Saturday, 6 August 2011

Forest Green Rovers - The New Lawn

Forest Green Rovers FC
The New Lawn
Another Way

01453 834860

Ground Number: 130
Sunday 11th November 2007
Forest Green Rovers 2-2 Rotherham United
FA Cup 1st Round


The club was founded in 1889, named after the area of Nailsworth in which they were established. They have stuck with that name for most of their history - the most famous exception being from 1989 until 1992 when they changed their name to Stroud to try and increase the club's appeal. For the early part of their history, they played in local leagues such as the Mid Gloucestershire, the Dursley & District, Stroud & District and latterly the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League. In 1968 they were founder members of the Gloucestershire County League, faring well and having two third-place finishes during their time here. In 1975, Forest Green Rovers made the step up to the Hellenic Premier, finishing 4th in their first season. By 1982 they were champions, allowing them to make the step up to the Southern League. Starting in the second-tier Midland Division, they survived, but never really prospered. Things changed in 1995 when geographical changes meant they had to switch to the Southern Division. They followed up an 8th place finish (their best so far) with the title in 1997. Promoted to the Southern Premier, Forest Green were champions again the following season, earning promotion to the Conference for the 1998/99 season. A credible 12th place finish followed in their first season, but generally, they struggled in the top tier of non-league football, with several brushes with relegation. The arrival of Dale Vince as a major shareholder and eventually chairman helped change this as they finally had some money to spend. 2015 and 2016 saw playoff defeats to Bristol Rovers and Grimsby Town before they finally got it right in 2017, beating Tranmere Rovers 3-1 in the final. Promotion to the Football League has seen them struggle, and they currently sat bottom in the week prior to my latest visit.

The club have entered the FA Cup, every season since their debut in 1977. They've had a number of memorable runs, with their best run being to the 3rd Round. In 2009 Forest Green lost out 4-3 to Derby County in a thrilling game, whilst the following year, they lost 2-1 to Notts County. The club is the first to reach the finals of both the FA Trophy and FA Vase. They won the latter back in 1982 as they defeated Rainworth Miners Welfare at Wembley Stadium. They reached the final of the FA Trophy in 1999 and 2001, losing both finals 1-0 to Kingstonian and Canvey Island respectively. During the early 1990's, there was a trend for English clubs to enter the Welsh Cup. Forest Green Rovers were no exception and their sole game came in 1990 as they lost in the Quarter Final to Wrexham. Local cup honours include the Gloucestershire Senior Cup in 2016 and the Northern Junior Cup in 1921.


In an entertaining game at the New Lawn, Forest Green Rovers and Rotherham United shared 4 goals in a pulsating FA Cup game. Leaving from work at 12, I picked up Paul in Slough. Rather amusingly he had the cheek to claim that his team, the Prince Of Wales were cheated in their 4-2 cup tie defeat against Citroen UK. This despite the Citroen side starting with 10 men, but the game being evened up when one of the Prince of Wales players was sent off for handball on the line. Citroen had the nerve to bring on an 11th player with 5 minutes to go with the game already decided!!

The trip up the M4 was as bad as it could possibly be, with an accident causing us to sit at a complete standstill or 90 minutes. Why it took so long to clear is anyone's guess, 4 hours in total the junction was closed. Surely in the interests of the victims, it was imperative to seek medical attention ASAP, it's certainly no fun for the innocent bystanders to be stuck with nowhere to go. Although a pleasant change when we got out to the country roads, all clear and some lovely views of the Cotswolds. We eventually did get going and were "only' 15 minutes late in the end. Forest Green were very accommodating and friendly, letting us in through reception as all the gates were shut. Though it said complimentary on the ticket, we did pay, although from what I remember it was pretty reasonable. Their safety officer also remembered his opposite number at Wycombe Richard "Stan" Stanford as a miserable bugger, from when they went on a training course together, although I think he was half joking.

The game was brilliant. Stuart Fleetwood put in a great performance for the home side, scoring both their goals, both neat finishes. Rovers were unlucky not to have the tie won by halftime but a shot that looked well over the line was adjudged "no goal" by the match officials, who otherwise did an OK job. So the non-leaguers 2-0 up at the break, Rotherham offering nothing, and were booed off by their own fans at the break. Forest Green continued to dominate after halftime and should have added to their tally. Rotherham pulled one back, Stephen Brogan scoring from the spot around the hour mark, but they still looked well out of it. But during another Forest Green attack on 84 minutes, Rotherham moved quickly to break and grab the equaliser with the shot being drilled into the bottom left corner by Chris O'Grady.

