FOREST GREEN head coach Mark Cooper bemoaned his side’s prolificacy in front of goal in a game he insisted they should have won. 

Josh Gordon’s 50th minute penalty and a sumptuous strike from Walsall substitute Wes McDonald on 72 minutes put the Saddlers in cruise control until Forest Green made the game interesting when Josh March touched in an Aaron Colins’ flick with four minutes to go.

Falling to their fourth straight home defeat, Cooper said: “Two mistakes, and at least five glorious gilt-edged opportunities. We missed big moments in the game.

“I thought, only one team in it, and we were comfortable in the game and didn’t get carved open once.”

Cooper felt unsure if Kevin Dawson’s challenge on Liam Kinsella was a stonewall penalty.

“We gave a horrendous penalty away, not sure if it’s a penalty or not as it looked tight.”

“We hit the post from three yards in the first half and at least four open goals in the second half. Chris Stokes missed an open goal and we had 15 shots today.

“Walsall left their best player out (Wes McDonald) and camped in and tried to catch us on the break and you have to make sure you don’t give them the impetus and then we give them the penalty and they’re 1-0 up and then 2-0 down, but we still had chances to get back in the game and win it.”

Cooper praised a section of the fans in the South Stand, who backed his side from the get-go.

“They were fantastic. That showed in the performance, the boys were on the front-foot.

“If you watch us play, you can see exactly what we’re trying to do. There’s a real pattern of what we’re trying to do.

“We get an opportunity to go again on Tuesday. We need to make sure we’re professional. We didn’t get carved open once, we looked solid.

“If I’d have watched that; I would’ve thought, ‘How have Forest Green lost that?’”

Meanwhile, Walsall boss Darrell Clarke felt his side took five years off his life despite halting their three-game losing streak.

“That’s another five years off my life, said the former Bristol Rovers boss.

“We needed a response after a disappointing week last week. “I thought the attitude and endeavour about the boys was very good. “Tactically, at times, the boys got it absolutely spot on. “It’s a good response so we’re really pleased to come away with the three points.”

And Clarke paid tribute to his Forest Green counterpart Mark Cooper, he said: “Coops is a very talented manager and he’ll change around and answer different questions of you.

“I said to the boys it could be a tactical battle out there at times, where we have to change things and mix things up.

“We’re not at the stage where we just have to worry about us, I’m certainly not that arrogant to think that’s the case. “We’ll keep working on players with different systems to be able to see a game through, and I thought we did it well.”

Rovers fashioned the first opportunity of note – Oxford United loanee Rob Hall forcing a 14th-minutes save from Walsall keeper Liam Roberts.

With seven minutes of the first-half to go, dogged Walsall defending maintained the deadlock. Odin Bailey’s corner was completely misjudged by Roberts with March appearing to get a glancing header onto the bar and in the ensuing melee Cameron Pring hacked the ball off the line.

Rovers pressed the self-destruct button on 50 minutes. Dawson’s aerial challenge floored Liam Kinsella in the box and Gordon rattled the penalty home a minute later despite Conrad Logan getting a glove to the ball.

Pring cleared off the line for the second time – denying Rovers’ Chris Stokes.

A moment of individual brilliance from McDonald saw the Saddlers go 2-0 up. Running at the Rovers’ defence, the fleet-footed McDonald burst into the box to lift the ball deftly over the advancing Conrad Logan.

March’s late goal put the game on edge for Walsall, who remained resolute in five minutes of added time despite chances for Jack Aitchison and George Williams.