We go into our second home game of the season on a high this weekend, writes Tom Morton.
After going some way to putting the demons of last season to bed by thoroughly outclassing Doncaster on Tuesday, and the marquee signing of Jordon Garrick from Swansea yesterday, all feels well in the City camp.
Forest Green Rovers, who we face on Saturday, also seem in a good mood after a decent start to their league one tenure. They’ve racked up an opening day win against another newly promoted side Bristol Rovers, followed by a loss to Ipswich (who you’ve tipped to take second this year). This week they eased past Leyton Orient to set up a visit from Brighton in the next round of the league cup.
Our opponents will be without last season’s top scorer, Matty Stevens (23 Goals), who is sidelined with a long-term injury. This leaves club captain Jamille Matt (19 goals in 21/22) having to build a relationship with a new partner. So far this seasons that has been Reece Brown who has plenty of recent League One experience having played 38 times on loan to Peterborough in the 20/21 season. He failed to make an impact in the championship the following season either at Peterborough or his home club Huddersfield, joining Forest Green on a Free over the summer.
Whilst Forest Green have had a number of outgoing players, it seems like they’ve retained the core of their squad with the exception of Kane Wilson. The right back, who won League Two player of the season last year, is now at Bristol City playing championship football. One familiar face we won’t see again is Elliot Whitehouse. The former Imp was part of our 16/17 return to the football league and scored the decisive goal in our 2018 EFL Trophy final. He joined Forest Green at the start of the 20/21 season from Grimsby and has been a regular for The Greens since then. He was released over the summer and promptly joined another of our local rivals, Scunthorpe United.
The Greens like a fast pace of play and are skilful with the ball. There are areas for us to target. It’s telling that their own preview identifies Scully as our key threat to them. Watching highlights of the Ipswich game I can see that their defence sits very deep leaving a lot of space on the edge of the box – prime territory for Scully to cut in or possibly a debut performance from Garrick.
In the middle, they feel “unfinished” with three newbies (including both wingers) still settling in. This might be a good opportunity for our own strengthening midfield to stamp their mark. We need to show we can take control of the centre (probably the only thing I can see hanging over us from last season). So far Sorenson and Adelekun have been a refreshing improvement on last year, and this might be the game for them to really cement those roles.
Going forward, Forest Green are a team that likes loading the box and getting the ball into the mix. Watch out for weavy runs in towards the area with a close-range (and slightly hopeful) smash and the strikers running in for the second ball. Don’t expect pinpoint crosses or a heavy reliance on set pieces.
Head to Head
Our last clash with Forest Green was a 2020 FA Cup game where we ran out 6-2 winners. a match rightly described as a “masterclass in attacking“. It’s worth reminiscing over that game; with names like Grant, Johnson, Jones and Scully on the score sheet.
Prior to that, of course, The Greens were regular and often bitter rivals during our tenure in the National League. They rose with us into the EFL but were left behind following our promotion into the third tier in 18/19. I wouldn’t say our history with Forest Green is long (it started in 2011) but it feels length. As another rising club they became one of our main opponents through the 2010’s and their somewhat holier-than-thou attitude was grating. In the early days they had the best of the results, racking up a number of wins. However, we’ve not lost to them since January 2016 and our EFL results are 4 wins out of 4.
In theory, then, things look good. But a lot has happened since we last faced Forest Green in 2019 and nothing is certain. They will want to string together a set of results and will certainly feel we are amongst the teams to get a result against this season. However, I am hearing more and more positivity about our progress. We certainly kicked into gear on Tuesday and perhaps that rolls into the weekends game as well.