My first visit to Forest Green in deepest Gloucestershire began with the 12.15 from Paddington to Swindon. The next stage of the journey was via the one track branch line to Stroud followed by a bus ride to Nailsworth. I then took up ‘Bradleyog’s’ recommendation by visiting ‘The Village Inn’ for a pint. The final leg was another bus ride, 1.5 up-hill miles to the hamlet of Forest Green. Plans were put forward in 2002 to move just 400 meters away. Planning permission was eventually granted three years later. The new stadium became known as ‘The New Lawn’ and was funded by the sale of the old ground and officially opened in September 2006.
It was still pouring of rain as I walked around the Ground looking for ‘The Green Man’ – the club’s bar, which wasn’t yet open unfortunately. I took refuge under one of the smoking shelters which also contained one of the Forest Green Directors puffing on a cigar. We chatted about the club and he then pointed to where the old Ground was previously situated. Once the bar opened, it wasn’t too long before the first arrivals, one from Wycombe and then two from South Wales to be precise. At ¬£3.85 for a pint of Kronenberg, some R’s fans soon trickled out again. The programme was ¬£3.00 and for me, a disappointing read. It also covered their other three games against Charlton, Exeter and Leeds, comprising mainly of the usual squad ‘pen pictures’.
The heavy rain then made way for blinding sunshine and fans of both teams sat together in the Main Stand. The big surprise was the return of Martin Rowlands who went on to play the 1st half. Now 34 (I think), Andy Marshall at 6ft 2ins and very vocal, looked very commanding in goal. He only had to make one save in the 1st half but was called upon to make three others after the interval. He played the whole match with ‘Elvis’ Putnins on stand-by just in case. Romone Rose was again at right back and did well. I still find it odd seeing him play in that position but we will have to see what happens. The remainder of the starting line-up comprised of: Brown, Oastler, Stewart, Buzsaky, Rowlands, Alberti, Ephraim, Agyemang and an Italian trialist, Alessandro Pellicori.
The R’s took the lead within 90 seconds after the Forest Green keeper dropped the ball and Stewart was on hand to put the ball away. Rangers were dominating the game and the second goal came just after the half-hour mark. A superb free kick 30 yards out from Buzsaky was tipped onto the post and Pellicori was well positioned with the follow-up header. Half-time 2-0 to the R’s.
A number of young players were introduced at various stages of the 2nd half – Harris, Davenport, German, Parker plus another trialist from the off, Davide Somma. Alan Barnes told me that he was a 24-year-old South African who had played most of his football in the USA. The home side frantically appealed for a penalty but this was a comfortable QPR victory. Rangers played in blue and white hoops with red numbers, white shorts and striped socks. The attendance was given as 961 which must of included over 400 R’s fans. I eventually arrived home the following afternoon via Bath but that’s another story.