Leasing.com Trophy

Forest Green Rovers 3

Southampton U21s 2

FORMER boxer Matty Stevens gave Forest Green’s attack some punch as his double floored Southampton U21s.

Rovers were forced to come from behind as Stevens struck in each half to put the Saints on the ropes in this Leasing.com Trophy group game.

Looking to move on from the frustration of their 2-0 League Two defeat against Newport County, Rovers’ boss Mark Cooper shuffled his pack - deploying Junior Mondal and Carl Winchester in wing-back roles and handing academy starlets Dan and Isaiah Jones starts on the bench. Bournemouth loanee Kyle Taylor kept his place in the team and Matty Stevens and Shawn McCoulsky were partnered up top.

Quickly out of the straps – Liam Kitching glanced over from a Carl Winchester corner as Rovers looked to impose themselves from the get-go.

However, a mistake from Kitching gifted the Saints a 16th-minute lead as Harlem Hale finished with aplomb beyond the exposed Lewis Thomas.

Rovers replied - Stevens watched his header cleared off the line by Jake Vokins. However, Stevens found his range on the half-hour. The former boxer rose to plant a punching header beyond Jack Bycroft from an exquisite James Morton cross.

Rovers were looking penetrative – Mondal stepped on the gas to float over a cross that saw McCoulsky’s header blocked.

Buoyed by a pleasing first 45 minutes – Stevens was oozing confidence as his overhead kick got the crowd off their feet.

Half-time sub Dayle Grubb was quickly into his stride – his cushioned pass induced a corner after Mondal’s industry.

Grubb’s rehearsed corner saw Morton a whisker from finding the top corner from the edge of the box as a fluid Rovers continued to look good on the eye.

Dawson’s industry brought a low save from Bycroft as Rovers cranked it up.

Academy starlets Isaiah and Dan Jones were introduced on 67 minutes for their first senior starts. Three minutes later and Grubb created space to roll the ball into the bottom corner.

Rovers were opened up with 13 minutes to go. Vokins burst into the box and his fizzer was turned onto the bar by Thomas and Vokins was blocked as he followed up.

Southampton found their range on 80 minutes. Dan N’Lundulu turned Kitching inside out to spank a fizzing strike into the bottom corner to level things up. Thomas had to be on his mettle to keep the game deadlocked – going down well to block a Ramello Mitchell stab.

Stevens crowned his productive night as he turned in Mondal’s blocked cross with a minute of normal time to go.

Forest Green: Thomas, Winchester ( D Jones 67), McGinley, Kitching, Godwin-Malife, Mondal, Morton, Dawson ( I Jones 67), Taylor (Grubb 45), Stevens, McCoulsky

Subs not used: Smith, J Mills, Allen

Star Man: Matt Stevens

Southampton U21s: Bycroft, Smallbone, Vokins, Ramsay, N’Lundulu, O’Driscoll, Hale, Klarer, Turner, Kpohomouh, Defise

Subs: Freeman, Agbontohoma, Wright, Chauke, Mitchell, Rus

Attendance: 653

Away fans: 73

Referee: Brett Huxtable

Next up: Forest Green travel to Colin Calderwood’s Cambridge United on Saturday, 3pm.