Shrewsbury 2-1 Forest Green: Duncan Ferguson’s first game as Rovers boss spoiled by injury-time loss
Shrewsbury 2-1 Forest Green: Duncan Ferguson is dealt a cruel blow after injury-time goals from Rekeil Pyke and Ryan Bowman spoil what would have been a perfect start to life as Rovers boss
- Jordon Garrick’s early goal got Duncan Ferguson off to a dream start as FGR boss
- But injury-time goals from Rekeil Pyke and Ryan Bowman spoiled the party
- Defeat sees former Everton forward’s new side remain bottom of League One
Duncan Ferguson turned on his heels, scrunched up his face and began barking to himself in frustration. For most of the game he had been cool under pressure but unexpected twists can quickly and darkly change moods.
From 1-0 up to 2-1 down, so close to the final whistle, you can imagine the kind of things Ferguson was growling. On this occasion, the industrial language — which came out on in a torrent, like steam hissing from a cracked pipe — could be excused.
The life of a football manager is often cruel and, on his first day in charge of Forest Green Rovers, never was that more apparent. Really, this should be the perfect start. Instead, it turned out to be an episode he will never forget, with two goals in added time making him feel like he’d been mugged.
Duncan Ferguson suffered a cruel fate in his first game in charge of Forest Green Rovers
‘It hurts,’ Ferguson said. ‘Oh believe me, this hurts really badly. We are so unlucky. It’s a tough one to take. Everything had looked great, hadn’t it? We looked good off the ball, we can better on the ball. It was a good performance but…’
He paused as his voice trailed off before solemnly adding: ‘We’re just gutted.’
No wonder. The Everton icon, only appointed to his first permanent role on Thursday and with only one training session with his squad, is an emotional man who has put everything into becoming a coach; Forest Green owner Dale Vince was bowled over by him.
Ferguson has been tasked with keeping this club in League One, a task which he says does not scare him, and if they can play with the tenacity and desire that was evident for much of an entertaining afternoon in Shropshire, they will start to make steps.
Jordon Garrick gave the League One strugglers a perfect start with his goal after 18 minutes
‘Big Dunc’ emerged from the tunnel three minutes before kick-off, looking ready for business but oblivious to a group of starry-eyed youngsters hoping to get his signature on paraphernalia they had bought, and his presence clearly had a galvanising effect on Forest Green’s players.
They had not won any of their last seven games, a run that had seen them slide to the foot of the table, but a new manager is always a signal for a fresh start and Forest Green — whose starting line-up was boosted by promising Everton loanee Tyler Onyango — began with impetus.
A figure of composed restraint, Ferguson paced and prowled and offered encouragement and he saw the contest turn in 60 dramatic seconds midway through the first half. Shrewsbury thought they were about to score when Rob Street beat the offside trap but he was thwarted by an excellent save from Ross Doohan. Immediately the visitors went forward and, from 25 yards, Jordan Garrick cracked a drive that dipped under the bar and in.
The ever-passionate Scotsman couldn’t contain his emotions whilst on the touchline
Rekeil Pyke got Shrewsbury back in the game with his goal after four minutes of stoppage time
Ryan Bowman then added a second for the home side with one of the last kicks of the game
Ferguson barely flickered, allowing himself a discreet fist pump, but the confidence it gave his team was evident. They ran themselves into the ground from that point, with central defender Jamie Robson catching the eye.
Really, they were unlucky not to have things wrapped up in the 53rd minute when a rapid counter, involving Corey O’Keeffe and Amadou Bakayoko, ended with Garrick’s deflected shot bouncing agonisingly wide.
Again, Ferguson barely moved, and the most animated he became was when the board for added time was hoisted aloft, signalling six minutes. For the first time, his eyes blazed and his arms were outstretched with incredulity.
His anxiety proved well-founded. Rekeil Pyke secured parity in the 94th minute with a drive from the edge of the box after a corner was not cleared and then, in the final attack, Ryan Bowman converted after racing into the area.
‘I don’t know where 98 minutes came from — I thought that was only at the World Cup,’ said Ferguson with gallows humour.