Laird believes FGR will pull clear of relegation

SCOTT Laird believes Forest Green Rovers will pull clear of the League Two relegation zone just as soon as he and his team-mates eradicate the unforced errors that have become a feature of their season so far.

Promoted from the National League via the play-offs, the self-styled “little club on the hill” has found the going especially challenging at the higher level.

A return of one win and one draw from eight games (this was written ahead of Friday’s derby clash against Swindon) means Rovers find themselves in an unaccustomed position at the wrong end of the table.

Mark Cooper is insistent there is little or no point in looking at the league table until 15 games have been negotiated and the manager, under fire in some quarters, was this week offered support by experienced left-back Laird.

Defensive frailties have stymied Forest Green’s attempts to win games in League Two and a record of 20 goals conceded from the opening eight games explains the team’s lowly position.

But Laird, signed on a free transfer from Scunthorpe United during the summer, can see welcome signs of improvement and believes an upturn in fortunes is just around the corner.

He said: “It’s down to the players and we have to take responsibility for what has been going on. We have been let down by silly individual errors.

“Nobody has ripped us apart and it is not the case that opposition teams are opening us up at will. Most of the goals we have let in have come from silly mistakes rather than good play.

“We have to be honest with ourselves and say that we are letting Mark Cooper and Scott Lindsay (assistant manager) down. If you take out those individual errors, there is not a lot wrong.”

Cooper ordered a return to basics, adopted an orthodox 4-4-2 formation in games against Lincoln City and Port Vale and witnessed an immediate improvement. Rovers may have lost 1-0 to Lincoln, but the determination, togetherness and cussed resilience in the face of challenging conditions and intimidating opponents suggested a new-found resolve to render themselves hard to beat.

Similar qualities were on show at Port Vale as the Gloucestershire outfit came from behind to draw 1-1 and bank their first away point of the campaign last weekend.

Having seen Rovers fall behind to a goal that owed its inception to yet another unforced error, Cooper sought recourse in Plan B, introducing attacking substitutes and encouraging his charges to play on the front foot in the second half at Vale Park.

One of those substitutes, Omar Bugiel, bagged the equaliser, as Forest Green showed they have more than one string to their bow.

Laird added: “We’ve had to change our shape and way of playing, because we’re going through a tough time. But we’ve not abandoned all of our football principles and we can still get the ball down and play when the time is right.

“It’s about getting the balance right and I think we’ve done that in recent games. If we can cut out the mistakes that have been costing us, I really can see us going on a winning run.”

Providing that happens sooner rather than later, the league table may make more palatable reading for Cooper and his staff.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.