The factors behind Bristol Rovers loss to Forest Green as need for reinforcements show

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Will Taylor picks apart Bristol Rovers’ opening day loss to Forest Green and explains why they were on the losing side

It was ultimately another opening day defeat for Bristol Rovers at the hands of neighbours Forest Green Rovers.

Regan Hendry secured the points one minute from time to bring the points back to Nailsworth and send the away fans into raptures, resulting in the Gas’ first home defeat since December.

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The home side began the game well, however, found themselves 1-0 down just before the hour mark when a corner met the head of Jordan Moore-Taylor.

Last season’s top goalscorer Aaron Collins took until November to get off the mark for the Gas, it took him just 71 minutes this season, evening the score.

It wasn’t to be for Rovers though when Regan Hendry’s cross nestled in the top corner, with it now being 21 years since the Memorial Stadium saw an opening day win.

Here’s our thoughts of where the game was lost for Joey Barton’s men and where they can improve for next week.

Defensive Frailties

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It was a makeshift back four that faced Forest Green, with Luca Hoole playing his first league game as a centre-back partnering James Connolly. Despite the youngsters’ good performance, the away side found lots of joy through the wings in space vacated by James Gibbons and Trevor Clarke.

Forest Green set up as a 5-3-2 mainly focusing on sitting deep and inviting pressure on, then breaking through their quick fullbacks when they cleared crosses and Gibbons and Clarke were out of position. The crosses into the Forest Green box were more often than not weren’t at their best and just led to opposition counter-attacking.

FGR’s midfield dominance

With Rovers manager Joey Barton pitting his two in midfield against Forest Green’s three, he would’ve been wary of the Greens’ midfielders outnumbering Zain Westbrooke and Jordan Rossiter, especially with Rossiter being the only defensive midfielder.

Both of them were unable to get control of the game with FGR dominating that area of the pitch and the Gas really struggled to keep up consistent pressure.

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Westbrooke was eventually substituted with just over 25 minutes to go, with Antony Evans moving into a deeper role as Barton’s side went more attacking, however, this backfired with just two minutes left when Hendry found the top corner.

Set Piece Danger

Rovers should have been on high alert of their opponent’s danger from set pieces when less than 20 minutes in, Bailey Cargill found himself with a free header with only a spectacular James Belshaw save keeping the scores level.

The post did Rovers a favour ten minutes later, with the ball not cleared from a Forest Green corner fell at the feet of Jamille Matt, with the strike having beat Belshaw the post came to the keepers rescue in keeping his clean sheet for a while longer.

The luck could only last so long, with the away side taking the lead from a corner on the hour mark when Jordan Moore-Taylor lost his marker and powered his header into the bottom corner.

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