Dover Athletic 0-1 Forest Green Rovers

Brett Williams

Brett Williams signed for Forest Green in January after his contract at Stevenage was terminated

Forest Green Rovers have the advantage in their National League play-off semi-final after a narrow, hard-fought victory in the first leg at Dover.

Brett Williams, who scored the only goal in Forest Green’s win at Dover in their final match of the regular season on Saturday, curled the visitors ahead.

The hosts almost levelled late on when Stefan Payne struck narrowly wide.

Dover must now win Saturday’s second leg at the New Lawn to reach 15 May’s final at Wembley.

Grimsby host third-placed Braintree Town in the first leg of their semi-final on Thursday.

Forest Green, who sacked manager Ady Pennock just one week before their first leg to give the side the “best possible chance in the play-offs”, according to chairman Dale Vince, are looking to reach the Football League for the first time in their history.

Caretaker boss Scott Bartlett has now led the Gloucestershire club to two victories in his two games in charge – both away to Dover – ending a seven-match winless run.

Rovers, who lost to Bristol Rovers in last season’s semi-finals, had suffered an early blow when an injury to Marcus Kelly saw him replaced by Williams on 12 minutes.

But after the hosts twice failed to clear a right-wing cross into the box, substitute Williams had time to curl an exquisite effort into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Dover’s best chances came just before half-time but Forest Green defenders Charlie Clough and Dale Bennett did well to block Ricky Miller and Payne efforts respectively.

The scoreline could have been better for the visitors – who completed an entire league season without failing to score away from home – but Elliot Frear volleyed over.

Forest Green Rovers caretaker boss Scott Bartlett told BBC Radio Gloucestershire: “There are no wild celebrations because we all know there are twists and turns in play-offs.

“I wanted to come here and win. We’re in a great position. We need to prepare properly now for Saturday.

“I’m confident we’ll actually get promoted. I’ve got to be, because it rubs off on the players. But they’re confident as well.”

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