ROCESTER’S run of three matches unbeaten was brought to an abrupt halt when they travelled to face Loughborough University on Saturday.
Despite starting brightly, the Romans trailed by a single goal at the break before Tristan Dunkley’s second half brace put the result beyond doubt.
Loughborough had an early chance when Jack Emmett beat Jason Beardsley and slotted the ball past Rocester keeper Richard Froggatt, only to be denied by a goal line intervention by Carl Allen.
However, it was the Romans who were creating the greater number of chances, and top scorer Dan Brown spurned two opportunities to put the visitors ahead.
Firstly he was set free by Paul Whalley but his lobbed effort went straight into the hands of Brendan Hazlett, and he then fired a free kick directly at the keeper having been hauled down on the edge of the box by Daniel Brenan.
Tom Ellerton had a low shot held by Hazlett, and the Romans midfielder then turned provider by beating Johannes Mueller before sending a cross-field ball to Brown, but the striker could not keep his shot down.
Ellerton then had a shot of his own sail over the bar, while Hazlett made a brave stop at Brown’s feet after he had been released by a through ball from Errol Johnson.
Rocester were made to pay for their failure to take their chances as an energetic Loughborough side grew in stature.
A foul by Beardsley on Emmett saw the Loughborough man send over a free kick that just eluded everyone, while a foul by the same player presented Dunkley with the opportunity to curl an effort on target and require Froggatt to make a good stop.
Loughborough were in front eight minutes before half-time when a foul by Marc Strzyzewski resulted in a free kick just inside the Rocester half, and when this was delivered in to Jack Beckett the striker executed a neat turn in the box before firing low across Froggatt’s goal and into the bottom corner.
The Romans then made a poor start to the second half as a powerful strike from Dunkley three minutes after the break doubled Loughborough’s advantage.
The closest Rocester came to scoring occurred when Liam Shaw’s overhead kick ricocheted off the bar, with Brown firing the follow up at Hazlett.
The same players linked well when Shaw headed a flick-on to his strike partner, only for Hazlett to win the race for the ball.
Froggatt made another solid stop when Jack Poxon went past Beardsley and struck for goal, and again when Beckett’s shot took a touch off Allen.
The Romans rallied slightly and Whalley made a good attempt to steer a header toward goal after meeting Aaron Dillon’s excellent near-post delivery, while Shaw found his route to goal blocked after being fed by Brown.
But it was Loughborough who possessed the superior attacking threat at this stage, and it took an excellent covering challenge from skipper Allen to halt Dunkley after the hosts launched a quick counter attack.
Poxon fired wide of an open goal after meeting Emmett’s square ball on 72 minutes, but a minute later it was 3-0 to the hosts after Dunkley was left unmarked at the far post to smash the ball home.
With Rocester still in disarray a minute later Beckett broke clear, but an outstanding sliding tackle from Dillon on the edge of the penalty area averted the danger.
Brown was unable to get the ball from under his feet after being played in by Shaw and Ellerton had a shot blocked, but it took late saves from Froggatt to prevent George Nash and Poxon from extending Loughborough’s lead.
GOALS: Beckett 37, Dunkley 49, 73 (Loughborough).
LOUGHBOROUGH: Hazlett, Meuller, Williams, Nash (Musselwhite 84), Brenan, Wilkinson, Emmett, Herbert (Lemon 54), Poxon, Beckett, Dunkley (Downey 80). Sub not used: Sales.
ROMANS: Froggatt, Beardsley (Rutland-Jones 68), Dillon, Whalley, Allen, Wain, Ellerton, Strzyzewski, L Shaw (D Shaw 84), Brown, Johnson. Sub no used: Holland.
ROMANS STAR MAN: Aaron Dillon – looked accomplished in an unfamiliar defensive role.
REFEREE: S Hill.