INJURY-hit Rocester gave their survival hopes a huge boost after staging a dramatic late comeback to beat Shepshed Dynamo at the Dovecote on Saturday.
After a goalless first half the Romans found themselves two-nil down within 10 minutes of the restart, but three goals inside an amazing final 15 minutes turned the game on its head and sealed a vital three points for Dave Shaw’s side, who remain just above the relegation places.
Midfield trio Brent Upton, Tom Ellerton and George Barlow all missed the trip to Leicestershire, while fitness doubts Liam Shaw and Alfie Holland both started but failed to finish the game.
Goalkeeper Richard Froggatt returned to the line-up after missing two games to make his 300th appearance for the club, and was given the captain’s armband for the day.
A keenly contested opening half-hour produced little in the way of chances, but as the hosts began to get on top the Romans somehow survived when Steve Chaplin drilled a shot against the left upright following a free kick into the area.
Jonathan Jones poked home the rebound but his effort was ruled out by an offside flag, then just moments later Chaplin again got into space on Shepshed’s right and clipped the top of the bar with a powerful strike.
Froggatt was called upon to push away a well-struck free kick after Carl Allen was harshly adjudged to have fouled Chaplin just outside the area, but the real action was yet to come.
Just five minutes into the second period Shepshed finally got their noses in front but in fortunate circumstances.
The dangerous Jones made a good run into the area before delivering a low cross, which Allen only succeeded in slicing into his own net after the ball took a bobble as he attempted to clear.
There was nothing fortunate about their second goal five minutes later as Shepshed doubled their lead through tricky left-winger Alun Webb, who beat two defenders as he jinked into the area before curling a lovely finish inside the far right post.
There did not appear to be a way back into the game for Rocester, who almost went further behind when Jones’ shot hit the bar and also when Sam Cook fired over after being teed up in a good position.
However, a change in formation which saw left-back Aaron Dillon pushed forward worked wonders as the former Gresley man played a huge part in swinging the game in Rocester’s favour.
Dillon reduced the deficit with a sublime dipping volley in the 76th minute after Ryan Thacker had punched Tom Brown’s free kick clear of the area.
Suddenly the momentum was with the visitors, who very nearly equalised minutes later when Dan Brown was just crowded out as he looked to get on the end of Dillon’s slide-rule pass in from the left.
Rocester did not have to wait long, however, when a sweeping move starting from Simeon Lawrence in the centre circle saw the ball pushed out wide to Dillon.
His pin-point cross picked out Dan Brown, whose shot was only beaten out as far as Errol Johnson, and he neatly tucked the ball inside the post to level things up.
Having hauled themselves back from the dead, Rocester might have thrown it away when Froggatt’s poor goal kick resulted in Jones racing clear, but his angled shot drifted agonisingly wide of the far left post.
The Romans capitalised in wonderful fashion four minutes from time.
Dillon was again pivotal with an excellent run down the left flank and a weighted pass inside to Aaron Cole, who dribbled along the 18-yard line from left to right before firing a lovely low shot back inside the left–hand post.
GOALS: Allen 50og, Webb 55 (Shepshed); Dillon 76, Johnson 82, Cole 86 (Romans).
SHEPSHED: Thatcher, Pritchard, Cook, Gray, Guest, Martin (Bennett 46), Mulonga, Thompson, Chaplin (Cooper-Richards 68), Jones, Webb. Subs not used: Kirk, Bradshaw, Byrne.
ROMANS: Froggatt, T Brown, Dillon, Whalley, Allen, Wain, Johnson, Cole, Shaw (Lawrence 13), D Brown, Holland (Rutland-Jones 56). Subs not used: D Shaw, Cannon.
YELLOW CARDS: Cole, Allen, T Brown, Lawrence (Romans).
REFEREE: M Law (Loughborough).
FORTHCOMING FIXTURES: Saturday, March 8 – Coventry Sphinx v Rocester, 3pm; Wednesday, March 12 – Continental Star v Rocester,7.45pm; Saturday, March 15 – Rocester v Stourport Swifts, 3pm.