Needless Carlisle United fouls leading to Forest Green Rovers goals was the story of the night, as the Green Devils took all three points back to Gloucestershire. Goals from Aaron Collins and Odin Bailey either side of Gime Toure’s tap-in gave Rovers a two one victory, which will leave them in good stead for a title charge.
Forest Green had won the return fixture at the New Lawn thanks Jamille Matt’s scrappy winner. The Cumbrians were looking to lay down a marker on their home patch, with a fantastic squad to pick a strong line-up.
Chris Beech made one change, bringing in Josh Kayode from Offrande Zanzala. The team was almost a replica to the one that was hugely effective before Christmas, but George Tanner was still out due to a broken collarbone.
Mark Cooper made four changes with Aaron Collins, Josh Davison, Odin Bailey and Dan Sweeney coming into the team. Jamille Matt missed out with an injury, whereas Ebou Adams was suspended after his red card the previous Saturday.
United started the game the brighter of the two teams when Joe Riley broke onto a loose ball in the midfield and fed Josh Kayode. The ball was eventually worked to Jack Armer, who chipped a delightful ball to Kayode, but the Irish youth international could not get a killer touch.
Nicky Cadden was majestic throughout the night and on the eleventh minute shimmed past Armer into the box. The Scotsman found Collins in the box, but he took too long to shoot, missing a big opportunity to give Forest Green the lead.
However, from the resulting corner, Forest Green though they had the lead, through Baily Cargill on the 11th minute. A well-worked short corner was whipped in by Whitehouse; Dan Sweeney headed back across goal and Cargill diverted it in, only to see the linesman deny him an early goal.
Carlisle quickly broke up the other end with Kayode who passed to Lewis Alessandra. Alessandra shipped the ball to Callum Guy, but he could only shoot tamely at Lewis Thomas.
Callum Guy was very fortunate not to give away a goal when he lost the ball on the edge of his box to Odin Bailey. Bailey, however, could only draw the shot wide of the post.
Set pieces were causing Carlisle a real problem. This time, from a free-kick wide on the left of the Carlisle Box, Collins swung a cross-shot, which Paul Farman could only punch over the bar.
Moore-Taylor could head over the bar from the resulting corner.
The team went into the break level on the scoresheet, but Forest Green was having the better of the play.
Guy, who was not at his best on the night, gave Forest Green a golden chance to take the lead. Rovers countered, with Davison, who nipped a pass-through to Cadden and was them taken out by Guy in the box.
On the 56th minute, Aaron Collins stepped up and mercilessly beat Farman, with a low strike into the bottom corner.
Carlisle looked to be gaining a hold on the game, and Joe Riley tested Thomas, with a shot from way out the box.
Beech sent on Gime Toure, Brennan Dickenson and Ozzy Zanzala to make an impact. Dickson almost pulled the Blues level, when he got onto a loose ball, but he could only drag his shot wide.
On the 71st minute, United responded in a classy manner, with Riley hunting down Whitehouse and stealing the ball from him. He then tore the same man in knots, with a slick turn and sent a well-hit low cross, which Gime Toure dispatched with ease.
Unfortunately for Carlisle, Rovers responded, with an excellent Odin Bailey free-kick on the 73rd minute.
It all came from a silly Rhys Bennett tackle when he cynically, brought down Dan Sweeney who was running at goal. Bailey stepped up and hit a sumptuous shot into the corner, leaving Farman no chance.
United were unlucky not to get level three minutes later when Gime Toure hit the post. A Kayode long-throw was flicked on and found Toure at the back post, but he could only head the ball off the post.
Rovers broke up the other end, with Collins leaving Guy for dead. He then squared the ball to Davison, but Farman was quick out of the goal to smother the shot.
Forest Green were trying their best to pick Carlisle off on the counter-attack and Cadden slid Davison through, but Farman managed to save.
There was one last flourish for United, as Dickenson got a whipped cross in, but Zanzala could only flick the ball straight at Thomas. Forest Green held out to win two-one.
Chris Beech will be disappointed that United could lay down a marker, but United still have many games in hand and will definitely be challenging for the League title towards the end of the season.
United next face Leyton Orient on the ninth of February at home.
Forest Green Rovers will be delighted to do the double over United, and continue with their excellent away record. They will be hoping that the Cumbrians slip up in their games in hand and will feel reassured that they can deal without key players.
They travel to Mansfield Town on Saturday, hoping to go top if League Two.