Forest Green made a winning return to action, opening up a seven-point lead at the top of League Two in the process, after a 2-0 victory over Stevenage on Saturday.

Rovers, who had not played since the 5-5 thriller at Oldham on December 11, claimed the spoils through second-half strikes from Josh March and Jamille Matt.

Earlier, Stevenage almost caught the leaders cold when Rovers goalkeeper Luke McGee showed bravery to dive at the feet of Chris Lines.

And the struggling visitors should have broken the first-half stalemate when the unmarked Terence Vancooten contrived to head straight at McGee when scoring would have been easier.

Rovers looked to respond but Jordan Moore-Taylor headed wide and Nicky Cadden also failed to hit the target with another effort.

The home side had been feeding on scraps but they broke the stalemate after the break when March nodded in from a move he started, glancing home from a Kane Wilson cross after 57 minutes.

Wilson also contributed to Forest Green’s second goal when Matt touched home inside the box seven minutes later.

Adam Smith’s neat save with his feet denied Rovers’ Jack Aitchison a third as Rob Edwards’ side saw the game out.

Forest Green boss Rob Edwards is hoping to keep hold of his prized assets during the January transfer window after seeing his League Two pacesetters go further clear at the top of the table.

Rovers’ success this season will undoubtedly have attracted the attention of clubs from higher divisions, but Edwards – whilst remaining realistic – is keeping his fingers crossed he can keep his in-form squad largely intact this month.

He said: “We want to keep everyone together.

“We have a great group of players and people and we want to keep them together because we want to achieve something.

“We’re also realistic, but we are proactive, so we’re ready to react if needed. We want to keep the group together.”

Rovers, who are now 10 league games unbeaten, look increasingly likely to be playing in League One next season but they had to work hard to find the breakthrough against a Stevenage side battling to stay in the Football League.

Edwards said: “Stevenage caused one or two problems, but we did well to keep the ball out of the net in the first half.

“We had a good solid base at the break, but in the second half we were much cohesive and deserved the result and a clean sheet – so that’s a good day, we were rusty after three weeks off and Stevenage are organised and difficult to breakdown.”

Edwards also lauded March’s impact as he took his opportunity in the absence of Covid-hit top scorer Matty Stevens.

“I’m pleased for Josh March, he had Covid early on and he’s found it difficult with our front two in such good form,” the Rovers boss said.

“It was stop-start for him through no fault of his own through injuries and illness and he’s always the hardest working player.

“It was a fantastic goal as he came short for the ball and bounce it one-two with Kane Wilson and then Kane’s first-time cross was brilliant and Marchey (March) set it and span and got in the box and it was a brilliant header.”

Rovers host Exeter City this evening. They will be without Ebou Adams as the Gambia midfielder has headed off to the Africa Cup of Nations.