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Forest Green 2 Harriers 2

Date: 26-12-07 Venue: The New Lawn att: 2106 away fans: 422
Harriers throw lead away - twice!
The Harriers stifled the threat of the FGR leading scorer, Stuart Fleetwood, today and could have come back to Kidderminster with a well earned win if it hadn't been for lax defending and pathetic bickering amongst our own players.  A penalty from Christie along with a well taken goal from Simon Russell gave us the lead twice during the game but a tally of five bookings in the game and now five for Andy Ferrell and Justin Richards mean that they'll both miss the return game at Aggborough on New Years Day.

In an ideal opportunity to escape the washing up around 400 Harriers fans travelled down to Stroud to see the Harriers come up against a much improved FGR.  Since Jim Harvey took over last season they have become one of the Leagues 'teams to watch' and could end up in the play-offs this season.  Most of the reason for this is the outstanding strike rate of Fleetwood who has scored twenty eight goals so far this season and is now being watched closely by scouts from other clubs.

If Fleetwood does leave then FGR could struggle to replace him but saying that he did look very ineffective against us.  Mark Creighton had him well shackled and I can only recall him having a handful of chances throughout the game.

The Harriers started the game without their skipper, Stuart Whitehead, following his dismissal at Hinckley last week which bought his red card tally up to two so far this season and he now misses two games.  Gavin Hurren replaced him with Andy Ferrell taking up Hurrens usual place on the right.  Iyseden Christie kept his place in the side along with James Constable and Richards was on the bench.

The Harriers kicked off playing towards the Harriers fans crammed into the new 'ramshackle' stand behind the goal and we were the first into action with Constable sending a shot just wide within the first few minutes of the game after a pin-point cross from Christie.  Within another three minutes we had taken the lead and Forest Green had hardly had a sniff of the ball.

We had been awarded a free kick and Russell sent in the ball for Russ Penn.  As Penn darted across the area trying to find an opening he was bought down by Darren Jones and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.  Christie stepped up to take it and, once Ryan Robinson had finished complaining to the ref, Christie sent the ball flying into the net with Robinson rooted to the spot.

Video here

For once we didn't stop playing after we had gone into the lead and continued to take the game to the home side.  Both Christie and James Constable had half chances to score but sadly Beano was again showing signs of petulance and could have found him self booked after going in hard on the keeper for one 50/50 ball and then mouthing off about it.  Will he ever learn?

Simon Russell had a great chance to extend our lead when his rising shot forced the keeper into a good save but slowly Rovers started to get themselves into the game more and found our weak spot through Paul Bignot.  The young defender was continually leaving space out wide behind him as he kept on drifting into the middle of the park and it was from this that Forest Green scored their first equaliser.

Mark Beesley collected the ball deep in his own half and went on a run down down the wing.  As Bignot tried to intercept he passed the ball to Fleetwood who then returned it for Beesley to shoot across and past Scott Bevan.

We responded in the best way by trying to renew the difference straight away.  Constable collected the ball in his own half and went on a run that ended with a fine shot on goal but one that the keeper saved equally well.

FGR could have taken the lead soon after when Fleetwood had his first real sight of goal after Beesley had played him in but his shot is well saved by Bevan.

The attack changed ends again with the Harriers going close when Bignot got to the byeline and sent in a pass across the area for Constable but Robinson just managed to reach it and cut out the threat from the Harriers leading scorer.  We had another good chance seconds after when a shot from James was blocked but the fell kindly for Russ Penn to send in a shot that went inches wide of the post.

We then had another penalty claim turned down by the referee, one that looked just as valid as the first, after Russ Penn had another shot at goal that too was blocked.  When Constable came in for the follow up he was crudely bought down by John Hardiker but the referee waved all the calls away and gave a corner instead.  Again Constable gave his opinions too strongly and again got away with it.

With the minutes ticking away to half time we had no more real goalmouth chances and the teams went into the break all square.
HT: 1 - 1
Within a minute of the second half starting we had taken the lead once more with a superb goal from Simon Russell.

Michael McGrath, having one of his better games, dribbled the ball down the left wing, avoided some despairing challenges from Rovers defenders and then sent in a low ball out to Russell on the far post.  Scholesy had the easiest of tasks to slide it into the goal to give us the lead once more.

This time we did sit back on the lead and allow Rovers to come at us although it took quite a while before the home side had another clear cut chance on goal.

Rovers made a change mid way through when they bought on the diminutive winger Les Afful for Dodgson but, after coming up against him in the same fixture last season when he ripped us to pieces, this time we kept him pretty well quiet.

FGR had a couple of shots but nothing to write home about and then we made our first change of the game with Iyseden Christie making way for Justin Richards.  A strange move really after Christie had played his socks off so far and once Richards came on we seemed to have lost all sense of urgency to our game.

With a quarter of a hour left of the game the home side drew level once more with what, for us, was a very poor goal.  They were awarded a corner but as usual we went to sleep as they took it quickly and the ball fell just right for the unmarked Chris Giles at the far post to nod the ball home.

Forest Green started to pile on the pressure now as they went in search of a third goal and they came close when Gavin Hurren dithered in our area and then passed the ball straight to a Rovers player, Beesley.  He then passed it straight to Fleetwood who, with the goal at his mercy, struck a shot that thankfully hit the base of the post.

Michael Blackwood then charged across to Hurren and angrily pushed him in the chest.  Hurren pushed him back and Ferrell had to get in-between them to try and cool things down.  The referee gave them a few seconds to cool down and then booked them both.

This was totally embarrassing and is not what we want to see from our own team.  Yates should have taken them both off, or at least Blackwood, because the last thing we need is in-discipline in the squad.  As it was this scene opened the floodgates for another three booking for us before the end of the game and all for pointless reasons.

Luckily for us the home side failed to capitalise on our shortcomings with just a few more half chances that they failed to take advantage of and the game finally ended at two goals apiece and a chance for the Harriers to make more of an effort at Aggborough on New Years Day when we meet again.

Before that we have the task of trying to beat Oxford at their place this Saturday and gain revenge for their controversial win at Aggborough a few weeks ago.
FT: 2 - 2

 Goals for FGR: Beesley 21, Giles 74
 Goals for Harriers: Christie 8 (pen), Russell 46

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Forest Green  subs   cards      Harriers  subs   cards 
Robinson     Bevan  
Lawless gif   Bignot  
Tonkin     Blackwood gif
Jones     Hurren gif
Giles     Creighton  
Dodgson     Ferrell gif
Beesley     Russell  
Clist     Constable  
Fleetwood     Christie  
Stonehouse     Penn gif
Hardiker     McGrath  
SUBS:       SUBS:    
Smith     Coleman  
Rigoglioso     Kenna  
Carey-Bertram     Richards gif
Afful     Barnes-Homer  
Preece     Smikle  

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