Forest Green 4 Arsenal XI 6
FOREST Green ended their pre-season campaign with a swashbuckling display against a talented Arsenal Under-21 side, writes Richard Joyce.
The Gunners' stars of the future were in full force, and they didn't disappoint in a spectacular pre-season tie which saw Ady Pennock test his side one last time ahead of this Saturday's league opener against Southport.
Rovers went ahead when Marcus Kelly's set piece was met by the head of James Norwood, who rose perfectly to hand Rovers the first of what would be many goals to come.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles hammered over on the quarter of an hour mark but he hit the target to level just after, slotting coolly past Sam Russell.
Some good refereeing and some even more impressive link-up play handed Rovers their second goal shortly before the break. Norwood was again the man to find the net as he knocked in after Kurtis Guthrie's low cross found the hit man.
The Gunners drew parity just before the hour mark. Former Barcelona youngster Jon Toral linked up well with Gedion Zelalem and the former produced an exquisite dinked finish over Rovers replacement shot stopper Paul White.
Rob Sinclair then restored Rovers' lead with his first touch after coming on as a substitute. The summer signing from Salisbury was well positioned on the edge of the area after the ball fell to him from a corner and he smashed home through a sea of bodies.
Arsenal hit back once again with a stunning strike from the eye-catching Daniel Crowley.
The young midfielder was given plenty of room on the edge of the Rovers box and he advanced to send a missile-like strike past White.
With the game approaching its ending the Premier League outfit showed all their class and took control.
Hayden showed terrific strength to win the ball in the Rovers box and to fire past White to hand his side the lead.
And he then grabbed another goal only two minutes later as Crowley's inventiveness fed the England youth international, who found the back of the net.
Arsenal were rampant towards the finish and defender Semi Ajayi smashed home on 90 minutes after Rovers failed to clear from a corner.
There was still time for one final Rovers reply and it came once again from Sinclair.
The midfield man picked up the ball in a similar area to where he had found the net the first time around and he drove home to complete an entertaining evening.
Forest Green: S. Russell (P. White 46); A. Baldwin (L. Wright 66), L. Oliver (D. Bennett 46), E. Oshodi, C. Stokes (S. Bevan 62); K. Guthrie, A. Bangura (A. Barry 46), M. Kelly (E. Frear 79), J. Norwood (R. Sinclair 62); D. Wright (L. Hughes 62), L. Rodgers; Subs not used: D. Pipe, S. Wedgbury, J. Jennings, C. Kamdjo, J. Parkin,
Arsenal XI: M. Masey (D. Iliev 60); G. Kamara, S. Ajayi, S. O'Connor, B. Ormonde-Ottewill; J. Toral, K. Olsson, I. Hayden, A. Maitland-Niles (D. Crowley 55); C. Okpom, G. Zelalem; Subs not used: J. Tebb, T. Moore, A. Lipman, C. Willock.
Referee: R. Martin (Somerset)
Star man: Rob Sinclair.