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The New Lawn
Forest Green Rovers v Hyde
Conference Premier League
Saturday, August 10th, 2013, 3pm

Myles Munsey
(Neutral fan)

1. Reasons for going:

I have a friend who lives in the Stroud area and who I introduced to the delights (!) of professional football last season. Suitably impressed, he wanted more of the same. As Forest Green Rovers is his local side and as I had heard good reports about the New Lawn, I thought we would give this a go. Besides, I hadn’t seen a Conference game for about 4 years. I’m still intrigued by the notion of a small town club performing at level 5.

2. Getting there:

Stonehouse station being closed owing to Engineering work, so I travelled instead to Cam and Dursley from where my friend collected me and took me over to Nailsworth.

3. Before the game:

En route to the ground I was treated to a fish and chip lunch at the Badger at Eastington and very good it was too. It is a very scenic ride over to Nailsworth where the ground is located, so we stopped at the popular Frocester Hill viewpoint which gives spectacular views over to the Severn Estuary

4. First impressions:

There wasn’t a lot of time to take in the facilities as we were running a little late then there was a bit of a queue for tickets. Close to the ground I noticed brown tourist signs pointing to FGRFC almost pleading for your interest. Great, but you need to know who they are! The ground is modern and well appointed but with very regular features. Actually the appearance and rural aspect of the ground are more readily apparent from the inside. We took up position in the in the Main Western Thermal stand and from there one is able to appreciate the splendid backdrop, of wooded slopes with sheep grazing contentedly. I was reminded of Adams Park, Wycombe, another modern stadium on the edge of town backed by woods.

Nympsfield (Away) End

Nympsfield End

5.The game:

In all my 45 years of watching football I had never seen a game like this. Not that there was any sign of what was to unfold, because the programme notes made quite an issue out of the fact that in 15 previous seasons Forest Green had won just one of their opening day encounters. Hyde had performed well over the final stretch of the 2012-3 campaign so a ‘tight encounter’ was predicted.

Hyde started brightly but then their world fell apart when Josh Brizell was sent off after 19 minutes for a rash challenge on Al Bangura. Debutant Marcus Kelly scored on 25 minutes with a right foot screamer, and then five minutes later added to his tally with a classy left foot finish. In a torrid afternoon for Hyde the goals just kept coming. Further efforts on 33 minutes by Wright and a close range header on 38 by Norwood saw Rovers cruising at the interval. An interval which I used gainfully to get that elusive programme which had supposedly sold out. There was no let up in the second half with further goals by Matt Taylor 60, Barnes –Homer 71, Matt Taylor again on 72 - a terrific flicked header into the top corner and then Kelly wrapped up his hat trick and the scoring with 14 minutes still left on the clock.

Despite all of this, Hyde’s goalkeeper, David Carnell had an excellent game and he is to be commended. But for him, things could have been a lot worse.

6. Getting away:

A bit of a wait to exit the car park but no real problems getting down the hill into Nailsworth and my friend kindly conveyed me back to Swindon for the 18.12 train back to Reading.

7. Overall:

A most enjoyable afternoon if somewhat surreal, both in terms of the setting and the result. Do go to the New Lawn. It is a very well run club with a manager intent on good football (and we saw plenty of that) and ultimately promotion to the Football League. I wish them well in their quest.  

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