INJURY-ravaged Rocester wasted an opportunity to collect some much-needed points against Stourport Swifts at Hillsfield.
With six players missing and at least two more taking the field carrying knocks and strains, manager Dave Shaw was forced to name himself on the bench as one of only two substitutes, but his team still created enough chances to have won the game before their opponents hit back to clinch a narrow 2-1 win.
The Romans should really have opened the scoring inside the opening minute when Tom Brown’s pass down the right touchline gave Dan Brown the chance to break forward.
The striker reached the 18-yard line before touching the ball inside to the on-rushing Liam Shaw, but his first-time shot was too weak to seriously trouble Sam Walker, who made a comfortable diving save.
Rocester’s bright start was rewarded in the 15th minute with a terrific strike from leading scorer Dan Brown.
Richard Froggatt’s wind-assisted free kick upfield was flicked on to Brown by Liam Shaw, and with his back to goal, Brown hit a super volley on the turn from the corner of the area that whistled into the top corner.
Another golden opportunity came Shaw’s way 10 minutes later when he raced into the six-yard box to meet Dan Brown’s cross, but with the goal at his mercy the young striker sent his header the wrong side of the post.
It soon proved to be a costly miss as the Swifts came back to level things up three minutes before the break through right-back Jordan Jones, who smacked a fine half-volley past Froggatt after a deep cross from the left dropped over Aaron Dillon’s head.
Dillon then joined the list of injured Romans when he failed to reappear for the second half with a groin strain.
Dan Brown was narrowly off target with a driven free kick early in the second half and soon afterwards he hooked another shot just over the bar as the Romans continued to enjoy the better chances in what was a closely fought contest.
However, it was Stourport who grabbed the decisive third goal of the game in the 74th minute to clinch the points.
Their dangerous twin strike-force of Lewis Pountney and John Griffin had largely been kept quiet by the Romans rearguard, but when a long free kick down the centre was flicked into his path Pountney wasted no time in steering the ball past Froggatt.
Rocester tried to get back into the game but in truth never looked as though they would.
Aaron Cole’s free kick into the side-netting 10 minutes from time was as close as they came.
The two teams meet again at Stourport on Tuesday evening, but Rocester will have one eye on next Saturday’s crunch six-pointer against fellow relegation candidates Heather St John’s at Hillsfield.
GOALS: D Brown 15 (Romans); J Jones 42, Pountney 74 (Swifts).
ROMANS: Froggatt, T Brown, Dillon (Johnson 46), Whalley, Allen, Wain, E Jones, Upton, L Shaw, D Brown. Subs not used: D Shaw.
SWIFTS: Hawker, J.Jones, Hyde, Briscoe, Willets, Walker, Dinsley, Hurrell, Pountney, Griffin, Parsons-Smith. Subs not used: Curtis.
YELLOW CARDS: Upton, L Shaw (Romans); Hyde (Swifts).
REFEREE: S Simpson (Stoke).
FORTHCOMING FIXTURES: Saturday, March 22: Rocester v Heather St John’s, 3pm; Tuesday, March 25: Rocester v Tividale, 7.45pm; Saturday, March 29: Dunkirk v Rocester, 3pm.