STEVE Cotterill felt his Forest Green players showed “unbelievable character” after they salvaged a 3-3 draw at Colchester.

Rovers saw a 2-0 lead evaporate and secured a point courtesy of Dominic Thompson’s 74th-minute long-range equaliser which squirmed past goalkeeper Owen Goodman.

Forest Green boss Cotterill, whose side are bottom of League Two, said: “It will feel like a defeat because we were 2-0 up but you have to carry on playing, which they did.

“They showed unbelievable character. A team that are not fighting for their lives gets beat four or five today and they did not show that so full credit to them.

“It was madness, just those five minutes in the second half and it just goes to prove how costly that can be. It’s understandable what happens to them and we took a backward step.

“I just said to them, what gets you in front keeps you in front and we took a little bit of a backward step and they came out with a bit of tempo.

“We needed to see that little period through and once the first goal goes in, it gives them a little bit of belief and the second goal gives them even more belief.”

Forest Green took a 10th-minute lead through Matty Stevens’ penalty, after Tom Hopper fouled Jordan Moore-Taylor in the area, and doubled their advantage in the 27th minute when Christian Doidge converted from close range after Colchester had failed to clear their lines.

Colchester halved the deficit in the 65th minute when Alistair Smith finished from a tight angle from John Akinde’s pass and Jayden Fevrier made it 2-2 two minutes later with a first-time effort, from Harry Anderson’s assist.

Anderson then drilled home a low shot from the edge of the area in the 70th minute from Hopper’s pass, before Thompson levelled.

Colchester boss Danny Cowley said: “In the second half, I saw fighters – it’s a given when you’re 2-0 down at home to go and run around and go and tackle and put your body on the line, so I’m not commending them for that.

“But I am congratulating them for the bravery that they showed and the willingness to go and get on the ball and try to play forward.

“In the second half, we got in a brilliant position in the game, scored three quick goals and were 3-2 up.

“You know the boxer that has their opponent on the ropes and have hit three really decisive punches and then we let them off – we said ‘back to the middle of the ring and have some time to recover’.

“Our mentality has to be fourth goal as we’re 3-2 up and we had all the momentum and were by far the better team.”