By Laurie Martin
Ian Burchnall got off to a winning start in his first pre-season game as Forest Green Rovers boss, as the League Two champions beat Southern League Division One South side Melksham Town 3-0 at the Oakfield Stadium.
With the team fresh off a three-day training camp at Loughborough University, it was the first time Rovers fans got to see their side under the new head coach. Goals from Armani Little, Jamille Matt and Josh March secured the victory, on a night where Forest Green used 22 different players, two of which were trialists – one a left wing-back and the other a centre-midfielder. Scholars Jack Carter, Fin Bell, Murphy Bennett, Owen Woodhouse and Josh Mason were also given a chance to impress.
Forest Green supporters got a first glimpse of new signings Little – who impressed in his 45-minute cameo – Corey O’Keeffe and Kyle McAllister. Fellow new arrivals David Davis, Alife Burnett and Harry Boyes did not feature.
Sporting their striking pink and black away strip which was released hours before the game, Forest Green took the lead after 26 minutes. 17-year-old Carter showed great tenacity to keep the ball in play, before pulling it back to Little to finish into the corner from the edge of the box.
Rovers doubled their lead 12 minutes later when Jamille Matt was played in, and the Forest Green skipper turned and finished calmly into the corner.
Forest Green made nine changes at half-time, with the two trialists the only survivors, and Rovers extended their lead 15 minutes after the interval. A low cross was diverted home by Josh March after some neat build-up play.
Rovers had chances to put some extra gloss on the scoreline, but March was denied by a miraculous goal line clearance, before rifling a shot over the bar shortly afterwards. Regan Hendry and O’Keeffe both went close to adding to Forest Green’s tally in the closing stages.
Burchnall’s side will play a couple of behind-closed-doors games against higher opposition before travelling to Swindon Supermarine on July 16.
Their pre-season campaign concludes with a home game against Newport County on July 23.