ROCESTER ended a sequence of five straight defeats with a comprehensive 4-1 win over fellow strugglers Heather St John’s at Hillsfield on Saturday.
In what was deemed a must-win game by manager Dave Shaw, the Romans got off to a flying start with a goal inside the first minute.
Although their opponents wasted a golden opportunity to equalise a few minutes later, the hosts never really looked back.
George Barlow netted the all-important opener with a speculative chip from the corner of the penalty area, catching George Woodward off his line and dipping just over the back-pedalling keeper.
Their perfect start should have been undone almost immediately when a ball over the top of Rocester’s defence saw Stuart Hendrie race through unchallenged, but he horribly miscued his shot way over the bar.
It proved a costly miss as Rocester quickly doubled their advantage with a second goal on seven minutes through Nick Ward – making his first appearance since coming on as a substitute to score against the same opponents 14 months ago.
Ward got up superbly to meet Tom Brown’s corner with a meaty header that gave Woodward no chance.
The Romans looked comfortable with skipper Carl Allen, making his 250th appearance for the club, in fine form at the heart of their defence alongside Dan Wain.
But the Saints were given a way back into the game on the half-hour mark when Tom Brown’s tackle on Dean Withers was deemed to have been made with excessive force by Potteries referee Ken Swift, and Troy Wallen squeezed his penalty past Richard Froggatt – despite the keeper getting a good hand to it at the foot of his post.
However, any nerves were soon settled when Dan Brown got in behind his marker and, with just Woodward to beat, coolly slotted the ball into the net.
Rocester nearly nosed further ahead when centre-half Wain met another Tom Brown corner, but his header was blocked before being cleared.
Wide midfielder Tyrone Wilson, who joined Rocester from Eccleshall earlier in the week, showed good pace during an impressive home debut, but was unceremoniously clattered by Daniel Chapman early in the second half.
Adam Kana-ah was also booked as the visitors unsuccessfully attempted to unsettle the Romans.
Although the game lost some of its edge, it was Rocester who looked the more likely to add to their tally.
Wilson pulled the ball inside to Ward, who scuffed his shot into the side-netting.
Then, after doing well to collect a free kick inside the area, Ward teed up Barlow for a shot on goal, but his effort was blocked on the line.
The game was made safe inside the last 10 minutes with another high-quality finish from Dan Brown – his 12th goal in 14 starts since joining in December.
Brown was too quick for Nathan McAllister as he latched onto Dan McDonald’s excellent pass into the right channel.
As Woodward came out from his goal Brown expertly dinked the ball over the keeper for number four.
Continuing to press, more chances came Rocester’s way. Dan Brown slipped a pass through the defence for Simeon Lawrence, who forced an excellent save from Woodward.
From the resulting corner Barlow grazed the top of the bar with a rising shot. In the closing moments Heather were denied a consolation when Froggatt made a fine save, acrobatically finger-tipping Withers’ 18-yard curler onto the bar.
GOALS: Barlow 1, Ward 7, D Brown 37, 81 (Romans). Saints – Wallen 30 pen (Saints).
ROMANS: Froggatt, T Brown, Dillon, Whalley, Allen, Wain, Wilson (Lawrence 80), Barlow, Ward (L Shaw 80), D Brown, Upton (McDonald 40). Subs not used: Rutland-Jones.
SAINTS: Woodward, C.Wright, Kana-ah, Baines, McAllister, Chapman, Healy, Lonsdale (Bucpapaj 59), Wallen, Hendrie (Woodbine 72), Withers. Subs not used: Lock, Hateley, J Wright.
YELLOW CARDS: T Brown (Romans). Chapman, Kana-ah, Baines (Saints).
REFEREE: K Swift (Stoke).