Forest Green 1, Fleetwood Town 2. ROB Atkinson’s winner deep into stoppage time secured Town’s 13th win in 15 unbeaten matches to keep their noses in front in the Blue Square Bet Premier title race.
Mid-table Rovers, whose victory over longtime leaders Wrexham had enabled Town to go top four days earlier, looked like holding Micky Mellon’s men to a draw for the second time this season until substitute Atkinson struck in the sixth minute of added time.
Clearly boosted by their win over Wrexham, Forest Green took the lead through Matty Taylor after half an hour only for Magno Vieira to cancel that out just before half-time with his third goal in two games since his recall.
Fleetwood made a bright start as skipper Steve McNulty jumped highest to head narrowly over from Danny Rose’s out-swinging corner after two minutes.
Vieira looked to increase on his eight-goal tally for the season with a dazzling run into the box only to fire a left-footed shot over from a tight angle. It was a promising start for the Cod Army.
It was then Forest Green’s turn to go close after 10 minutes, when Taylor’s free kick from the left looked like catching Scott Davies out but the Town keeper was able to tip the ball over.
It wasn’t long before Davies was brought into action again, saving winger James Norwood’s shot from outside the area.
The visitors suffered a blow on 17 minutes when McNulty turned his ankle and was replaced by Atkinson. The captain also received a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
Town then attacked with menace as Jamie Vardy had a shot deflected and the loose ball found Nathan Pond at the back post. The defender’s header was only half-cleared off the line and eventually landed at the feet of Atkinson but the substitute shot the wrong side of goal.
The deadlock was broken due to a costly mix-up in the Town defence on 31 minutes. A loose pass found its way to Taylor, who raced into the box and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner.
Vieira cut in from the right to carve out a chance for 21-goal Vardy, though his header lacked power and trickled through to keeper Sam Russell.
The goal lifted Forest Green and Town struggled to break down the home side.
But just a minute before the break, Andy Mangan’s shot proved too hot for Russell to handle and Vieira reacted quickest to sidefoot the ball into the goal.
A frantic start to the second half saw the home team have a goal ruled out for offside, then Eddie Ashodi came close with a header which looped over the bar.
Vardy then tried his luck with a left-footed half-volley which just sailed over, and a similar effort two minutes later was deflected over for a corner.
Henderson added to the second-half chances when he cut in from the right and aimed for the far corner only for Davies to save with ease.
Richard Brodie made an immediate impact after coming on as a Fleetwood substitute for the hard-working Danny Rose. First he cut in from the right but scuffed a shot straight at the goalkeeper, then within a mintue the striker headed wide from Alan Goodall’s cross.
A thigh injury to Russell forced a lengthy delay before James Bittner replaced him for Rovers.
Fleetwood continued to press but replacement keeper Bittner made a save from Mangan’s fierce strike look easy.
At the other end, Rovers’ key player Norwood forced a good save out of Davies with a low shot.
Ten minutes from time, the industrious Vardy looked odds on to score but dragged his shot wide of the left post.
Forest Green’s last chance of a winner fell to Taylor, set up by Michael Pook, but was wasted.
And it was Atkinson who made it five league wins out of five for Town in 2012 when Bittner spilled a cross and the centre- half poked home form seven yards.
Wrexham returned to winning ways with a 2-0 home win over bottom club Bath which kept them within a point of Fleetwood, though the Welshman don’t play again for a fortnight, giving Town the chance to stretch their advantage at home to Tamworth on Saturday.
Forest Green: Russell (Bittner 64), Hodgkiss, Stokes, Turley, Oshodi, Klukowski, Allen, Thomson, Norwood, Taylor, Henderson (Uwezu 69); not used: Graham, Pook, 23 Uwezu, Wright
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, McNulty (Atkinson 17), Goodall, Cavanagh, Pond, Fowler, Rose (Brodie 60), Vieira, Mangan, Vardy (McGuire 90+5); not used: Stephenson, Seddon
Ref: W Barratt; Att: 922