Forest Green Rovers 3 Exeter City 3
FA Cup 2nd round
Saturday 2 December 2017
League ground no.104: no.81 of the current 92 (or thereabouts).
Conversation between John and myself went something like “It isn’t too far.” “Yeah, but they might get relegated.” “If they don’t though, it’s over with.” “They’re moving ground.” “Not for years though.” “They don’t serve meat, or proper beer.” “Smuggle in a sausage roll, then.”
I went to the old ground, which was in virtually the same place as this one, around 1997 for a Conference game against Telford. Main memories are getting hopelessly lost, not being able to park, and arriving at half time. But I did get a ground review published in Team Talk magazine, even though they forgot to credit me. And I met the chairman, who was a nice man. And someone gave me their programme.
Off the M5, through Stroud, and the ground is in Nailsworth, a small village with a very steep hill on which the ground perches. Houses on one side (I suspect the site of the old ground); fields on the other. Charming English countryside or werewolf territory depending on your viewpoint. Most people seem to park on the housing estate over the road: we certainly did, and this left us in the mother of all gridlocks after the game. One way in, one way out. That proposed new ground begins to make sense.
Forest Green are well known for being, well, green. They recycle like mad eejits and only sell vegan products: to reinforce these credentials the new ground will be built from houmus. Or something. As for the current one, well, it’s nice enough. One big side stand; two diddy end terraces, avec roof; one long side terrace, sans roof. Today this held the best part of a thousand Exeter fans, who were clearly thrilled when the rain started.
Flesh and wine
Flesh, as I said, is banned. Had a pretty nice Indian bhajii thing from a stall outside the away end but it was downhill after that. All the pubs are in the village and John had a bowel complaint so clearly wasn’t up for hill walking. Into the club at the ground, then, for some beer made without finings (or anything else remotely flavoursome). John’s poor bowel was not improved. I had heard great things about the quorn pies, but my only comment on mine is this – why are vegetarians obsessed with disguising vegetables as meat? You don’t see us carnivores painting sausages orange and pretending they’re carrots.
I like Exeter City. I was born in Exeter, used to write for their programme, and people in my family support them. So despite all the FGR fans we met being absolutely lovely (even the youths chanting about Cheltenham scum were quite endearing), I kind of wanted them to win.
Wearing unfamiliar purple to avoid their red and white clashing with FGRs’ green and black, they were behind to a one-on-one midway through the first half and under the cosh somewhat until some inspired subbing saw them equalise with a header, then go ahead with a thunderbolt ten minutes later.
After an entertainingly ding-dong battle, the last five minutes were sheer craziness. First, FGR poked home an equaliser: then, with Exeter reeling, they broke for what looked like a winner only for City to bang in a header deep in injury time and then almost pinch it with a last minute clearance off the line.
Teams and goals
Forest Green Rovers: Collins, Bennett, Roberts, Iacovitti, James (Stevens 82), Collins, Laird, Wishart. Doidge, Bugiel (Correia Gomes 65). Unused subs: Cooper, Randall-Hurren, Russell.
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Archibald-Henville (Harley 55), Moore-Taylor, Wilson (Tillson 65), James, Taylor, Boateng, Moxey, Stockley McAlinden (Reid 79). Unused subs: Woodman, Hamon, Jay, Edwards.
Goals: Forest Green: Doidge 26, 90+2, Laird 88. Exeter: Moore-Taylor 58, Stockley 64, 90+4.