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EMPATHY not sympathy – a mindset which might be easier said than applied when Jake Thomson faces former club Kettering Town tonight (7.45pm).

Midfielder Thomson joined Forest Green from Kettering last September, since when the struggling Nene Park outfit have suffered financial implosion and struggled to pay their players.

A winding-up petition next week could prove harder to stave off than relegation, and off-field traumas are certain to overshadow this evening's Blue Square Bet Premier action.

Thomson, 22, has kept a close eye on the Poppies' plight and is better placed than most to lift the lid on how it is affecting his former team-mates.

"It's a horrible situation to be in, and I've experienced it at Kettering and Southampton for a time," he said.

"You try to keep playing and giving your all but it's tough when you're not being paid.

"In the back of your mind you're worried about that or getting an injury which might stop you getting a move somewhere else.

"I just want the Kettering boys to keep going and give their all for the fans down there, because they are the ones who suffer the most.

"But we've got to stick to our own gameplan, which is getting the ball down and passing and trying to create chances."

Thomson has proved to be Rovers' Mr Versatile this season, beginning life at the New Lawn as a winger before switching to central midfield and even filling in as an emergency centre-half at Kidderminster Harriers on Boxing Day.

A rare off-day against Gateshead on Saturday saw him substituted in the 59th minute, and he admits he faces a battle to keep his place tonight.

Nonetheless, he was thrilled to see Liam Henderson grab a 78th winner as Dave Hockaday's side battled back from a goal down to triumph 2-1.

Thomson said: "A few weeks ago I think we might have caved in at 1-0 down, but it shows the strength of character the boys have gained now that we managed to recover.

"I wasn't doing too well and the gaffer brought me off for the good of the team.

"There are a lot of players at the club now and a lot of quality. No-one knows who is going to start each game.

"It would be nice to play against Kettering but I'm sure whatever team we put out will have more than enough to get a win."

Hockaday could opt to start with Michael Pook – Thomson's replacement at the weekend – this evening. Defender Eddie Oshodi picked up a knock against Gateshead but is expected to be fit, meaning bench duty again for another ex-Poppy Luke Graham.