PREVIEW: Forest Green Rovers v Wrexham AFC

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c)

We travel to title-chasing Forest Green tomorrow hopeful that we can maintain our new-found habit of beating the strongest sides in the league!

The victory over Cheltenham Town last Monday ended a remarkable wait for success against one of our fellow promotion hopefuls. We’re currently eighth in the table, and remarkably that was the first time we’ve beaten any of the seven teams above us in a league match!

Before Wes York’s injury time winner our rather miserable record against the top seven stood at four draws and five losses from nine games. To put it another way, that’s four points from a possible twenty seven!

The closest we came to winning one of those games was when Forest Green visited The Racecourse last February though. It took a ninety fourth minute equaliser to deny us victory after two Blaine Hudson goals had seen us come from behind to dominate Rovers, who also had a man sent off.

We can take further encouragement from our recent record against Forest Green as we’re unbeaten in seven matches against them, winning three and drawing four. We haven’t lost at The New Lawn since January 2012, and even then we ought to have evaded defeat. A 1-0 loss could have been turned around, but Dean Keates saw an injury time penalty saved by former Racecourse keeper Sam Russell, who had conceded the spot kick in the first place by fouling Andy Morrell.

Our last win at Forest Green came last season, courtesy of a rather special strike by Louis Moult, who hit the net with a brilliant long range free kick to score the only goal of the game.

We’ve won in Gloucestershire on three other occasions, and only lost there twice. Our first win came when Forest Green were known by their previous name of Stroud. A Welsh Cup fifth round tie in February 1991 ended 2-1 to a youthful Wrexham side as Chris Armstrong and Gareth Owen hit the net.

Our next game against them was also Dean Saunders’ first match as our manager of Wrexham, and it ended in an epic 3-2. Marc Williams, recalled by the new boss after failing to impress Brian Little, scored twice and looked to have got a last minute winner and completed his hat trick, but Jeff Louis cheekily nipped in to tap the ball home as it was rolling over the line to steal the glory!

The following season Saunders pulled off another crafty tactical stroke, selecting Wes Baynes for his first start of the season and playing him as a striker for the first time. His reward was two goals from Baynes as we strolled to a 2-0 victory.

Our only other loss there was a rather ugly affair as we crashed to a deserved 3-0 defeat in August 2010. Four days later we travelled to Eastbourne Borough and conceded a further four, but we tightened our defence up considerably after that, and ended up reaching the Conference play-offs for the first time with the tenth best defensive record in our history!

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