REPORT: Wanderers v Forest Green Rovers

Battling Wanderers dug deep to eke out a vital victory as they played for more than an hour with 10 men after match-winner Dion Charles had been wrongly sent off.

Charles continued his impressive scoring run with a superbly-taken goal to give the Whites an early lead.

His 13th goal of the season – and seventh in 12 games – proved an unlucky omen as he was then shown a red card in an apparent case of mistaken identity following an incident in the Forest Green box.

That left injury-hit Wanderers another striker down as they looked to extend their unbeaten home run to nine games and further emphasise their top-six credentials.

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But what they then lacked in goal-scoring threat, Ian Evatt’s men made up for in sheer guts and defensive determination to snuff out the division’s bottom club and secure a priceless three points in the play-off race.

With Wanderers playing their sixth of seven games in January and on the back of a first defeat in nine games at Derby at the weekend, Evatt stuck to his suggestion of freshening things up with four changes to the Whites’ starting line-up.

Vice-captain Gethin Jones was one of those to return – alongside skipper and defensive sidekick Ricardo Almeida Santos – and he was involved in the opening goal with five minutes gone as Wanderers made the perfect start.

The re-called Elias Kachunga and Conor Bradley worked an opening down the right-hand side and when Bradley fed the ball into Jones, he crossed for Charles to cleverly hook a volley inside the far post with an immaculate finish.

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Wanderers looked to build on it with Shola Shoretire making a bright start to his full debut as he looked to unlock the Rovers’ defence again.

But suddenly with almost half an hour gone the picture changed as Wanderers were reduced to 10 men in bizarre circumstances.

Most inside the ground were unaware of what had gone on as referee Tom Nield sent off Charles after Kachunga had seemingly been involved in a clash with Rovers’ defender Brandon Cooper.

The result was Wanderers – already missing injured loanee striker Dan Nlundulu as well as Jon Dadi Bodvarsson – needing to play two thirds of the game without their leading scorer.

Inevitably, the Whites – despite pushing Shoretire further forward – had to limit their attacking ambition and work overtime to cope with the numerical disadvantage.

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But with everyone in a white shirt digging in and the home fans urging them on they limited Forest Green’s threat as the visitors’ strikeforce, including former Wanderer Amadou Bakayoko, was largely kept at arm’s length.

There was the odd scare, notably when substitute Kyle McAllister steered a shot straight at James Trafford with just over 20 minutes to go as Wanderers sat deep in their own half.

And with Wanderers inevitably tiring and just looking to protect what they had, Evatt sent on fresh legs in midfield in the shape of MJ Williams and Kieran Lee.

Wanderers played without a front man but with the outstanding Kyle Dempsey putting in a lung-bursting shift and Bradley bursting forward when possible Wanderers did threaten a second goal on the break.

That wouldn’t quite come but with the re-shuffled back line refusing to budge, Trafford chalked up a club record seventh successive home clean sheet on what felt a big night at the University of Bolton Stadium as Wanderers’ collective spirit shone through.

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Wanderers: Trafford; Jones, Almeida Santos, Toal; Bradley (Aimson 90), Morley, Dempsey, R Williams (Johnston 66); Shoretire (Lee 73); Kachunga (MJ Williams 73), Charles. Substitutes: John, Sadlier, Sheehan.

Booked: Morley

Sent off: Charles

Forest Green Rovers: Doohan; Godwin-Malife (Garrick 77), Cooper (Casey 77), Cargill; O’Keeffe, Stevenson, Hendry, Robson; Peart-Harris (Stevens 59); Bakayoko, March (McAllister 66). Substitutes: Thomas, Bernard, McGeouch.

Booked: Cooper

Referee: Tom Nield

Attendance: 16,329 (Forest Green 109)

Read Time: 4 mins