10:36am Wednesday 9th April 2014
Forest Green 1 Kidderminster Harriers 1
JUSTICE was eventually done in an astonishing finale at The New Lawn as Forest Green bounced back from three consecutive defeats to pick up a solid point against Kidderminster Harriers, writes Richard Joyce.
Josh O'Keefe's blatant handball had looked to have given play-off chasing Kidderminster victory in the final few minutes after the former Hereford United man's use of his hands had been missed by the officials.
But Rovers were rightly awarded a share of the points moments later as referee Brett Huxtable miraculously went back on the decision after dramatic protests from the Forest Green players.
The night had started brilliantly for a dominant Rovers attack, who saw Paul Green steer in his second goal of the season after just 13 minutes.
But Kidderminster, chasing a second consecutive play-off finish, fought back in the second half and equalised early on as Nick Wright turned the ball into the back of the net past Russell.
A string of changes saw Dale Bennett restored to the back line as Eddie Oshodi was pushed out wide to fulfil an impressive performance at right back on his 100th league appearance for the club.
Matty Taylor meanwhile started up top alongside James Norwood as boss Ady Pennock elected to rest Lee Hughes against his former club.
Rovers burst out of the traps early on as Norwood made a superb early impact. The England C man forced Harriers shot-stopper Danny Lewis into a good save and also went close with a fierce strike minutes later.
Oshodi, a dangerous aerial target all evening for Rovers, then got on the end of an Anthony Barry corner after eight minutes and crashed a powerful header onto the crossbar.
Forest Green were edging ever nearer to scoring the game's first goal and they sealed it minutes later, as a good move forward saw the ball fall to Green, who applied a straightforward finish.
The midfield man almost doubled his and his team's tally shortly after but he lashed wide.
Sam Russell was called upon to smartly stop Jack Byrne's well-despatched volley. The Rovers keeper then held onto Wright's deflected strike.
One final opportunity just before the half-time whistle saw Taylor denied by Lewis and the visitors clawed themselves back into the game early in the second period.
A much-improved Harriers unit looked like they were prepared to do the business early on and they levelled via Wright after Michael Gash had driven a low cross towards his strike partner.
The visitors had the incentive to go on and win the game, however Rovers hit back with a number of opportunities.
Green and Charlton Athletic loanee Bradley Jordan spurned chances, while Amari Morgan-Smith saw his low effort stopped by Russell.
Both managers turned to their replacements to install some late vigour to the game. It almost worked for Kiddy, who saw Adrian Cieslewicz's unstoppable run end with a reaction save from Russell.
Then came a remarkable final five minutes as Kidderminster grouped men forward in the search for a late winner which could have kept their play-off ambitions alive.
A free kick into the box appeared to have sealed a dramatic late win for the away side as the ball nestled in the back of the Rovers net but Rovers' protests to O'Keefe's two-handed punch proved striking and the decision to award the goal was instantly reversed.
It was a startling ending to an otherwise well-fought out contest as Forest Green retained their place amongst the Conference Premier's mid-table band.
Forest Green: S. Russell; E. Oshodi, L. Oliver, D. Bennett, J. Hodgkiss; J. Norwood, P. Green, A. Barry, B. Jordan (L. Rodgers 76); J. Norwood, M. Taylor (L. Hughes 87); Subs not used: A. Bangura, D. Wright, P. White.
Kidderminster Harriers: D. Lewis; L. Vaughan, J. Grimes, C. Dunkley, M. Demetriou; J. Byrne, J. O'Keefe, A. Bell; N. Wright (A. Verma 67), M. Gash (N. Blissett 87), A. Morgan-Smith (A. Cieslewicz 74); Subs not used: A. Malbon, N. Vaughan.
Referee: B. Huxtable (Barnstaple).
Star man: Dale Bennett.
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