Camera shy Forest Green fail their screen test

CLOSE: James Norwood hit the bar

CLOSE: James Norwood hit the bar

First published in Sport

SKRILL PREMIER

SOUTHPORT 2

FOREST GREEN 0

CAMERA shy Forest Green slipped to defeat at lowly Southport in a game played in atrocious conditions at the Merseyrail Community Stadium, writes Richard Joyce.

Rovers kept up their poor record  in front of the BT Sport cameras as they failed to take up the opportunity of sneaking into a place in the Conference Premier play-off zone.

A flood of rain lashed down throughout the evening with heavy thunder and lighting overhead too but Ady Pennock's side couldn't make it three consecutive wins on the bounce at Haig Avenue as the second half conditions deteriorated badly - with many calling for an abandonment.

Rovers had dominated early on however Southport forced their way into the game and took an early second half lead thanks to a thunderbolt header from Karl Ledsham.

They wrapped up their win with a superb strike just past the hour mark when Republic of Ireland under 21 international fizzed a low shot into the back of Sam Russell's net.

Luke Rodgers was handed his first start in a Rovers jersey up front alongside Lee Hughes. Al Bangura meanwhile returned in midfield with Aarran Racine taking the place of the injured Dale Bennett in the back line on his return from suspension.

And it was the returning Racine who forced Forest Green's first chance on goal after nine minutes. Anthony Barry's cross found the centre back who could only head over the bar.

Rodgers then tried his best to find his first Rovers goal after Danny Hurst had spilt a cross into the strikers path but he couldn't get past the Southport defence.

Strike partner Hughes then directed an effort on goal himself but the former West Brom man's clever lifted attempt on the turn could only find the roof of the net.

Forest Green had bossed the early exchanges but the home side began to find their feet midway through the half as Vinny Mukendi speared a shot from 25 yards wide.

Russell was then called upon to make a fine stop to deny what looked set to be the games opening goal.

Chris Stokes weak back pass was picked up by Blackburn Rovers loanee O'Sullivan who marched towards goal only to be foiled by an excellent save from Russell.

The Rovers keeper was at it again from a Southport corner which followed moments later as he smothered a low Aristote Nsiala attempt.

The rain continued to lash down during half time as conditions worsened severely in the second half.

Nevertheless, it was the hosts who found the matches opening goal four minutes after the interval, as Ledsham met O'Sullivan's pin-point cross with fine aplomb to head in his side's opener.

David Fitzpatrick's long range strike for the hosts glided straight at Russell as Rovers almost hit back only minutes after the hosts had taken the lead.

An eye-catching pass from Hughes was met by the on rushing Norwood, who dinked a shot when one-on-one with Hurst onto the bar, and the England C man couldn't put away the follow up header.

Rovers leading marksman tried his luck again minutes later but this time Hurst was able to foil his low effort from the edge of the box.

Then came the killer goal, the finest strike of the night, as O'Sullivan burst down the right to power a superb smash on goal past the reach of the diving Russell.

It was the gap in the score-line the hosts so desperately needed, as the conditions worsened even further, calling into question how realistically the game could continue with areas of the pitch fast becoming unplayable.

Referee Adrian Jones ploughed on however, and it was in fact the hosts who looked the more likely to score next, as Russell was called upon to turn away a strong drive from former Cheltenham Town man Scott Brown.

The state of the pitch had deteriorated excessively as the match reached its conclusion as only a couple of simple saves for Hurst from substitutes Yan Klukowski and Danny Wright kept him busy.

For Rovers though a first defeat in four matches keeps them firmly in mid-table ahead of another visit to a long term league rival, Woking, on Tuesday.

 

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