ROCESTER were narrowly beaten by a youthful Port Vale team in a pre-season friendly at Hillsfield on Saturday.
The Romans enjoyed good periods throughout but their opponents took full advantage of defensive lapses early in the second half to build a healthy lead and although Rocester fought back well, they could not carve out a late equaliser.
Vale’s Omar Haughton had the ball in the net inside the opening ten minutes when he followed up after Richard Froggatt had spilled Lewis Bergin’s driven free kick, but his effort was ruled out by an offside flag.
Soon afterwards it was Rocester’s turn to threaten when Nick Ward met a corner with a solid header which was blocked by a defender. As the ball broke outside the area, Brent Upton’s first-time rasping shot cleared the bar by a yard.
Rocester were having some joy on their left flank and it paid off on 19 minutes when Ryan Grocott fed the ball back to Jason Beardsley, who delivered a lovely ball into the near post for Ward to net the opening goal, neatly heading the ball over Vale keeper Ryan Boot.
The lead was to last only seven minutes though, as a foul on the edge of the area presented Bergin with the opportunity to smash the ball past Froggatt and into the net.
After a good, even first half, the game swung Vale’s way 25 seconds after the restart when Luke Lewis punished some static defending with a well-executed chip over Froggatt’s head to give the Potteries side a 2-1 lead.
A little over ten minutes later, Haughton increased Vale’s advantage when he beat the offside trap and took the ball round Froggatt before sliding it into the net.
The Romans tried to get back into contention and twice came close when Ward headed a Tom M Brown corner narrowly over the bar and then saw a low shot saved by the diving Boot.
However, it was Vale who found the net again midway through the half when Dan Turner broke clear with the Rocester defence appealing in vain for offside, and he placed a good shot past Froggatt high into the goal.
At this point the game could have drifted completely away from the Romans, but to their credit they kept their heads and stuck to their task.
Aaron Dillon was unfortunate to see a well-struck free-kick deflected over the bar for a corner, and Ward did well to set Dan Brown up with a chance inside the area, only for Boot to save well with his feet.
Rocester were eventually rewarded for their efforts when Boot failed to deal with a Beardsley cross from the right and Liam Shaw got the final touch with his head to divert the ball in.
Five minutes later Ward was fouled inside the area and Dan Brown tucked away the spot kick to bring Rocester back within one goal of their opponents.
However they could not create anything in the closing stages to snatch a draw.
Romans Man of the Match sponsored by Steve Foster Cranes: Nick Ward.
GOALS: Ward 19, LShaw 78, D Brown 82 pen (Romans); Bergin 26, Lewis 46, Haughton 58, Turner 69 (Vale).
ROMANS: Froggatt; Tom M Brown; Beardsley; Dillon; Allen; Foster; Upton; Tom C Brown; Ward; D Brown; Grocott; subs (all used): Johnson; Shaw; McDonald.
REFEREE: L Sinclair (Newcastle-under-Lyme).