Taylor.
Subs not used: Allen, Hendry, Diallo, Thomas.
Goals: Aitchison (20), Cadden (26), Matt (44), Stevens (73)
Star Man: Kane Wilson. Twinkle toes was a cut above the rest.
Referee: Martin Coy.
Attendance: 1,619 (101 away)
Next up: Rovers travel to Oldham on Saturday, 3pm.