Is time running out for Rovers and their quest for promotion?
Cambridge United 0
Forest Green Rovers 0
WITH games running out and confidence haemorrhaging this felt like the final nail in Forest Green's hopes of promotion – and possibly even the play-offs.
Premature perhaps, but too many of Rovers' key performers are either injured or struggling for the form that coaxed begrudging respect from their Blue Square Bet Premier rivals at the turn of the year.
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The endeavour was again unquestionable in a scoreless draw that was far from dour, yet the clinical nastiness in front of goal has evaporated and Dave Hockaday's men sit four points adrift of fifth-placed Grimsby Town – having played three more matches.
Cambridge's Craig Ross was the first goalkeeper to be seriously tested, reacting well to clutch Paul Green's diving header from a Yan Klukowski free-kick.
Switched from midfield to a wide attacking role, Klukowski chanced his arm himself in the 16th minute but saw his defected effort find the side-netting.
There was little threat at the other end until Kevin Roberts threaded an excellent pass through to Harrison Dunk and Chris Stokes had to produce a last-ditch block.
United defender Rory McAuley saw a far-post header go wide from an inswinging free-kick, and moments later Sam Russell helped Jamie Reed's nodded attempt onto the crossbar.
The best chance of the first half came in the 38th minute, Rovers captain Jared Hodgkiss fizzing over a low cross for the onrushing Klukowski to bring a fine reaction save from Ross.
An attempted cross by Roberts almost caught out Ross' opposite number Russell, who had to backpedal before palming the ball around the far post.
Hockakay was forced to make a change at half-time, Kieron Forbes' fatigue after an ongoing ankle problem forcing his withdrawal and the introduction of Matty Taylor.
Aarran Racine was back at the heart of the Rovers defence at the expense of Ed Asafu-Adjaye, and the former Southampton man continued his fine performance with a brave block to deny Tom Shaw.
Cambridge left-back Curtis Haynes-Brown let fly from much more ambitious range, but although his 30-yard drive was on target it was comfortably fielded by Russell.
Another good chance came Forest Green's way on 64 minutes, as Ross dropped the ball after trying to claim it through a crowd and Stokes' shot struck home skipper Roberts on the line.
Lee Fowler's free-kick three minutes later travelled to an unmarked Jamie Turley at the far post, but the big defender was at full stretch and failed to find the target.
Hockaday made another attacking change with 20 minutes left, replacing Fowler with Ben Wright, and James Norwood saw a goal chalked off following some pushing from a corner.
There was still life in Cambridge, though, and Charlie Wassmer's free header had to be tipped over by Russell before McAuley blazed over from a glorious position.
Substitute Taylor was unceremoniously replaced by Yemi Odubade with two minutes left – much to his obvious displeasure – but there was to be no breakthrough.
Cambridge United: C Ross; K Roberts, C Wassmer, R McAuley, C Haynes-Brown; H Dunk, T Shaw, R Jarvis, J Reed (L Hughes 56); M Gash, T Elliott. Subs not used: J Coulson, L Berry, B Hudson, J Brighton.
Forest Green: S Russell; J Hodgkiss, J Turley, A Racine, C Stokes; K Forbes (M Taylor 46, Y Odubade 88), P Green, L Fowler (B Wright 71); Y Klukowski, M Vieira, J Norwood. Subs not used: E Asafu-Adjaye, E Oshodi.
Referee: J Amey (Dorset)
Star man: Aarran Racine: Justified his recall with an authoritative, no-nonsense showing in central defence.