Forest Green stun title chasers
CAMBRIDGE UNITED 0 FOREST GREEN ROVERS 1
IN KEEPING with the Grand National theme, Forest Green stunned the Blue Square Premier's form horses to gallop seven points clear of relegation danger.
Andy Mangan's 20th league goal of the season inflicted a first defeat in 13 outings on title-chasing Cambridge, and this was no smash and grab or fluke raid.
Brave and often buccaneering, Rovers deserved the smatterings of good fortune that came their way in racking up a fourth straight victory in all competitions.
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With Alex Lawless absent through illness, Jim Harvey somewhat surprisingly plumped for Jonathan Smith at right-back with skipper Darren Jones in the holding midfield role.
The latter was heavily involved right from the start, firing wide from the edge of the penalty area after laying on a similar opportunity for David Brown.
Chris Holroyd was Cambridge's liveliest operator, exemplified in the ninth minute when he skipped past Lee Ayres and teed up Scott Rendell to fluff horribly from 12 yards.
One-time Forest Green loanee Rendell is a potential rival to Mangan in the scoring chart, but the visiting number nine took his total season's tally to 24 when he latched on to Brown's through-ball and finished deftly into the far corner.
Confidence was now flowing through the veins of the men in green, and more clever play from Brown produced an opening for Conal Platt to send a dipping effort narrowly over.
Increasingly frustrated Cambridge could have levelled through another ex-Rover when Anthony Tonkin was not tracked from a free-kick, and Terry Burton was forced into a smart stop at the near post.
United's Jai Reason was then unfortunate to see a deflected strike skim the bar with Burton back-pedalling.
Yet another familiar face came within inches of restoring parity early in the second half, Wayne Hatswell getting on the end of Holroyd's deep cross and heading against the bar. Reason blazed wildly over from the rebound.
At the other end, Mangan twice saw near-post drives saved by Danny Potter as the visitors began to threaten more frequently on the counter-attack.
Paul Stonehouse's shank from 15 yards was followed by a more glaring miss by Reason, who diverted Robbie Willmott's cross wide of the mark when well placed inside the box.
Aware that BSP leaders Burton Albion were losing heavily at Crawley, Gary Brabin's side grew evermore desperate. Substitute Daryl McMahon saw a swerving shot beaten away by the Rovers stopper, while the heroic Mark Preece headed off the line to deny Danny Crow.
Yet it was Forest Green who should have scored again in stoppage time, as Mangan found himself clean through but inexplicably tried to square for Lee Fowler and enabled Potter to smother.
There was still time for Holroyd to weave his way into the Rovers area and slash over the bar, ensuring the 50-odd travelling supporters headed back along the A14 in euphoric mood.
Cambridge United: D. Potter; S. Ainge, P. Bolland (J. Challinor 35), W. Hatswell, A. Tonkin; A. Parkinson (D. Crow 64), P. Carden, J. Reason (D. McMahon 81), R. Willmott; C. Holroyd, S. Rendell; Subs not used: C. Pitt, L. Phillips.
Forest Green: T. Burton; J. Smith, M. Preece, L. Ayres, P. Stonehouse; P. Lloyd (K. Mohamed 63), D. Jones, L. Fowler, C. Platt (C. McDonald 83); D. Brown (A. Rigoglioso 82); A. Mangan; Subs not used: B. Ashford, R. Robinson.
Referee: P. Tierney (Wigan)
Star man: Mark Preece – A colossal presence at the heart of the defence, the Bristolian is rapidly developing into Mr Dependable.