It is a consequence of being stuck in the Conference for 16 years that we got to know some clubs quite well. A little too well, in the case of a dishonorable few. Any link you make between that gripe and, let’s say, Woking is of your own doing, by the way. Mind you, escaping from the grasps of non-league football hasn’t exactly been the end of it. The list of the clubs we’ve played most is as much about those who have made the leap up either before or after us as it is those who, well, haven’t. And it’s in this mix you’ll find Forest Green Rovers.
Forest Green Rovers: Who Are They?
Now heralded as the first-ever vegan and environmentally empowered football club (or something), there’s a chance it’ll surprise you to learn that FGR’s story goes way back to 1889. The brainchild of the Reverend E.J.H. Peach, Rovers does now what it’s always been here to do: to represent the Forest Green area of Nailsworth. If the name didn’t mean much to you before they rocked up in the Conference in 1998, however, that’s probably fair enough. You’d have to delve into their local leagues to find them before the mid-1970s.
In 1974, Forest Green Rovers competed in a national competition (the FA Vase) for the first time; a year later, they stepped up to regional level by joining the Hellenic League Premier Division. In 1982, Rovers completed the league and FA Vase double – and marked this milestone by joining the Southern League Midland Division. After finishing third in their first season at this level, ninth would be as good as it got over the next 12 terms. There was even three years in which they went under the name Stroud. And still the struggles went on.
Us And Them…
In 1995, Forest Green Rovers switched to the Southern League Southern Division and fortunes improved right away. After finishing 8th in their first campaign, they won the division a year later and went up to the Premier Division. Not that they were hanging around; Rovers won the Premier Division title at their first go. With that, Rovers made their Conference bow in 1998. Fifth up for them in their debut season was a visit from Cloughie’s Boro’; Lee Howarth and Carl Alford starting our new relationship off on a winning footing.
FGR didn’t have to wait long to get their first win against us. It was the following season at their place, in fact; Carlo’s brace not enough to stop us from going down 3-2. Both of the first meetings indoors ended in draws, if you were wondering. The second of those stalemates marked the start of an eight-game unbeaten run against FGR to coincide with the new Millennium – including a snowy 4-1 win in February 2002. Boro’ had the upper hand in our battles more often than not, though not without the occasional slip-up away from home.
The 2006-7 season was a notable one in this story. Boro’ and FGR faced off three times; one of those being an FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie. Across those three games, Boro’ racked up 11 goals and conceded eight. After sharing a 3-3 draw at Broadhall Way, we stormed back from three goals down at their place to lead 4-3 – only to concede a 90th minute equaliser. The FA Cup tie was rather more straightforward. The next season, we lost 4-2 at their place in another high-scoring match. It was our most recent defeat to them…
And Then What?
It was ’til Forest Green Rovers (finally) made it to the Football League in 2017, having imploded at the playoff stage for the previous two campaigns. With two former Boro’ title-winning legends in their ranks, FGR earned their first ever win on our own patch earlier this season. Next time we meet, it’ll be our 29th meeting. That’ll move them clear of Northwich and Dagenham in that list of most-played opposition. We’ll have only played Yeovil, Morecambe, Woking and, er, Saffron Walden on more occasions. There have been goals aplenty too.
Can they stick around to make it 31 next term and move above Saffron Walden, mind?
Forest Green Rovers: Boro’s Record
P28 W13 D10 L5 F55 A38 – League Points: 40, Cup Meetings: 3, Win Rate: 46%
• BoroGuide’s Forest Green Rovers club profile – for old time’s sake…