Remembering where we once were.
Rovers’ record against their namesakes Forest Green reads very much as a tale of two halves with Doncaster winning just one of their first five meetings against the Club from The Lawn, as opposed to all five subsequent meetings.
The teams met for the first ever time in September ’98 and that meeting – which Doncaster lost 1-0 courtesy of Paul Hunt’s second half strike – coincided with a disastrous run of just 2 wins in 16 matches for the Conference debutants.
Forest Green were to be ever present during Doncaster’s five year tenure in the Conference, and the sides met again in a goalless draw in February ’99.
The following season, over 4,000 packed in to Belle Vue for a season opener against the Gloucestershire based side and Ian Duerden’s sublime hat-trick ensured the hosts won by the odd goal in five.
Both sides were beset by inconsistency that term and the 851 who watched the return in late April 2000 would witness why; Forest Green won 1-0 thanks to Alex Sykes’ late goal.
Crowds at The Lawn were never the greatest in a numerical sense, but were friendly and welcoming with no segregation at the games. Just 952 turned up to see a 2-2 draw in August 2000, while the crowd was nearly double at Belle Vue in January ’01 when Rovers ran out 3-0 winners thanks to Neil Campbell, Dave Penney and Tris Whitman’s goals.
In to the 01/02 seaosn and Doncaster, having beaten Hayes 5-1, repeated the feat three weeks later against Forest Green; Jamie Paterson, Barry Miller and Matty Caudwell adding to goals from Campbell and Whitman – it was to be one of six times that season in which Doncaster would score four or more goals.
A 2-0 win in the return in Nailsworth, through Mark Sale and Paterson was one of the wins included in a fantastic sequence of results which yielded 8 wins in 9 for the Belle Vue boys.
Attendances were on the rise during Doncaster’s final season in the Clnference and Paul Barnes’ solo effort was enough to see off the visitors at Belle Vue in front of over 3,500.
By the following April, Dave Penney’s men were well on the promotion trail and booked their place in the inaugural Conference play-offs with a 2-1 win in the Gloucestershire sunshine thanks to a Dave Morley long range special and Paul Barnes late winner.
Forest Green Rovers are currently managed by Adrian Pennock and are the longest serving members of the Football Conference, despite flirting with relegation on many occasions.
Fans of Doncaster retain a soft spot for Forest Green due to their hospitality and were often more than keen to visit The Lawn, which has now been redeveloped.
At the time of writing, Forest Green have some famous names in their ranks including Lee Hughes and former LA Galaxy front man Luke Rodgers.
*Rovers fans celebrate Dave Morley’s strike in their 2-1 win over Forest Green in April 2003 at The Lawn; one of few grounds were segregation was not enforced.*