Forest Green boss Mark Cooper denied any off-pitch shenanigans curtailed Cheltenham captain Ben Tozer’s torpedo throw-ins as the Gloucestershire derby saw both teams fire blanks.
The advertising hoarding and frost covers appeared to be positioned nearer to the touchline in an effort to thwart Tozer’s throw-in momentum, which was evident during Cheltenham’s FA Cup tie against Manchester City last weekend
“That’s the groundsman’s department, not mine, ” Cooper said after the promotion rivals shared the spoils in a goalless stalemate.
“We’re at home and we’re not going to make it like coming to Wembley for teams. The covers have been on to protect the pitch, so it was a big effort to get them off.”
Rovers lost midfielder Ebou Adams to a second yellow after 68 minutes for a coming together with Charlie Raglan, leaving Cooper pointing the finger of blame at referee Ollie Yates.
“If that’s a yellow we might as well all pack up and go home,” Cooper said.
“Ebou has got there, slipped and cleared the ball and their lad has dangled his foot, so no foul and the referee has realised he has made a mistake when I spoke to him after the game.
“We had chances at the end to go on and win it. I can’t complain about the application and desire but it was a game that was never given the chance to get going in my opinion, the weather was a spoiler, whistles kept going every two minutes and flags going up when they shouldn’t and not when they should.
“The players battled really hard in horrendous conditions today and didn’t concede any ground and defended really well.”
First-half chances were at a premium until Rovers forward Jake Young attempted an audacious 30th-minute chip from the edge of the box that drifted over Josh Griffiths.
In a fruitless half, red-hot Cheltenham striker Alfie May watched his stinging drive fly into the face of Jordan Moore-Taylor.
Lewis Thomas first save in anger arrived in the 51 minutes when he kept out a May effort, before the game began to open up.
Rovers substitute Aaron Collins clipped a volley into Griffiths from a Nicky Cadden cross. Griffiths then did well to glove Odin Bailey’s free-kick onto the crossbar after 66 minutes
Adams was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card in the 68th minute in a clash with Raglan, who also incurred a booking for the altercation.
On-loan Reading striker Sam Smith had a debut Cheltenham goal ruled out in stoppage time for offside as the spoils were shared.
Cheltenham boss Michael Duff felt a point was acceptable in a west country derby that failed to raise the pulses.
Duff said: “It was a bitty type of day. Two good teams, nothing in the game really and there was nothing in the game.
“Josh (Griffiths) has made a save from the free-kick and I don’t know whether the offside goal was offside and it’ll be frustrating if it is onside because that’s the way our luck’s been going at the minute. It was a scrappy type of game.
“This time last week, everyone was ecstatic, we’d just played Man City, then we played the team top of the away form in Oldham, who beat Salford today, then Forest Green your local rivals, who are second or third in the league.
“You come away with four points and two clean sheets. I think it’s a mammoth effort from the players and I was pleased with the result, maybe not the performance and I am sure Mark Cooper will say the same.”
Duff insisted Adams’ red was the right call.
He said: “I thought it was a red card. Ebou Adams has had three tackles like that in the game.
“When you are on a yellow card you are foolish to go to the ground and make that type of tackle. Coops is saying he’s actually won the ball, but it’s a committed tackle and I don’t think there was any nastiness in it from either player.
“I don’t think you can make tackles like that when you are on a yellow card. That’s my opinion after watching it once.”