Skrill Premier: Forest Green 1 Gateshead 0
FOREST GREEN returned to rude health to halt a run of three-consecutive league defeats with a thoroughly dogged display against Gateshead.
The reliable Yan Klukowski put a poor week behind the squad with a clinical first-half winner, which may yet prove to be a pivotal turning point.
Boss David Hockaday had threatened a major overhaul at the club after watching his side fall to a horror 2-1 defeat at home to lowly Tamworth last week and the former Watford coach ripped into his under-achieving side.
How things turned around on Saturday. With a raft of changes and a greater energy, Rovers were simply on the money despite losing centre-back pair Eddie Oshodi and Jamie Turley to sickness and injury respectively before the game and seeing star forward James Norwood sitting in the stands after his Tamworth red card.
Hockaday admitted the Tamworth debacle had been discussed at length and a good week at the office saw his talented squad refreshed and ready for war.
“We got back to basics, worked on our defensive shape and it was a great honest performance from my team," he said.
“I am really proud of them because the performance against Tamworth put that bit of pressure on us and we responded brilliantly.”
Any lingering nerves were ended when the excellent Chris Stokes burst forward to pull the ball back for Klukowski to cushion his strike beyond Adam Bartlett after 15 minutes for his fourth goal of the season.
Klukowski was certainly pulling the strings from his favoured attacking midfield role and his 25-yard free-kick forced Bartlett to claw away with the resulting Klukowski corner seeing Aaran Racine miss a free header.
Rovers continued to step on the gas and the impressive Danny Wright had a great shout for a penalty when he traded passes with strike partner Matthew Barnes-Homer, but appeared to be floored in the box. Wright was guilty of failing to hit the target after Al Bangura opened up the Gateshead back-four, but Wright was high, wide and not very handsome.
On the cusp of the break, Stokes charged forward and was body-checked, but again Bartlett denied Klukowski from the resulting free-kick.
Rovers started the second period on the front foot – Barnes-Homer rattled the underside of the bar and then Wright fizzed over after linking with Barnes-Homer and Magno Vieria.
Star summer signing Andy Mangan was introduced from the bench despite Hockaday earlier stating: "We want him back but it's got to be when it's right for him."
The popular man from the Mersey started with aplomb - his cross field pass saw Jared Hodgkiss motor forward but the right-back lashed over when scoring appeared easier.
Rovers survived a late scare when skipper Anthony Barry saw his under-hit back-pass force Sam Russell to watch his clearance cannon-off James Brown and fly wide.
A Gareth Bale like run from Stokes saw the speedy left-back toe-poke wide in injury time.
FOREST GREEN: (4-3-3): Russell; Hodgkiss, Racine, Pilkington, Stokes; Barry (Forbes 78), Bangura, Klukowski; Vieria (Mangan 61), Wright (Koroma 90), Barnes-Homer.
Subs not used: Asafu-Adjae, Bulman.
Star Man: Chris Stokes- simply sublime display.
ROVERS travel to Alfreton Town on Saturday, 3pm and Kidderminster Harriers next Tuesday, 7.45pm.
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