ROCESTER slipped back into the Midland Alliance bottom three after a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Coventry Sphinx on Saturday.
Two late goals made the scoreline a little flattering for the hosts, but the Romans have no grounds for complaint after failing to impress against an average Sphinx team.
In only the second minute the hosts almost opened the scoring when Luke Downes managed to clip a neat shot over Richard Froggatt – despite being under pressure from two Romans defenders on the edge of the area.
However, his effort pinged back into play off the left upright.
The Romans rallied briefly and created a couple of half chances without testing home keeper Carl O’Neill, but it was Sphinx who looked the more dangerous going forward.
The hosts went close again when Ashley Jackson drilled a powerful shot a foot too high after picking up a clearance 20 yards out.
Jackson made a telling contribution minutes later, when he cut inside from the right touchline and delivered a left-footed cross.
Luke Williams had ghosted in behind the defence and he opened the scoring with a downward header which bounced over the diving Froggatt.
Sphinx continued to hold the upper-hand, and another chance fell to Jackson who this time scuffed his shot wide after Froggatt came out to make a good block from Jackson Downie.
At last Rocester began to make some inroads into the game and during the lead-up to half time they should have levelled things up. Froggatt’s long clearance was cleverly flicked on by Liam Shaw to his brother Dave, who in turn held the ball up before laying it off into the path of Tom Ellerton.
Ellerton did not do a lot wrong with a well-struck low shot which was destined for the far left corner, but O’Neill dived full length to make a great save.
Unfortunately for Ellerton and Rocester, that was the last part he played in the game after aggravating the hamstring injury that had kept him out for the two previous weeks.
Ellerton’s injury did, however, pave the way for the long-awaited return of midfielder Brent Upton – sidelined for the last 12 games with a fractured ankle.
Rocester continued their best spell and were unfortunate again when Liam Shaw’s goal-bound header was deflected away for a corner.
A huff and puff second half offered little goalmouth action, although Rocester did enjoy some success on their left flank, where Aaron Dillon once again provided their biggest threat after moving forward from the left-back berth.
However, after combining well with Upton, Dillon’s low angled drive was safely stopped by O’Neill at the foot of his near post.
Froggatt came to Rocester’s rescue in the 70th minute with a marvellous flying save to turn away Luke Williams’ hook-shot, while at the other end Dillon’s fine run beat the offside trap only for O’Neill to make another outstanding one-on-one save to concede a corner.
With Rocester committing players forward Sphinx had a late opportunity when substitute Gio Dainty’s 18-yard effort clipped the outside of Froggatt’s right-hand post.
And with just two minutes remaining Rickie Cutting ensured the points went to Sphinx when he doubled their advantage with an easy finish.
Luke Downes glanced in a header three minutes into stoppage time to complete a miserable afternoon for the Romans.
SCORERS: Sphinx – Williams (21), Cutting (88), Downes (90+3).
SPHINX: O’Neill, Sullivan, Fowler, Wilks, Fletcher, Jackson (Baxter 58), Cain (Dainty 74), Cutting (Dodds 88), Williams, Downie, Downes. Subs not used: Hill; Bilic.
ROMANS: Froggatt, T Brown, Dillon, Whalley, Allen, Wain, Barlow, Ellerton (Upton 36), L Shaw, D Shaw (Rutland-Jones 62), Johnson.
YELLOW CARDS: Sphinx – Fowler. Romans – D Shaw, T Brown, B Upton.
REFEREE: I Jackson (Birmingham).