Rocester 2 v 0 Heather St John's
MAN-of-the-match Ryan Grocott and debutant Darren Leonard netted as Rocester won their first league game in more than three months.
The three points were welcome reward for the Romans after an extended Christmas break, particularly as this was a close encounter for much of the game.
It was also a first win in the Midland Alliance since September after postponements, disappointing results and two abandonments had seen Dave Langston's side fail to win in nine.
Visitors Heather appeared to have the edge in the opening stages, with both Ryan Nash and Daniel Tymon having chances, so it was somewhat against the run of play when Grocott fired the Romans in front on 15 minutes.
The winger did magnificently to cut inside and pull the ball back to Ryan Pirrie, and when the latter’s shot was parried by Saints keeper Peter Maguire it was Grocott who reacted first to score.
For the remaining 30 minutes of the first half there were few gilt-edged chances.
A half chance from Tymon bobbled just wide of the far post, while the same player saw a shot through a crowded box held comfortably by Richard Froggatt.
At the other end, Romans skipper Wayne Johnson saw a goalbound header hacked clear by Josh McPherson.
McPherson also produced an excellent recovery tackle to deny Mensah Kinch just inside the box after the bounce had beaten his defensive partner Dean Crowley.
Rocester hung onto their lead after the interval, but had Froggatt to thank for pushing Tymon’s powerful effort around the post with an excellent full-stretch save.
Froggatt also held an effort from Shane Gibbs as Heather pressed for an equaliser.
Aside from their aerial threat at set pieces, the Romans’ main outlet continued to be the talented Grocott.
The winger was unfortunate to be unable to get the power on a header from Adam Swain’s cross, and then when a speculative effort from the left wing landed on the roof of the net after almost catching out Maguire.
The introduction of the veteran Leonard reaped almost immediate rewards for Rocester, as within four minutes of coming on he met a ball from Kinch at the far post to double the lead.
This dealt a hammer blow to Heather’s hopes, and Leonard almost grabbed another shortly afterwards after forcing the rattled Crowley into giving away possession on the edge of the box.
The Romans at last looked in full control, and went close again in injury time when Grocott again cut inside from the left.
He left three defenders in his wake before pulling the ball back for Nick Ward to shoot wide.
GOALS: Grocott 15, Leonard 81 (Romans).
ROMANS: Frogatt, McComisky, Allan, Rogers, Johnson, Bullock (Ward 76), Pirrie (Leonard 78), Swain, Kinch, Sterling, Grocott. Subs not used: Bromley, McLeod.
HEATHER: Maguire, Gorle (Robinson 76), White, Tymon, McPherson, Crowley, Ellis, Smith (Wright 90), Gibbs, Price (Powell 40), Nash. Subs not used: Lewis.
YELLOW CARDS: Tymon, Smith (Heather).
ROMANS STAR MAN: Ryan Grocott — the Heather defence found him too hot to handle.
REFEREE: J Scerri (Stafford).