GALLANT Rocester were left ruing their misfortune after producing a gutsy display against bogey team Tipton at Hillsfield on Saturday.
The Romans appeared to be heading towards a well-deserved point after matching their top-six opponents throughout the game.
But they were cruelly flattened in the 80th minute by substitute Danny Ashton, who popped up with the only goal of the game to take the points back to the Black Country.
It was rough justice on Dave Shaw’s team, but they can take many positives and great encouragement from a performance that belied their lowly league position.
Rocester’s lively opening saw Liam Shaw fire the game’s first chance narrowly wide of the target, and as both teams looked to force an early breakthrough their respective goalkeepers produced a magnificent save each to keep the game scoreless.
Stoke City loanee Dominic Kurasik, making his second appearance between the sticks for Rocester in Richard Froggatt’s absence, was the first to shine when he reacted brilliantly to turn away Jordan Archer’s well-struck shot on the turn following a free kick into the area.
Then soon afterwards at the other end James Pemberton made an equally good save to tip over Simeon Lawrence’s rising shot that looked destined to find the net.
Mensah Kinch, one of three ex-Rocester players in the visitors’ line-up, was fortunate to escape punishment for a high tackle just before the break, as was Rocester’s Tom Brown early in the second period as tempers briefly began to fray.
However, some appropriate words from Potteries referee Scott Walker had the desired effect.
Aaron Cole’s strong run should have produced a great chance for the Romans but he delayed his cross too long and when he did deliver the ball it went behind all three of his team-mates who had made runs into the area.
As Rocester continued to press a powerful 25-yard strike from Errol Johnson was comfortably held by Pemberton, but a double substitution for the visitors gave them some fresh legs going forward which proved just enough to turn the game in their favour.
There was a warning sign when Archer skipped through the defence and clear into the area, only for Kurasik to make an excellent save with his feet, and then shortly afterwards the young goalkeeper’s poor clearance gave another chance to Archer, who blazed his shot horribly wide from a decent position.
Rocester again threatened through Cole, who had tried his luck from distance several times during the game without ever troubling Pemberton. This time his shot was on target but easily gathered by the stopper.
The crucial breakthrough came 10 minutes from time when sub Ben Hadley made a good run on the left of Rocester’s penalty area.
Paul Whalley looked to have covered the threat but when he suddenly dropped to the ground with a foot injury Hadley was able to deliver his cross unchallenged.
For a moment the danger looked to have passed as the ball flew across the goal, but a Tipton player collected it on the far side and pulled back into the middle where Ashton turned it into the net from close range.
GOALS: Ashton 80 (Tipton).
ROMANS: Kurasik, T Brown, Dillon, Whalley, Allen, Wain, Barlow, Ellerton (Johnson 54), Shaw, Lawrence (Rutland-Jones 82), Cole. Subs not used: Holland.
TIPTON: Pemberton, Rogers, R Perks, Gater, Waterhouse, Kinch, M Perks (D Ashton 66), Wherton, Archer (Hill 83), Nisbett, Rabone (Hadley 66). Subs not used: Ganderton, G Ashton.
YELLOW CARDS: T Brown (Romans).
REFEREE: S Walker (Stoke).