Forest Green Rovers take on Leyton Orient on Tuesday night looking to put an end to their six-game winless run, and manager Rob Edwards believes in his players to turn things around.
The Greens’ latest defeat came at home to Bradford City on Saturday, but the Nailsworth club still sit eight points clear at the top of League Two, looking to earn promotion to the third tier for the first time.
Forest Green welcome the O’s to The New Lawn, who are on an even longer winless run, failing to pick up three points in any of their last 14 league games.
The East London side changed managers recently in a bid to stave off relegation, which would’ve been unthinkable when they were flirting with the play-offs before Christmas.
Kenny Jackett was replaced by Richie Wellens, who won promotion with Swindon Town from this level two seasons ago.
Wellens has only had one game in charge of Orient, a respectable 0-0 draw at Hartlepool United, and after watching that game, Edwards said: “It’s difficult to say after one game what they’re going to do.
“We have to make the lads aware of what they’ve done, but they need to be prepared for anything. It’s about what we do.”
Despite the current run of form, Edwards still knows that his side are more than capable of turning things around and going on to win the league.
He said: “I’ve said all along that it’s a long season. There will be downs as well as ups. We’ve had a lot of ups for 30 games, but now we’re just having a tough period in terms of results – I don’t think in terms of performances. I need everybody to know that we have complete faith and belief in this group as individuals and as a collective.
“They’re the most together group I’ve ever known and been a part of. They have that look in their eyes – you know they mean business and want to turn things around. We know it will happen. This won’t carry on forever. As long as we keep working hard and the structure is right, then we’ll be fine. We’re in good spirits.”
He added: “If you take that game on Saturday in isolation – the performance was good. If we’d gone into half-time 2-0 up, people would have said that we deserve that. The stats back that up, but the game isn’t stats. The game isn’t ifs, buts and maybes.
“We have to put that ball over the line more than the opposition. The good thing is that we can give the lads some confidence by saying that we’re doing things well, but we just need to get back to being ruthless at both ends.”
Beneath Forest Green, there is an incredible battle for the other places in the top seven, with just four points covering 2nd to 9th.
Edwards recognised the competitiveness of the decision, with no club really closing in on Rovers despite their poor run.
He said: “One or two teams are on good runs, and it’s always going to be like that at this stage of the season. There are a lot of teams fighting, so there will be inconsistency throughout the league.”
Udoka Godwin-Malife was sent off against the Bantams, joining Dom Bernard in the stands, but Edwards sees the absences as an chance for other players.
He said: “You don’t want to be missing key players, but it does give other people an opportunity. I’ve always spoken about the strength and quality of the group, so it just gives somebody else an opportunity.”
Rovers sit on 68 points in League Two, and despite the recent form, their points-per-game record would take them to 89 points, which would be more than any League Two champion since Accrington Stanley in 2018.
Edwards is still keen to get over the 70-point mark as soon as possible, saying: “It feels like we’ve been in the sixties for too long. We have an opportunity to get out of them on Tuesday, and we’ve had a few opportunities to do it. Football is very much psychological and there is a lot that goes on in the brain.
“People think – and they often think too much. Sometimes if we could take a step back and simplify things, and tell the lads how good they are, what they do well and to enjoy playing football for a living – then things would change.”
ParkLife Sport will have two reporters in Nailsworth this evening, so keep an eye on our channels for the latest updates from the game.