New recruits shine for Forest Green
FOREST GREEN ROVERS 1 BRISTOL CITY 1
JIM HARVEY would dearly love to have a bigger squad for the forthcoming campaign, but the early signs suggest he need not be too worried.
Goals in each half from Darren Jones and Steve Brooker meant the pre-season spoils were shared at the New Lawn – no more than Forest Green deserved against a squad packed with household Championship names.
New Rovers signings Lee Fowler, Conal Platt, Kaid Mohamed and Andy Mangan all settled in nicely, while there were impressive substitute appearances from Hartpury College quartet Lee Molyneaux, Isaac Shaze, Mike Symons and Sam Mensah.
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The most pressing issue for Harvey would appear to be the vacancy at right-back, where unremarkable displays by trialists David Williams and Paul Hinshelwood did little to solve the manager's conundrum.
Rovers lined up at the start in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Mohamed and Platt on the flanks and Alex Lawless in the hole behind lone striker Mangan.
And the hosts produced some fluent early attacks, Platt leading a quick break in the ninth minute which resulted in a neat through-ball by Mangan and a Mohamed goal ruled out for offside.
Jennison Myrie-Williams was City's brightest light in attack, firing wide from 20 yards six minutes later, but Rovers coped well with the burly presence of Dele Adebola and were rarely troubled aside from occasional set-pieces.
Harvey would also have been pleased with the crispness of his side's passing and Platt's willingness to chance his arm from range, the former Liverpool man twice narrowly missing the target with first-time efforts.
It was ironic that the opening goal on 30 minutes owed more to power than finesse, former City man Jones smashing a 20-yard free-kick through a flimsy wall and beating unsighted keeper Chris Weale.
Gary Johnson's men almost grabbed an equaliser when left-back Brian Wilson embarked on a mazy run before dinking the ball narrowly wide of the far post.
First-half stoppage time saw Mangan feed Lawless for a curling shot that came back off the upright, with Weale beaten.
A raft of substitutions at the break included the introduction of Harvey's latest recruit, Curtis McDonald, who performed steadily at left-back but saw his limelight stolen by the Hartpury boys.
Pacy forwards Shaze and Mensah often had the visiting defence on the retreat, while Cirencester Town stalwart Molyneaux was unflustered at centre-half alongside his college colleague Ben Ashford.
Even a full-strength Rovers would have struggled to prevent City's classy leveller, which came in the 52nd minute when ex-Cheltenham Town loanee Brooker latched onto Lee Trundle's lay-off and speared a shot past Terry Burton into the bottom corner.
The Championship side had upped their game since the interval, and Burton produced a flying save to keep out a Michael McIndoe free-kick that was glanced goalwards by Kevin Betsy.
At the other end, Les Afful saw a wicked dipping shot from 30 yards tipped onto the crossbar by a backpedalling Weale.
The game became stretched in the closing stages, with McIndoe foiled by Burton's smothering save at the near post and Forest Green's step-over expert Shaze driving a foot wide after jinking his way to the edge of the area.
Forest Green: R. Robinson (T. Burton 46); D. Williams (P. Hinshelwood 46), D. Jones (L. Molyneaux 46), J. Hardiker (B. Ashford 41), P. Stonehouse (C. McDonald 46); K. Mohamed (L. Afful 46), J. Smith (A. Mangan 76), L. Fowler (J. Pitman 46), C. Platt (S. Mensah 58); A. Lawless (I. Shaze 46); A. Mangan (M. Symons 46).
Bristol City: C. Weale; B. Orr, L. Carey, J. Wilson, B. Wilson; I. Sproule, C. Skuse, L. Johnson, M. Barnes; D. Adebola, J. Myrie-Williams. Subs: T. Plummer, F. Artus, C. Ribeiro, J. McCombe, L. Fontaine, M. McIndoe, K. Betsy, S. Brooker, L. Trundle.
Referee: S. Lewis (Wiltshire)
Star man: Darren Jones