After sustaining their Football League status last season, Forest Green Rovers have not hidden their desire to challenge at the top end of the table this time around. After a strong start to the campaign, the Green Devils now occupy the final playoff spot in League Two.
Mark Cooper’s side are now the only remaining unbeaten team in the division. Rovers have won three and drawn seven of their opening ten matches, accumulating 16 points along the way.
Forest Green started the season brightly but were dealt an early blow after it was announced that star striker and last seasons top scorer Christian Doidge would be departing the New Lawn for Bolton Wanderers. The Welshman netted 40 goals in 73 league appearances for the club, form which hadn’t gone unnoticed by the Trotters.
The goal scoring burden now lies at the door of Reuben Reid, who joined the club last January from Exeter City on an undisclosed fee. The striker has scored three goals already this term but will be aiming to hit double figures come the end of the season.
Alongside Reid, Ben Morris has been signed on loan from Ipswich Town in the hope of filling the hole left by Doidge, however the youngster has yet to find the net for his new side.
The signing of Dayle Grubb from Weston Super Mare turned out to be an inspired acquisition last season and the winger has carried on his good form this campaign. Grubb has firmly established himself as one of the first names on Mark Cooper’s team sheet since his arrival. The 27 year old has found the back of the net twice this season and, like Reid, will be expected to hit double figures if they stand a chance of finishing in the top seven.
The solid defensive displays of the Rovers defence has been a major factor as to why the club sit in the playoff positions. The signing of Paul Digby from Mansfield Town is a major coup for the side having played the majority of his career at a higher level. The 6ft 4in center back is an imposing figure at the heart of the defence and works nicely alongside Gavin Gunning and Nathan McGinley in the back three. They’ve only conceded 8 goals this season, making them the second best defensive side in League Two.
Rovers host high flying Newport County at the New Lawn on Saturday – a fixture that will really show where the club are at this moment in time. The Welsh team travel to Nailsworth in fine form and sitting second in the table. County have only lost twice this season and sit comfortably inside the automatic promotion spots. A victory over the Exiles would be a strong statement of intent and showcase their quality which could propel them up the table.
Midfield was also an area that Cooper improved vastly during the summer transfer window and has payed dividends since the season opener. Lloyd James was drafted in from losing playoff finalists Exeter City and Karl Winchester was snapped up from arch rivals Cheltenham Town. These two additions have really solidified the center of Forest Green’s midfield and added some much needed Football League experience to the youthful squad.
FGR have all the tools to mount a serious promotion challenge this year, but in my opinion their downfall could be a lack of goals in the ranks. Reid is a proven goalscorer in the fourth tier but I doubt he is the man to fill the void vacated by Doidge.