OPINION: Forest Green Rovers’ spine could well define their National League season

Any team fighting at the right end of a division will have a good spine of their XI and Forest Green are no exception.

Rovers have recruited an entire new core that have proven to be valuable additions, so far, which begs the question, do they finally have the quality needed for promotion into the Football League?

I thought I’d look into the four players that make up the spine…

Sam Russell

Shotstopper Sam Russell spent last season with Gateshead and after a failed promotion attempt with the Heed, manager Mark Cooper acquired the services of the 34-year-old for a second time – which was favoured amongst the New Lawn faithful after a good first spell in Nailsworth.

Veteran Russell has kept 12 clean sheet so far this season, including seven in a row earlier on in the season, which was ended in a 1-1 draw at home to Dagenham back in October – one away from the league record.

The Middlesbrough youth product has conceded 45 times in 36 games this campaign – a marvellous return, his experience is sure to go lengths come the end of April.

Ethan Pinnock

Arguably the most impressive player this season, Ethan Pinnock has adapted well since his move from Dulwich Hamlet and considering the two-tier step up the young, competent centre-half has been a sensational coup by Cooper.

With constant recognition for his near-perfect performances across the campaign – the versatile defender doesn’t put a foot wrong too often and his regular man-of-the-match displays alongside the occasional mention to the media from the gaffer only does half the justice for the starlet.

Cooper will do very well to keep hold of him this summer, because no doubt there is Football League interest for this rising star.

Liam Noble

The stand-out summer signing from Notts County – Liam Noble came to Gloucestershire with plenty of expectation that needed to be delivered with the obvious talent he possesses.

The Geordieman is usually the main source of goals whether scoring or assisting them, the 25-year-old has five league goals and over 15 assists (it’s hard to keep up) – including another one in the win against Sutton last night, which is a staggering feat at any level.

As with the expectation, the midfielder has been subject to criticism – a fair share coming from his manager – but, his Football League experience and quality is absolutely vital to Forest Green in the run in.

Christian Doidge

Welsh target man Christian Doidge signed from recently-relegated Dagenham and sensationally said he would score 20 goals this season (a very optimistic statement) and well, last night he got his 20th…

It took the striker six fixtures to get off the mark in a Rovers shirt – however, he is one of the form scorers in the league at the moment, having netted five times in the last six games.

His heading ability, along with his scoring credentials, is something to be admired and the 24-year-old just never stops running – he is a machine; a key part of the squad.

Of course, football is a team game but the four players will play a pivotal role.

Whatever the case, the final 10 National League games will be sure to offer many more twists, but Rovers should be in contention for the two promotion spots on offer with the immense talent and depth at their disposal.

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