Forest Green head coach Rob Edwards defended his decision to bench leading scorer Matty Stevens as his table-topping side huffed and puffed their way to a dogged 2-0 victory at bottom of the table Scunthorpe United.
Eyebrows were raised when Stevens was named on the bench after his brace in the midweek EFL Trophy clash against Brighton Under 21s – Edwards choosing to start with Jake Young after his electric performance on Tuesday. However, Rovers were lacklustre in the first half against a Scunthorpe side smarting from a chastening 6-1 defeat to Harrogate Town.
And Rovers were indebted to goalkeeper Luke McGee for a strong glove in the opening exchanges and a last-ditch clearance from Ebou Adams, who caught the eye following his return from international duty with Gambia.
Rovers almost broke the deadlock nine minutes before half-time when Adams’ glancing header spun back into play off a post.
Rovers rallied after the break with Jamille Matt scoring from the spot after being upended – handing his side the lead on the hour. Edwards’ side killed the game five minutes later – Adams nodding in from a sumptuous Kane Wilson cross and McGee’s stunning reaction save from Ryan Loft helped Rovers remain in pole position as the game became fractious.
Edwards explained his thinking on not starting Stevens, who has netted 8 goals in 12 games this season, he revealed: “We felt there might be a few spaces for Jake Young to turn and dribble, but as it turned out it didn’t pan out that way for Jake today, but he showed one or two moments, but it was difficult for him to get in the game. Matty has been outstanding for us and you live and die by these decisions when you take out your top scorer, but he understood the rationale behind it and was absolutely fantastic about it and took it brilliantly. We’ve got lots of completion in those places and the only way you win is if you win and luckily we did today.”
Rovers remain unbeaten on the road this season and Edwards beamed: “The result was fantastic and I’m delighted to get the win and another clean sheet. Luke (McGee) made a fantastic save at a really important time and we needed everyone.”
Edwards praised struggling Scunthorpe for the part they played in the match, he added: “Credit to Scunthorpe, they’ve obviously had a difficult period but as the game wore on, we definitely deserved the three points and it was a great cross and a fantastic header from Ebs (Ebou Adams) and a well-executed penalty from Jamma (Jamille Matt).”
With Rovers and the Iron sharing five bookings each, Edwards pointed to the emotion in the game, he added: “Football is emotional and of course we want to control ourselves and I’m not trying to make excuses, but sometimes that passion takes over and you are lost in the moment and football can get you at times.”
“We felt there might be a few spaces for Jake Young to turn and dribble but as it turned out it didn’t pan out that way. Matty has been outstanding for us and you live and die when you take out your top scorer but he understood the rationale behind it and was absolutely fantastic about it and understood it.
SCUNTHORPE: Watson, Taft, Onariase, Davis (Green, 44), O’Malley (Beestin, 61), Hippolyte, Rowe, Scrimshaw, Pugh, Hackney (Jarvis, 72), Loft.
SCUNTHORPE SUBS NOT USED: Collins, Wood, O’Neill, Gallimore.
FOREST GREEN: McGee, Wilson, Bernard, Cargill, Stevenson, Adams, Cadden, Matt (Stevens, 89), Moore-Taylor, Young (March, 75), Hendry (Aitchison, 86).
FOREST GREEN SUBS NOT USED: Thomas, Evans, Godwin-Malife, Diallo.
REFEREE: Declan Bourne.
STAR MAN: Ebou Adams. Rovers’ standout performer.
NEXT UP: Rovers visit Kenny Jackett’s Leyton Orient on Tuesday night (7.45pm kick-off).