Kirk bags late brace as Crewe end Forest Green’s automatic promotion bid

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Chris Porter opened the scoring for Crewe (Nick Potts/PA)

Forest Green had their automatic promotion hopes ended in dramatic fashion as Charlie Kirk netted a late double to hand Crewe a narrow 4-3 League Two win at Gresty Road.

Mark Cooper’s promotion chasers were within a point of the top three after goals from Reece Brown, Junior Mondal and Christian Doidge had turned the game around following Chris Porter’s opener.

But – after Joseph Mills’ own goal reduced the deficit – Kirk fired home at the far post three minutes from time after Tommy Lowery had whipped the ball across to make it 3-3.

He then he beat James Montgomery after the Rovers goalkeeper failed to clear his lines two minutes later to clinch maximum points and leave Forest Green three points off the top three with promotion rivals MK Dons and Mansfield to face each other in the last game of the season.

Rovers started poorly and trailed to Porter’s classy 18th-minute flicked finish following Tom Lowery’s searing run.

Yet they drew level in clinical fashion in the 36th minute when Dayle Grubb darted in off the left flank and set up Brown, whose powerful low shot from the edge of the box beat goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen.

The Crewe stopper then turned away another strike from the Forest Green midfielder.

The away side flexed their muscles with two goals in a five-minute spell soon after the break with first Mondal unleashing a half volley from the edge of the box into the top corner.

Crewe were at sixes and sevens when Mondal burst clear onto Doidge’s pass and returned the ball for his team-mate, who was left with a tap-in for the third.

But the Cheshire side were back in the game when Mills sliced Kirk’s cross into his own net just after the hour mark and Montgomery preserved Forest Green’s lead when he pushed out a fierce drive from the marauding Lowery.

Kirk’s late salvo may not have been the end of it as substitute Reuben Reid had his stoppage-time strike chalked off for handball.