It was harsh on Forest Green as Rotherham had threatened rarely. Even after the goal, the home side had the better chances. But it finished all square, a replay occurring the Tuesday after, which Forest Green won 3-0 with a great performance. We listened to the FA Cup draw on the way home, when ironically, Swindon, Wycombe's conquerors were drawn at home to the eventual winners of the game we had just seen. Given Forest Green's excellent performance, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that we didn't go through.


Unlike the previous entry, which I got off of my old blog, I don't recall a whole lot of detail about this game. I recall driving to the game with a few other Wycombe fans and going in the bar for a pint of local cider and a plate of Chile Con Carne and rice before the game. Wycombe had won their previous 2 games of preseason without conceding a goal - 1-0 at Maidenhead and 3-0 at Flackwell Heath. New manager Peter Taylor had just joined the club and he named just the one trialist - former Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday, Bournemouth, Bristol City, Grays Athletic and Woking left-back Adam Green. He was not signed and went on to have a career in non-league football, playing for Hayes & Yeading, Dartford and Basingstoke Town amongst others. As for the game, it was a shape of things to come under Taylor. In a dull game, Forest Green won 2-0 with Wycombe rarely threatening. Forest Green's goals came from Andy Mangan and Les Afful, the latter also missing a penalty.


As ever, I was looking to update this blog by revisiting grounds that I'd not been to for a while. Forest Green Rovers was one of those, with my last visit nearly 10 years ago. It was ideally placed for a coach trip, being on New Year's Day and the tickets were one of the cheapest in the league at £16. Still too much, but a step in the right direction. The away end was open, so I was glad when the weather forecast said 'no rain. The only pity was my parents not going meaning I'd have to pay for everything on the day, something I'd not had to do for Wycombe away days that often, thankfully. It can get pretty expensive with ticket, coach, dinner, drinks and extras and you can easily end up spending £70 plus in a day. Their excuse was that they wanted to stay at home on New Years Day, I've never been fussed about celebrating new years myself, but I'll be glad to say goodbye to 2017, which although not a disaster, has been one with unneeded expense with my car and displeasure at work.

The Saturday before had seen Wycombe lose 2-1 to Mansfield Town. We'd dominated the first half and led 1-0. The lead could have been greater, but the second half was a different story as we failed to adapt to the opposition's tactical changes and were well beaten in the second half. I also found out where we were stopping for today's game - The Royal Oak in Tetbury. Thought the cider situation was good - our stop stocked real cider, plus 3 others nearby. The food situation wasn't so great though - our pub was fairly expensive - around £13 for a burger. Well-off towns are not the best place for takeaways at the best of times, but on New Year's Day, the situation was worse - with only a local Co-Op the only place in the town confirmed as open. I decided to play it by ear and decide on the day, once I'd seen the confirmed menu. New Year's Eve was one of my dullest ever - and a fairly sober one. I had a few cans whilst updating a spreadsheet of a list of grounds I want to visit and watching episodes of Peter Kay while I transferred them off of my Sky Box. I saw the new year in, but was in bed before 1, hoping for a reasonable night’s sleep.

I got out of bed at 8.15 as my alarm sounded. After a cheeseburger and a Lemsip for breakfast, I got dressed and relaxed for a while. After getting my things together, I left at 9.20, catching the coach at 9.35 after a 10-minute wait. Due to a mix up by the pub we were going to, they didn’t know we were coming, so there was no pre-ordering of food. At least this meant I could explore other options without committing and as much as I’d have liked a hot meal, my budgeting for football meant it would most likely be the local Co-Op. It was a gloomy day, but I was in decent spirits with most of the regulars in situ. The coach fare was a reasonable £17 and I pulled out the scoreline of ‘FOREST GREEN ROVERS 0-4 WYCOMBE WANDERERS’ on the coach sweepstake. Nice if it happens, but rather fanciful. When I looked a few days ago, there’d been no sign of any rain but with us having to endure an open terrace this afternoon, of course, it showed up. It put the damper (quite literally) on things as we passed through some lovely countryside.

