FOREST GREEN surrendered a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 in a compelling pre-season clash against Bristol City.

Boss Mark Cooper will point to a raft of second-half changes as his previously in control side allowed City back in a contest that looked done and dusted.

Earlier, Shawn McCoulsky continued his red-hot pre-season scoring form with an eye-catching brace against his former club Bristol City.

And on this evidence, boss Mark Cooper has found his man to fill the boots vacated by Christian Doidge’s summer departure to Hibernian, but the SNJ understands Rovers are still pursuing a No 9 to complement their striking arsenal.

McCoulsky punished his old employers with a quickfire opener and a sumptuous finish just before the break and then lashed in a worldie from the edge of the box just before the break.

City pegged a goal back after a Lewis Thomas error saw Josh Brownhill strike and on a day when Boris Johnson took up residency  at No 10, it was Rovers’ new No 10 Aaron Collins, who made  it 3-1 on 55 minutes. Andy Weinman struck from the penalty spot on 77 minutes and Sammie Szmodics grabbed a late leveller on what had been a previously chastening night for Lee Johnson’s Championship outfit, who left it late to turn the match in their favour as Adam Webster made it 4-3 with three minutes to go.

Seventy-two days from Forest Green’s League Two semi-final play-off aggregate defeat to Tranmere at the New Lawn,  Cooper’s side paraded a raft of fresh summer signing faces in their only pre-season home friendly. Into the starting line-up came Matt Mills, Kevin Dawson, Aaron Collins, Dom Bernard and Bristol City loanee James Morton.

Bristol City were certainly a step up in class to anything Forest Green had rubbed shoulders with during pre-season.

And Rovers bamboozled City in their bamboo sourced kit – racing into a third-minute lead as City were caught cold on a tropical evening.  Collins’ flighter dropped to Joe Mills and his exquisite ball was poked home by McCoulsky, who drilled beyond the exposed Dan Bentley.

Collins was at the hub moments later – allowing the quicksilver George Williams to skip beyond Bentley on the angle but Adam Webster stuck out a leg to clear the ball off the line.

It was end-to-end with a tempo that belied a pre-season jolly – Lewis Thomas gloved a Liam Walsh stinger away as City tried to find their feet.

McCoulsky was at it on the cusp of the break – picking the ball up on the left he cut in and unleashed an angled howitzer, which beat Bentley all ends up from the edge of the box to make it 2-0 to Rovers on 43 minutes. However, sixty seconds later City pulled a goal back. Thomas was culpable in goal as he allowed Josh Brownhill’s powder-puff strike to squirm through his hands.

Former Bristol Rovers keeper Adam Smith replaced Thomas at the break.

Collins made it 3-1 to Rovers in the 55th-minute – a free-flowing move finished when Joe Mills watched his strike ping-pong in the box to drop for Collins to fizz in.

Rovers made a raft of changes and the tweaks clearly saw Cooper’s side lose their stranglehold on the game.

City pulled a goal back on 77 minutes – Weinman sending Smith the wrong way from the spot after sub Saikou Janneh took a tumble.

Weinman was a whisker away from finding parity, but he skewed wide from Szmodics as City turned up the heat.

And at the death and it was Szmodics who netted parity with three minutes to go – scampering through to beat Smith with aplomb. City’s unlikely comeback was capped when Adam Webster whipped a fizzer beyond Smith from the edge of the box.

With 10  days to go until football gets real at home to Oldham Athletic  in League Two, Cooper appears to have recruited well with his side appearing in rude health, but the Rovers' chief will be spitting feathers after seeing his side relinquish a 3-1 home banker to eventually  come out on the end of a 4-3 loss.

Forest Green: Thomas (Smith); M Mills (Kitching 78), Rawson, McGinley; Bernard, Morton (Adams 45), Dawson (Winchester 59), J Mills; Williams (Allen 78), Collins (Grubb 59); McCoulsky (Mondal 64)

Bristol City: Bentley, Hunt, Webster, Brownhill, O’Dowda, Walsh, Weinamnn ,Szmodics, Eliasson, Kalas, Rowe (Janneh 63)

Ref: Sam Allison

Attendance: 2,825

City fans: 1,461

Star Man: Shawn McCoulsky