Forest Green 2-1 FC Halifax Town

The New Lawn, Forest Green Rovers.

The New Lawn, Forest Green Rovers.

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FC Halifax Town suffered a dramatic late defeat at Forest Green Rovers as two goals in stoppage time denied them their first away win of the season.

Dan Gardner’s first-half penalty looked to have set Town up for what would have been a hard-fought victory.

But Rovers bagged two goals in injury time either side of Lois Maynard’s red card to complete a heart-breaking turnaround.

Substitute Magno Vieira turned in a corner before Anthony Barry’s superb low drive flew past Matt Glennon to snatch the three points out of Town’s grasp.

Neil Aspin kept the same starting 11 that began against Barnet a week ago, with new signing Jordan Ball named on the bench 24 hours after joining the club.

Even the most ardent Town fans may not have predicted their side would be higher in the table than their hosts come kick-off, and it looked for so long that would still be the case at full-time after the visitors produced a dogged defensive display at the New Lawn before a cruel comeback by the hosts.

James Norwood and Matty Pearson were team-mates in Latvia for the England C side on Tuesday, and presumably Pearson’s report on the Rovers winger was a glowing one.

The former Exeter man was a thorn in Town’s side from the off, with his low shot flying just wide after a superb flowing move involving neat inter-play between Danny Wright and Matt Taylor.

Wright got sight of goal himself in the opening-half but failed to get the ball out of his feet after Jared Hodgkiss’ cross before heading off target from Jamie Turley’s superb ball from the right flank.

Rovers enjoyed far more possession in the opening half but a combination of hard-work and organisation from the Shaymen gradually quietened the hosts down.

But the visitors’ goal still came against the run of play when Gardner found a pocket of space on the edge of the area before his shot broke free in the area and Adam Smith was brought down by Eddie Oshodi chasing the loose ball.

Gardner sent keeper Sam Russell the wrong way from the spot to hand the away side an unexpected but very welcome lead.

Gardner had another effort shortly afterwards following good work by Scott McManus but prodded wide on the edge of the box.

Rovers seemed to retreat into their collective shell after the goal though and never really offered the same threat as half-time approached, with one of a number of sloppy passes allowing Smith a shot at goal which crashed into the side netting.

Norwood’s shot then proved too hot to handle for Glennon before the ball was scrambled away but Town could reflect on a job very well done at the interval as they sat in the heady heights of third while enjoying their half-time oranges.

That same hard-work and organisation served to frustrate the home side and their supporters into the second-half as Town proved an impenetrable force against the rather hesitant Rovers approach play.

But it was hesitancy in the Town defence that almost eradicated all their efforts when Simon Ainge played an awful back-pass to Glennon, who failed to control it and let in Taylor, only for Glennon to recover with a superb save with half the goal gaping.

Neil Aspin was understandably left shaking his head at the folly of his defence, which was completely out of character following a faultless hour’s work until then.

Such was Forest Green’s lack of incisiveness that Norwood was taken off as the second-half wore on, with hosts able to call on more ammunition than most in the Skrill Premier from the bench.

There seemed no way past the resolute Town defence as they withstood a second-half played almost exclusively in their half, but there was treble sting in the tail for the Shaymen as first a corner found its way to substitute Magno Vieira as the ball was bundled home.

There was still time for Lois Maynard to contentiously see red for a second bookable offence near the halfway line as the game swung 180 degrees, with Town suddenly clinging on to a point with 10 men.

Then the gut-wrenching stoppage-time period threw up its final twist as captain Anthony Barry ironically found space in the spot Maynard would have taken up on the edge of the Town box to fire low past Glennon.

Forest Green: Russell, Hodgkiss, Turley, Bennett, Oshodi, Norwood (Mangan 68), Barry, Bangura, Klukowski (Vieira 68), Taylor (Barnes-Homer 62), Wright. Subs not used: Bulman, Racine.

Scorers: Vieira (90), Barry (90+5)

Shots on target: 6

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 5

Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, Ainge, Roberts, Lowe, Smith, Pearson (Williams 77), Maynard, McManus, Gardner (McReady 70), Carver (Ball 61). Subs not used: Senior, Marshall.

Scorer: Gardner (34)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 6

Town man of the match: Marc Roberts