Jamille Matt & Matty Stevens: Forest Green's 'Matt Attack' making their mark in League Two

By Sophie HurcomBBC Sport
Jamille Matt and Matty Stevens celebrate scoring against Northampton in League Two
Matt (left) and Stevens' partnership has been prolific for Forest Green this season

With 27 goals in 26 matches, Forest Green Rovers' Jamille Matt and Matty Stevens are one of the most prolific partnerships in the Football League this season.

Dubbed the 'Matt Attack' by the club's in-house podcast team, Matt and Stevens' scoring rate has helped their team climb to the top of League Two.

At least one of the pair has scored in 65% of Forest Green's matches so far.

"For most strikers 20 goals is the magic mark," Matt told BBC Sport.

"Everyone talks about a 20-goal season for a striker - if we can get two of those this season that would be unbelievable."

Matt and Stevens have started all but one of Forest Green's league fixtures together this year and each has 11 league goals to their name - in six matches they both got on the scoresheet. More goals have been picked up in the EFL Trophy, Carabao Cup and FA Cup.

While both players were at Forest Green last season, they shared limited playing time. Matt was the club's top scorer with 16, but previous manager Mark Cooper sent Stevens on loan to Stevenage, and when he did play it was mostly from the bench.

"We probably didn't have the opportunity to play together as much as we would have liked," Matt said.

"We're similar in that we both want to be in the box and that's why we're getting the goals. We both complement each other, Matty especially - his work-rate is unbelievable."

Jamille Matt plays for Forest Green against Harrogate
Matt scored his 11th league goal of the season in the 4-1 win over Harrogate

Both players point to current manager Rob Edwards, who was appointed in May, for looking at their skillsets with a fresh pair of eyes and seeing how they can evolve.

"Before I met him, he called me and I know he called all the other boys as well and said 'look, come in, everyone's on a fresh start and will be given an opportunity'," Stevens said.

"Whereas before I sort of saw my time at Forest Green slowly fading away because the opportunities didn't come."

Complementary styles

There may be similarities in Matt and Stevens' style of play, but for any successful strike partnership to work forwards must complement each other in their differences.

At 6ft 1in, Matt describes himself as a "traditional target man" while Stevens prefers more of a free role in the box.

"I like to be around the centre of the pitch and play as high as possible. I thrive off crosses into the box from the wings, also obviously like to bring others into play," Matt said.

"I agree with him," Stevens interjects. "But as you can see against Bristol Rovers, Jamma's got a bit of pace and runs in behind as well. He says he's a target man, but he has got the other side to his game, too.

"I don't really score many goals from outside the box. And a big thing for me, the height and size of Jamma and how much he is in the air it takes defenders away from myself. It frees me up a little bit more to decide whether I feel like the ball's going to drop.

"That's a big part in why I've got so many goals here."

Matty Stevens runs away from Northampton's Shaun McWilliams with the ball
Stevens has been a regular starter this season after joining Forest Green in 2019

A bit of healthy competition is to be expected between strikers, more than any other position on the pitch where the rewards are so high. Matt and Stevens say that competitiveness has pushed them to perform even better.

"It's always good to have that competition, it does push each other on," Matt said.

"Also lads like Marchy [Josh March] and Youngy [Jake Young] who probably haven't played as much as they'd like to, but the competition they provide for us helps us to keep pushing on and makes sure we're always on top of our game."

"There's a bit of competition there, but I get enjoyment seeing him score because I know how much the partnership means to me," agrees Stevens.

"When he scores it's a great thing as well. I wouldn't say it's as good as myself scoring, but it's probably the next best thing!"

A winning ethos

Edwards has applied a philosophy which is clearly working for Forest Green, who go into Saturday's game at Oldham Athletic on an eight-match unbeaten run in League Two.

Automatic promotion to League One is the clear aim, having reached the play-offs last year where they were beaten by Newport County.

Forest Green manager Rob Edwards praises Matty Stevens as they beat Stevenage 4-0
Stevens praises manager Rob Edwards for giving him newfound opportunities at Forest Green

Matt and Stevens agree that the fact they get on well off the pitch helps their performances on it, but both insist their prolific goalscoring is only possible because of the high standard of the whole squad.

"Me and Jamma have been scoring goals but that's not just down to us, that's down to the other boys as well," Stevens said.

"Momentum is a massive thing and at the minute we're on a really good run, but I think the thing that's massive amongst the squad is the hunger to keep going," Matt added.

"All teams need goalscorers and we're happy to be sticking those away. Long may those continue."

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