Goals from Packer and Allard earn win in friendly
Cirencester Town 2,
Forest Green Rovers 1
CIRENCESTER TOWN began their pre-season campaign with a deserved win against an unfamiliar and youthful Forest Green Rovers side.
The crowd was peppered with non-league managers on scouting missions; even Paulo Di Canio’s right hand man Fabrizio Piccareta briefly took a seat in the stands at kick-off, looking for clues ahead of Swindon Town’s visit to the New Lawn next Tuesday.
What the visiting dignitaries did not expect was that Dave Hockaday and his assistant Scott Bartlett would field a third XI, and that goes some way to explaining why Cirencester ran out comfortable winners.
The home dugout was definitely the happier of the two at the final whistle.
Chris Thompson (out of retirement) and Matt Sysum (back after knee surgery) looked as if they had never been away.
A very fit-looking Sysum, wearing the captain’s armband, almost capped a man-of-the-match performance with a late header which hit the post.
Ben Wells, once of Swindon Town and Supermarine, was a sturdy presence in the heart of the Ciren midfield and his dead ball delivery a constant threat.
Former Gloucester City player Alex Allard took his winning goal well and like Wells added some strength in midfield and at right back where he switched in the second half.
It is too early to tell whether former Abingdon goal machine Sam Collier will be the answer to manager Brian Hughes’s prayers for a prolific striker, but he is hard to dislodge from the ball, has a decent dig in his left foot and showed a willingness to run the channels.
For all that, Forest Green could have taken the lead in the eighth minute when the tiny Kerry Morgan, one of the bright sparks in the FGR line-up, curled a free kick that came back off Matt Bath’s crossbar.
Collier then tested keeper Rob Brown with a free kick of his own on 15 minutes, forcing the stopper to tip over his rising drive.
Ciren were ahead after 26 minutes when Collier showed good control on the left and fired in a cross that Jamie Reid managed to miss completely.
The ball made its way to Sam Parker 15 yards out and he confidently blasted a fierce first time effort past Brown’s flailing hands.
The final 20 minutes of the half drifted by uneventfully with the hosts in control.
Eleven minutes into the second half, Hughes made six changes and within a couple of minutes Forest Green were level, Morgan skipping down the right before his cross was headed down an into the goal by triallist Ethan Moore.
For a short spell, FGR gained a yard of pace and Ciren were at sixes and sevens on a couple of occasions, but the home team were back in front in the 66th minute.
A curling Wells free kick was spilled by Brown under pressure and the lurking Allard hammered it home on the volley.
Ten minutes later Liam O’Brien could have made it three but, after running on to an exquisite pass from the wily Scott Griffin, his lob landed inches wide of Brown’s post.
FGR did have the inviting chance of an equaliser in the 77th minute but Elliott James, played in by Moore, took his eye off the ball in the face of the onrushing Bath and put his shot wide.
Sysum perhaps should have sealed the victory for Cirencester in the 80th minute when he got on the end of another Wells dead ball delivery, but his mistimed header came back weakly off the a post rather than making the net bulge.
CIRENCESTER: Matt Bath, Shaun Bailey, Ellis Dunton Liam O’Brien, 56), Matt Sysum, Ben Wells, Chris Thompson (Nathan Hawkins, 56), Jamie Reid (Shane Bumphrey, 56), Alex Allard, Sam Collier (Scott Griffin, 56), Sam Packer (Eddie Jones, 56), Aiden Bennett (Ollie Pitt, 56). FOREST GREEN: Brown, Haddrell (Walsh 46), Mundy, Harvey, Walker (Novoth 46), Bradford (Callum Richens 73), Morgan (James, 61), Allen (Hicks, 70), Grant, Williams, Moore.