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🔎 The Opposition: Forest Green Rovers (H)

Jed Penberthy takes a look at Boxing Day's opponents

24 December 2020

Wrap up warm and bring a leftover Turkey sandwich as football returns to St James Park this Boxing Day, with the visit of high-flying Forest Green Rovers.

Here is the lowdown on our festive foes.

  • Founded: 1889
  • Nicknames: The Green Devils, Rovers, The Little Club on the Hill
  • Honours: Southern League (1997/98), FA Vase (1981/82)
  • Home Kit: PLAYERLAYER Green and Black Zebra Print shirt, green shorts and socks
  • Away Kit: PLAYERLAYER Zebra Print shirt, white shorts and socks
  • Form: WLWDW (2nd in League Two)

A football club was recorded in Forest Green at the end of the 19th Century established by the local Reverend Edward Peach and began their history at the Lawn Ground in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.

Nailsworth is a small town in the Stroud Valleys about 25 miles north of Bristol most notable for its milling history.  Nailsworth parish included the sites of at least 14 mills, situated on the various brooks which join to form the Nailsworth stream.

The football club joined the Mid-Gloucestershire League for 1894/95 season but disappeared, before reforming as Forest Green Rovers in 1898. In 1968 Rovers became founders of the Gloucestershire County League and progressed to the Hellenic League in ’75.

Success of Rainworth Miners Welfare in the FA Vase final in 1982 was the start of the rise-up the football pyramid, firstly to the Southern League in 82/83, then to the Conference in 1998/99.

The Greens reached the play-offs in 2014/15 and 15/16, before finally being promoted to the football league after a 3-1 win over Tranmere at Wembley in the 2017 play-off final.  

Pioneering as the world’s ‘Greenest Football Club’, sustainability is central to everything Forest Green Rovers do, from solar panels and electric vehicle charging points at The New Lawn, to a wholly vegan matchday menu. FGR are the only football club awarded with the Vegan Society Trademark.

The Manager

Mark Cooper

Forest Green’s boss may be known from the older generation of Exeter City fans. The 52-year-old made 138 appearances for the Grecians between 1989-91, and 94-96. The journeyman began his career in the South West with Bristol City.

After spells at Birmingham City, Fulham and Wycombe amongst others, Cooper joined FGR in the early 2000’s as he pursued a non-league career, finishing his playing career at Kettering.

Cooper has an impressive football league management record, taking charge of Peterborough, Swindon and Notts County before teaming back up with Forest Green in 2016, where he single-handedly dragged the Gloucestershire side into the Football League for the first time in their history.

The Stadium

  • Name: The innocent New Lawn
  • Capacity: 5,009
  • Year opened: 2006
  • Record Attendance: 4,836 vs Derby County (FA Cup 3rd Round, 2009)
  • Address: Another Way, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, GL6 0FG

Perched on top of a hill in Nailsworth in the picturesque Cotswold countryside, The New Lawn is not your typical football stadium.

Opened in 2006 to replace the old Lawn Ground (1890) the ground boasts the world’s first ‘organic’ pitch, meanwhile solar panels account for 25% of the ground’s electricity.

The pitch itself recycles rainwater for stadium use and waste oil from kitchens is turned into biofuel. Plans are well in place to expand the New Lawn by building it almost entirely out of wood.

The Innocent smoothie company took over sponsorship rights early this season by inviting fans to rename the ground, though in their invitation they announced ‘Stadium McStadiumface’ would not be accepted.

One To Watch

Jamille Matt

The Green Devil’s top scorer this season has nine goals already this season and is accustomed to finding the net against Exeter, with two in seven matches against City.

Jamille Matt.jpg

In 2015/16 he netted the first goal of the Devon Derby at St James Park, before Ollie Watkins worked his magic in a 2-1 win over Argyle.

The 31-year-old has over 300 career appearances to his name with spells at Fleetwood, Stevenage and Grimsby and has started this season in a rich vein of form after signing for free in the summer.

Other notable squad members in the FGR squad include three former City players: Kane Wilson; Jayden Richardson; and Jordan Moore-Taylor.

Head to Head

City have a great record against Forest Green but go into boxing day six points behind their opposition. The teams have met each other 21 times and Exeter are unbeaten in the last four. The last time this fixture was scheduled for Boxing Day (2017) was abandoned because of a waterlogged pitch.

  • Exeter wins: 11
  • Draws: 8
  • Forest Green wins: 2

Recent encounters

Exeter City 3-2 Forest Green Rovers | EFL Trophy | St James Park | 08/09/20

Exeter picked up their first win of the 2020/21 season through goals from Nicky Ajose, Matt Jay and Josh Key.

Forest Green Rovers 0-1 Exeter City | League Two |The New Lawn | 01/01/20

Nigel Atangana scored and got sent off as City picked up a crucial three points to kick start the new year.

Exeter City 1-0 Forest Green Rovers | League Two | St James Park | 12/08/20

Ryan Bowman volleyed in his fifth of the season to score the only goal of the game at the Park.

And Finally

In 1978/79 Rovers recorded the record victory in the FA Vase beating Avon Bradford 12-1. Kenny Gill scored a double Hattrick for the Greens.

How to Watch

Tickets for the match are sold out, but you can get the next best thing by purchasing a match pass at the cost of just £10 in the UK. The stream includes BBC Radio Devon commentary, score overlay and replays.

To purchase a match pass please click here.

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