DRAW specialists Rocester looked to be heading for a fourth consecutive Midland Alliance stalemate until a late Chris Sterling brace sealed all three points against Coventry Sphinx at Hillsfield on Saturday.
Sterling broke the deadlock in the 80th minute and put the game beyond doubt with his second goal four minutes into stoppage time, but it was a difficult afternoon for Rocester who were up against a Sphinx side that had not conceded a goal in their last three league outings.
Had Sterling been as clinical with his finishing 10 minutes into the game it might have been a more comfortable ride for the Romans.
The striker was in a great position with the ball falling perfectly for him eight yards out and he really should have found the net, but his well-struck shot was too close to Sphinx keeper Carl O’Neill, who made a good save.
That turned out to be the highlight of a largely uneventful first half in which both defences had the measure of their opposing forwards, and although that remained the case after the break there was more urgency and purpose to Rocester’s play going forward.
On the hour, Mensah Kinch chased into the area after a through ball but was just beaten to it by O’Neill, who stayed on the ground injured after Kinch had hurdled over his outstretched legs.
Kinch had done nothing wrong, but while O’Neill was receiving treatment the referee and his assistant decided otherwise and a yellow card was shown to Edwin Ahenkorah, who had been nowhere near the incident.
Sphinx posed their biggest threat from set pieces and it was from one of several free kicks pumped deep into the Romans area that they came close to taking the lead through Ben Atkins, who got up well only to head over the bar.
Sterling’s diagonal run from right to left ended with a powerful low shot that flew narrowly wide as O’Neill scrambled across his goal, then soon afterwards at the other end Harry White blasted another Sphinx free kick high over the bar.
As both teams looked to win it, it was Sphinx again who went close, this time through Kyle Rhodes, who with his back to goal chested the ball down before hitting a good effort on the turn which cleared the bar by a yard.
Richard Froggatt restarted the game with a long kick upfield which was headed on by Darren Leonard into the Sphinx area.
With several players homing in on the loose ball it was half-cleared by a defender as far as the on-rushing Sterling, who whipped a lovely first-time shot into the net from the right of the area.
Rocester had looked the most likely to nick it, and although Sphinx pushed forward in search of a late equaliser they never seriously tested Froggatt.
Deep into time added on, a break down Rocester’s right by Kinch led to Sterling’s second goal.
Kinch danced his way into the area and was unlucky to see O’Neill deflect his shot up against the underside of the bar.
A defender tried to clear the danger as the ball came down but his attempted clearance came back off the post to Sterling who made no mistake from close range.
GOALS: Sterling 80, 90 (Romans).
ROMANS: Froggatt, Rogers, Allen, D McLeod, Bullock, Langston, Kinch, Swain, Sterling, Leonard, Ahenkorah (McComisky 84). Subs not used: K McLeod, Johnson, Bromley, Pirrie.
SPHINX: O’Neill, Ritson, Jackson, Bilic, Atkins, Guest, K Johal, Rhodes, White, Cutting, McNally (Muldoon 84). Subs not used: J.Johal, Hill, Connolly, Richey.
YELLOW CARDS: Ahenkorah (Romans); Guest (Sphinx).
REFEREE: S Checketts (Brierley Hill).