ROCESTER boss Mark Kavanagh rung the changes for the visit of last season’s Midland Alliance runners-up Westfields on Saturday.
Had his new charges made more of their impressive start to the game they might well have come out on top against the traditionally tough to beat Hereford side.
Kavanagh gave debuts to midfielder Leadon Dunlevy and striker Benn Minshull, and also introduced a third new starter from the bench in Ryan Rutland-Jones towards the end of the game.
However, the Romans spurned three great chances inside the opening 10 minutes before allowing the pattern of the game to change in an all too-familiar fashion.
They then allowed an opponent a free header deep inside their penalty area to go a goal down.
It looked promising for Rocester when a superbly-flighted ball into the area from the left picked out Danny Chattwood’s run behind the full back, and although Chattwood met it with a strong, well-directed header visiting keeper Matt Gwynne dived to his right to make a fine full-length save.
Rocester’s early zip continued when Aaron Cole’s excellent cross found new boy Minshull in front of goal, but the former Gresley youngster wasted the opportunity by firing it over the bar.
Chattwood then missed the target with a low shot from just inside the area before Westfields took the sting out of the Romans by taking a 13th minute lead with their first serious attack of the game.
Brad Birch had space on Westfields’ right flank to make ground into the area, and he was able to pull the ball back to the unmarked Carl Morgan who sent a good header past Wayne Smith into the net.
It changed the tone of the game as Rocester lost their momentum, and although Westfields also provided little action going forward, they were content to hold their advantage without forcing the game.
The game continued in much the same vein, Rocester making little headway going forward and Westfields sitting in and looking to break when the opportunity arose, and it almost worked for them in the 70th minute when a long diagonal ball found Josh Hunt on their right.
Hunt twisted past John Littler and squared the ball to Birch, who lifted his shot over the bar from a great position.
Five minutes later a similar ball into space behind the Romans defence saw Birch race clear into the area, and he coolly slotted the ball past Smith to double the visitors’ advantage.
A flurry of substitutions gave Rocester a bit more of a lift for the last quarter and they at last started to ask some questions with a couple of efforts from range.
Aaron Cole tested Gwynne with a well-struck free kick that the keeper held low down, and four minutes into stoppage time substitute Aaron Dillon netted a consolation with a stinging 18-yarder that Gwynne got a hand to but could not prevent from going in.
The Romans face another difficult test on Saturday when they visit a much-improved Coleshill Town side, who have made a good start to the season. Kick-off at Pack Meadow is at 3pm.
GOALS: Dillon 90 (Romans). Morgan 13, Birch 75 (Westfields).
ROMANS: Smith, Cole, Littler, Skidmore, Allen, Whalley, Brain, Dunlevy, Chattwood, Minshull, Gough. Subs not used: Spencer, Daley.
WESTFIELDS: Gwynne, Thomas, O’Leary, Whittall-Williams, Aldrich, Sheppell, Jones, Sirrell, Hunt, Birch, Morgan. Subs not used: Emery, Sitch, Griffiths, Wargent, Connor.
YELLOW CARDS: Romans – Skidmore, Dunlevy, Cole.
REFEREE: P Stonier (Stoke).