Preview: Forest Green Rovers vs. Bristol Rovers

Sports Mole looks ahead to the first Conference Premier playoff semi-final between Forest Green Rovers and Bristol Rovers on Wednesday evening.

With the regular season now over, the Conference Premier playoffs get underway this week with a place in the Football League up for grabs.

Forest Green Rovers and Bristol Rovers go head to head in their semi-final, with the first leg taking place at The New Lawn on Wednesday evening.

Both sides will be hoping that they are the ones who will be joining Barnet in League Two next term.



Forest Green Rovers

A general view of the pitch ahead of the FA Cup first round match between Forest Green Rovers and Scunthorpe United at The New Lawn on November 9, 2014© Getty Images

Forest Green are in the Conference playoffs for the first time in their history, having played at this level for the past 17 years.

The Green have enjoyed a fine season under manager Adrian Pennock, winning 22 and losing just eight of their 46 matches to secure a top-five finish.

Pennock's men come into this match off the back of a 0-0 draw with Dover Athletic on Saturday, which was just enough to see them pip Macclesfield Town to the final playoff spot by a point.

Forest Green's achievement is even more impressive given that they were deducted three points back in September for fielding an ineligible player in their win over Southport on the opening day of the season.

The Gloucestershire outfit have never played league football before and the team know that they are potentially just three games away from making history.

They will be looking to top scorer Jon Parkin to fire them to glory. The 33-year-old striker has a wealth of experience, having played in all three divisions of the Football League during his career.

Since joining Forest Green from Fleetwood Town last summer, he has netted 25 goals in 44 league appearances.

Recent form: WLWWWD



Bristol Rovers

Bristol manager Darrell Clarke looks on prior to the Sky Bet League Two match between Bristol Rovers and Mansfield Town at Memorial Stadium on May 3, 2014© Getty Images

Having been relegated from League Two last season, Bristol Rovers are looking to secure an immediate return to the Football League.

Automatic promotion was the aim for Rovers and their manager Darrell Clarke before the season began, however that privilege is Barnet's and the Pirates will now have to be content with a playoff place.

Clarke's side have been in fine form, having lost just once in their last 21 games, and they come into this tie off the back of demolishing Alfreton 7-0 in their last outing.

Former Forest Green striker Matt Taylor has led the way for Rovers this term, scoring 19 goals in his debut season after moving from Chester last summer. The 24-year-old is in fine form, having netted eight times in his last 11 appearances.

After finishing second in the standings, just a point behind Barnet on 91, Rovers will go into these final few games of the season as many people's favourites to go up.

Recent form: DWWWDW



Team News

Jon Parkin of Fleetwood Town in action during the Sky Bet League Two match between Northampton Town and Fleetwood Town at Sixfields Stadium on November 16, 2013© Getty Images

Pennock will be looking to continue Forest Green's unbeaten run of late and will be tempted to select the same side that faced Dover.

This would see Stuart Fleetwood partner Parkin up front, while Cameroonian midfielder Clovis Kamdjo and former St Mirren man James Marwood will have to be content with a place on the bench.

James Norwood failed to make the squad for the Dover clash but the forward, who has scored 13 times this season, could find himself named on the bench if Pennock decides to bolster his attacking options.

Rovers boss Clarke will also be looking to continue his side's impressive form by keeping faith with the same XI that put seven past Alfreton.

However, Clarke has many experienced options who will be pushing for starts, including Angelo Balanta and former Crystal Palace and Millwall striker Jermaine Easter.

Midfielders Andy Monkhouse and Lee Mansell will be confident of keeping their places in the side after scoring against Alfreton.

Forest Green Rovers possible starting lineup:
Arnold; Pipe, Bennett, Clough, Sinclair; Bender, Racine, Frear; Guthrie, Fleetwood, Parkin

Bristol Rovers possible starting lineup:
Puddy; Lockyer, McChrystal, Brown, Parkes; Lines, Gosling, Mansell, Monkhouse; Taylor, Harrison



Head To Head

Forest Green have enjoyed the better record against Bristol Rovers this season, remaining unbeaten against the Pirates in their two meetings.

The sides drew 1-1 when they played at The New Lawn in August, with Parkin netting for the Green and Monkhouse for Rovers.

Forest Green emerged victorious when the teams last met in October, as Daniel Coles scored against his old club to secure a 1-0 victory at the Memorial Stadium.


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We say: Forest Green Rovers 2-2 Bristol Rovers

Bristol Rovers finished 12 points ahead of Forest Green in the table but given the nature of playoff football, this will count for little when the sides take to the field on Wednesday evening.

Forest Green will be looking to take an advantage into the second leg on May 3, so expect them to take the game to Rovers from the off. Rovers have been formidable at times this season, though, and they will feel confident that they can claim a result in this first leg.


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