By Dominic Scurr
SETTING THE SCENE
Tomorrow’s opponents have promotion firmly in their sights as they currently sit in third place and just four points off the top of the table having gone unbeaten in the National League since the turn of the year.
They also presently boast the highest number of goals for any team this season with 63.
The high-flying Rovers managed to record yet another win last time out with well-fought 2-0 triumph over a dogged Boreham Wood side and appear to have further improved their squad with the acquisition of German forward Omar Bugiel last week.
The former Worthing striker hadn’t even been at the club for 24 hours when he came on as a late substitute at The New Lawn and gave a debut to remember – bagging a goal and an assist in the final ten minutes to help win the game.
But despite their six match unbeaten streak and having only five defeats this season, FGR will still be feeling a little aggrieved that they aren’t in an even stronger position in the table.
Half of their last six matches have ended level, taking their draw tally to nine for the season – more than twice as many as league leaders Lincoln City and second place Dagenham and Redbridge.
It’s a position a little too familiar for the all-vegan club, who were the early pace setters this season before allowing the likes of Lincoln City to take hold at the top.
Still, promotion is a very realistic goal for the Gloucestershire outfit though should Gateshead triumph over them on Saturday, then there may well be whispers of the play-offs on Tyneside as well.
But Neil Aspin’s men have yet to win three straight matches all season as a lack of consistency has continued to elude them throughout the campaign.
Should the Heed manage to find some form of consistency then a top five finish is well within their reach though actually achieving it is far easier said than done.
Captain Liam Hogan suffered a knock to his hip in the victory at Chester last weekend and consequently missed a few days of training but is still in contention to feature at the weekend.
New loan signing Tom Beere could be handed his first start for the club.
WHAT WE’RE SAYING
Manager Neil Aspin: “We didn’t deserve to draw at Forest Green we deserved to win.
“We had the better chances, hit the underside of the bar so to get nothing from that game was very disappointing.
“But it’s a long time ago now and they’ve changed a lot of personnel so it’ll be a totally different game. We need the win on Saturday, we’re going to have to push forward and leave space.
“We have to be brave and try and take the game to Forest Green.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
FGR boss Mark Cooper told Gloucestershire Live ahead of this weekend’s encounter: “We don’t worry about anybody else, we concentrate on our own results and our own performances.
“We move on to Gateshead next week, where we will try and get three points.
“Once we get our forward players or our flair players in the last third, they have to produce – we can’t do that bit for them.”
Victory this weekend would put Gateshead in a better position pointswise than they were at this stage of the season in 2014 (52 points – 2017; 51 points – 2014) where they ended up booking a place in the Play-off final at Wembley Stadium.
However, in 2014 the Heed ended the season taking 27 points out of a possible 33, suggesting a similar run of form would be needed.
Striker Jordan Burrow has also scored in each of his previous four matches at the International Stadium, the last Tynesiders player to achieve that feat was Jon Shaw,who scored in seven straight home matches back in 2012.
Admission is priced at £15 for adults, £10 for concessions, £8 for 16-17-year-olds/students and £3 for under-16s. Tickets can be bought here.
LAST TIME WE MET
Back in August Forest Green picked up their first National League win of the 2016/17 season while bringing Gateshead’s perfect start to an end with a late 1-0 triumph at the New Lawn.
Just as the game looked to be heading for a draw, Dale Bennett’s cross-cum-shot in stoppage time sailed over Sam Johnson and went in off the far post.