Forest Green interim head coach Jimmy Ball labelled his side “world class” after they leaped back into the play-offs with a 2-1 victory over Tranmere.
Reduced to 10 men after Ebou Adams’ 57th-minute red card, Forest Green made sure their season will go to the final day at Oldham after second-half strikes from on-loan Charlton striker Josh Davison and an Aaron Collins penalty.
Despite a stoppage-time strike from Tranmere’s Kieron Morris, the Gloucestershire side hung on.
“The boys were world class,” said Ball. “When they went down to 10, they were brave, aggressive and to a man, they absolutely put a shift in – I’m very proud of them.”
Rovers go into the final game at Oldham knowing a win would guarantee a play-off spot.
Ball was delighted with goalscorers Davison and Collins, who were both on target to end a three-game scoreless run.
“We have simply got to win against Oldham and nothing else matters and that’s the direction we’re going in,” he added.
“After half-time, we were really lively. It was great composure for Josh Davison’s goal. I’m really pleased for Josh, he deserved it.
“Aaron Collins has bags of technical ability and is a great kid – his performance and work rate was incredible and he earned and converted the penalty – he’s technically excellent.”
Ball had no complaints about Adams’ 57th-minute red card.
“It was a coming together and it was a bit harsh, but the boy has got to learn, but he’s a top player,” Ball said.
A lethargic first-half, devoid of chances, only brought about a free header for Tranmere’s Peter Clarke and a scuffed volley for Forest Green’s Scott Wagstaff.
Collins picked up a stoppage-time yellow for simulation on the edge of the box when taking a dive under a challenge from Manny Monthe.
Forest Green nosed ahead on 50 minutes – Davison with a sumptuous finish beyond Joe Murphy after the ball dropped to him from a Kane Wilson cross. Seven minutes later Adams was handed a second yellow after an aerial challenge on Calum Macdonald.
Forest Green made it two with nine minutes to go – Collins converting the penalty he won himself after Murphy upended him in the box.
Deep into six minutes of injury time a thumping Morris strike handed Tranmere late consolation.
Meanwhile, Tranmere boss Keith Hill insists he will learn more about his side in the final game at home to Colchester, after the result confirmed Rovers were unable to secure automatic promotion.
He said: “We huffed and puffed and left ourselves exposed. We conceded two bad goals.
“The opposition did exactly what you’d expect them to do with 10 men. It’s a learning opportunity for the players.
“We made a mess of two or three phases of play that led to them scoring.
“I’ll probably learn more about the players and their mentality as they go into this last game.”