FOREST GREEN were held to a frustrating draw against National League newcomers Sutton United at the New Lawn this evening.

It started so brightly for Mark Cooper's side after Matt Tubbs had given them a first half lead, but Sutton rallied after the break when Nicky Bailey scored from the spot.

Cooper had hinted at changes after the opening defeat at Boreham Wood and he certainly delivered his promise with five alterations.

Out went midfield trio Rob Sinclair, Darren Carter, Elliott Frear and strikers Christian Doidge and Ryhs Murphy. Keanu Marsh-Brown made his first bow of the season alongside Fabien Robert.

Kieffer Moore and Tubbs were handed starts up front. Captain Aarran Racine bolstered the defence as Cooper dispensed with a back-three in favour of a traditional back-four with Dale Bennett moving to right-back.

Rovers got off to a flyer. Tubbs nodded down and in at the far post from a Mo Chemal free-kick after the flying winger had been upended by one-time Forest Green man Ross Stearn.

And it was Stearn who found his way into the book for a foul on Bennett not long after.

Rovers were playing with a gusto not evident at Boreham Wood, but new-boys Sutton looked to threaten on the break with Roarie Deacon drawing a plunging save from Sam Russell.

Sutton responded. Former Cheltenham winger Ryan Burge caused a Forest Green flutter when his dink beat Russell and kissed the top of the bar.

Tempers frayed and Moore was unfortunate to see yellow after a fifty-fifty with Sutton stopper Ross Wormer.

Rovers responded – Bennett clipping over a cross from the right for livewire Tubbs to force Wormer to claw away his instant strike - drawing warm applause from a spectacle wearing Cooper.

And the Nailsworth side were on the money. Bennett, Rovers’ man of the half, scampering down the wing and arrowing over a cross that former Forest Green defender Jamie Collins almost turned into his own net.

Collins came close to scoring at the other end, but former Sutton defender Charlie Clough did enough to distract him from a Stearn corner.

The dangerous Deacon served early second half notice as he fizzed just wide of Russell’s far post as Sutton looked for parity.

It was nip and tuck. Robert was full of neat touches and he came close to threading Tubbs in but Wormer was quick to block.

Sutton were handed a gift on 54 minutes when Drissa Traore tripped Deacon in the box and Nick Bailey rifled home from the spot despite Russell getting something on his stinger.

Moments later Clough was forced to come off with a shoulder injury with Moore moving to the back and striker Doidge coming on. Cooper turned to the bench again with Frear replacing Robert just beyond the hour.

Rovers were struggling to find the cohesion and energy they displayed in the opening 45 minutes.

Cooper was cajoling his side from the dugout as they huffed and puffed.

Bennett and Moore made vital interceptions as Sutton looked more likely to break the stalemate.

Forest Green: (4-4-2)  Russell, Bennett, Pinnock, Racine, Clough (Doidge, 55); Traore (Sinclair,75) Chemlal, Robert (Frear, 63), Marsh-Brown; Tubbs, Moore.

Subs not used: Carter, Maxted.

Attendance: 1,369

Referee: A Bromley

Star Man: Aarran Racine

Next up: FGR v Gateshead: Saturday, August 13, 3pm.