We got to the pub at 11.30, well ahead of schedule. With 2 and a half hours to kill and the pub not open yet, I headed to the Co-Op where I got some reduced price chicken wings for £1.08. From there, after a look around the town, I went back to the Royal Oak. There, I had a pint of Rosie's Pig which was decent. From there, I went for another explore. The Priory Inn drew a blank, the Ormond's Head was a little better with Ashton Press on Draught. All retries, but better than the 4th cider pub in the town, the Greyhound Inn which was closed. Stopping at the Co-Op again on the way to get a Scotch Egg, I made my way back to the base. This turned out to be the best of a reasonable but unspectacular bunch in the town, I had a pint of Orchard Pig Reveller to round the afternoon off. Short of something special coming up at the ground itself, this was my last pint of the afternoon. All in all, it had been a reasonable pre-match, and with everyone back on the coach at 2 pm, it was a prompt departure. It was around 25 minutes to the ground, so after the coach had parked up, I headed in search of the bar.

I suspected that such an ecologically friendly operation might have a decent drop and I wasn’t disappointed. A cracking pint of Cotswold Cider was sampled prior to kick off. It was from the Cotswold Brewing Company, who also supplied their beer. It was full of taste and made only around 25 miles from the ground. I got into the ground at 2.45 and would have got something to eat, only the queue was too long. Instead, I took a spot on the halfway line for the game, with around 10 minutes to go until kick off. The first half was brilliant for Wycombe, with us well on top and creating plenty of chances. We took the lead on 25 minutes, Freeman’s cross finding Bloomfield who let the ball drop before slotting into the net. Charlie Cooper was sent off for Forest Green on 38 minutes for stamping on Luke O’Nien and when Craig Mackail-Smith scored following a corner four minutes later, it seemed that Wycombe would continue their dominance. The FGR fans were getting on manager Mark Cooper’s back and you couldn’t really blame them. As with Saturday though, the second half was a different story. Gape and Bloomfield came off to be replaced by Bean and Tyson which just had the effect of making us toothless. Forest Green didn’t take immediate advantage, though a great goal from West Brom loanee Jack Fitzwater halved the deficit after Wycombe had been given several warning signs. There were a few more close calls, with Wycombe restricted to chances on the break. It was only the fact that our opponents were so poor that saved us from a repeat of Saturday’s disappointment.

After the game, we made our way back to the coach. Given the second half showing, the atmosphere was more like a defeat on the way home. It was exacerbated by the fact that getting away from the ground was tricky - despite the fairly small attendance of 2,700 (including over 700 from Wycombe, it wasn’t until 5.30 that we got away. The nice scenery was invisible thanks to the dark, but we did have to climb a massive hill to start our journey. The journey home went very quickly, with me first typing my blog and then catching up on my YouTube subscriptions. After getting dropped off, I got home just before 8. I had a can of cider whilst finalising my blog. It would be my last until the weekend, though I do hope to get to a game before then - Bermondsey Town v AFC Kumazi - a friendly, but one that is being played at the 16,000 capacity Crystal Palace National Sports Ground.


THE NEW LAWN is a smart modern stadium. Since Dale Vince joined the club, it has also added a number of environmentally friendly features. The ground is dominated by the large main stand, capacity 1,881 which offers great views and good legroom. Both ends are now covered terraces - one of a decent size and one smaller one. The smaller one was seated on my first two visits but has recently had its seats removed to increase capacity. That used to be the away end, but now visiting fans get the one remaining side, which is a small open terrace.

On my second visit, the bar was excellent, offering a local cider and doing a nice Chilli Con Carne. The latter is no longer available, as the club has gone all vegan. The bar is now home fans only, but there is a smaller marquee for away fans. Otherwise, there's not much around the ground, though there is a pub in the village of Nailsworth around 10 minutes walk away.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Smart ground, but away fans get no seats and no cover (6)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Right out of the way, free parking limited (4)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Stewards were amongst the better in the league (8)

4: Value for money
£16 is amongst the cheaper in the league. But it is an open terrace and still a few quid too much IMO (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Standard for the football league (6)

6: Programme
Never bought one for any of my visits (-)

7: Game entertainment
Generally good for my 3 games (7)

8: Tea Bar
Didn’t visit (-)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
A marquee for away fans, but serving excellent drinks (8)

10: Club Shop
Poor. Just stuff served through the ticket office (2)

(In the lower reaches, but I've enjoyed my visits)