In one of the biggest matches seen at the County Ground in many years, 10,458 Town fans in attendance were put through the wringer, as after 97 tense minutes Ben Garner’s side secured three huge points, which sees our chase for the playoffs continue into Saturday.
It was vital Town started on the front foot and didn’t let their opponents dictate the evening, thankfully we came out of the traps quickly, as fifteen minutes in Mathieu Baudry played a ball to Jack Payne who’s perfect through ball was crossed into the box by Harry McKirdy for Louie Barry to put Town deservedly ahead.
Then five minutes before the break, Jack Payne received the ball from the left-hand side and struck a perfectly placed shot past Luke McGee to send the County Ground into raptures and give Town a 2-0 lead at the break.
It was clear before last night’s game we needed some of our key players to stand up and be counted, not only was Jack Payne counted but he delivered all over the pitch.
We all know his qualities as we’ve had the pleasure of watching the talented playmaker for a couple of years, but last night he not only ran the show from the middle of the park but didn’t stop running the entire game.
Like a lot of our current squad, his deal ends at the end of June, and the 27-year-old could have a pick of many clubs from the Football League, but I sincerely hope whichever division we end up in next season, he is still in a Town shirt.
He’s easily the most naturally gifted player at the club, and it would be difficult to replace such a talented player if he decided to move on.
Sadly, after just eight minutes of the second half on Tuesday night, Ellis Iandolo was shown a second yellow, it was clear the Forest Green players influenced the referee, and the away side was fortunate they didn’t go down to ten after Udoka Godwin-Malife started an altercation with Jonny Williams, but bizarrely wasn’t show a second yellow card.
After some rejigging to the side, Town prepared to batten down the hatches and desperately keep hold of their 2-0 lead, but with just over twenty minutes remaining, the away side pulled one back thanks to Josh March and some suspect defending.
What was to come was the highlight of the evening, and one of the most important moments of the season, as the County Ground made their presence felt, as all ten of Town’s players defended heroically to see out a huge win, which sees us two points from the playoffs.
Despite every player putting in a huge shift in the last twenty minutes, I need to mention both centre backs, as Dion Conroy and Mathieu Baudry were superb, as they blocked, cleared, and headed away everything that came into their path.
Both men at different points of the season, have endured rough spells of form and haven’t looked at the players we’d seen under Richie Wellens.
Conroy’s form has been inconsistent over the campaign and has come under huge pressure from some Town fans, unfairly at times, but over the last few weeks, he seems to have gained some extra confidence and is looking like a better player.
Ever since Baudry’s return to the side in mid-March, the Frenchman has enjoyed some of his best games for Town, and with him very likely to retire this summer, it would be a fitting end to a great career if he could earn one more promotion.
Despite all the celebrations last night it’ll be worthless if we don’t beat Phil Brown’s Barrow side this coming Saturday.
With Scunthorpe and Oldham already relegated to the National League, Brown’s side is now playing for pride, and gave promoted Exeter City a scare last night by going ahead, but did come away with a 2-1 defeat.
Town knows not to take the Bluebirds for granted, as we suffered defeat at Holker Street in December, and they’ve also upset other promotion hunting sides in April, with a 4-0 win over Forest Green, 2-2 draw with Salford, and a 1-0 win over Sutton last Saturday.
If Ben Garner’s side can repeat the same first-half intensity we saw last night we will have too much for the away side, and come away with the much-needed maximum, but if we see a repeat of the Leyton Orient performance, any dream of promotion will fall away.
After last night’s high, I can’t see this side taking their foot off the gas, and I can see another three points and Town taking our playoff hunt right down to the wire at the Bescot Stadium in early May.