SUSPENSION-HIT Rocester stretched their unbeaten Midland Alliance run to seven matches with a well-earned point against second-placed Stourport Swifts at Hillsfield on Saturday.
Still missing three key players, the Romans had a difficult job on their hands against a lively Swifts outfit determined not to lose any more ground on leaders Stratford Town.
But boss Dave Langston drafted in four players before the game to boost the numbers and his team responded perfectly to the challenge.
Overnight rain meant for another heavy pitch and for the first 20minutes it was the visitors who adapted better to it.
Their twin strike force of Lewis Pountney and John Griffin, with more than 20 league goals each so far this season, provided a constant threat, but Rocester’s defenders led by the combative Wayne Johnson at the heart of the defence allowed them little opportunity to display their goalscoring credentials.
The Romans grew into the game after Stourport’s bright opening and Mensah Kinch on Rocester’s right jinked his way into the area before delivering a low cross that was somehow not turned into the net by one of either Darren Leonard or Edwin Ahenkorah before it was cleared.
Then in the 33rd minute another good move down the right saw Joe Rogers gallop away on the overlap and his excellent cross was only pushed up into the air by goalkeeper Lewis Solly.
Darren Bullock arrived to send a looping header towards the goal only for Jamie Willets to scoop the ball off the line.
The Romans were in the ascendancy, but four minutes before the interval they shot themselves in the foot when Dan McLeod missed a clearance and Griffin raced away to put the visitors ahead with a clinical finish.
It was a cruel blow and the situation might have worsened early in the second period when Pountney got in behind Rocester’s defence.
This time, however, Richard Froggatt was able to make a super save, parrying the ball to Dean Bromley, who was able to boot it clear from inside the six-yard box.
A surging run from substitute Ashley Bennett, one of three players loaned in from Lichfield City on the day, paved the way for Rocester’s 72nd minute equaliser.
Bennett showed good pace to move past two defenders before a one-two with Ahenkorah released him into the area where he was brought down by a lunging Tim Jackson tackle.
There were no complaints when referee Dragan Kuzmanovic pointed straight to the penalty spot and Ahenkorah duly dispatched the spot kick perfectly.
Both teams tried, and came close to winning the game in the final quarter.
Ahenkorah’s long-range effort was grabbed at the second attempt by Solly as Kinch raced in on the loose ball, while Pountney had another great chance for Stourport when he turned in the area, only to slice his shot wide.
Finishing strongly, it was Rocester who threatened again following a neat crossfield move that ended with Adam Swain pulling the ball back to Bennett.
But his venomous shot was bravely stopped by Mark Benbow’s head as the defender slid across to block.
GOALS: Ahenkorah 72 pen (Romans); Griffin 41 (Swifts).
ROMANS: Froggatt, Rogers, Bromley, McLeod, Bullock, Johnson, Kinch, Swain, Leonard (Sturgess 58), Ahenkorah, Bourne (Bennett 58). Subs not used: Bull, W Evans.
SWIFTS: Solly, Jones, Jackson, Willets, Benbow, Hurrell, Walker (Adams 88), Dinsley (Kirby 80), Pountney, Griffin, Seekings (Polan 66). Subs not used: K Evans, Williams.
YELLOW CARDS: Bullock, Sturgess (Romans). Pountney, Griffin, Dinsley (Swifts).
REFEREE: D Kuzmanovic (Lichfield).