Stratford Town 1 v 1 Rocester
ROCESTER almost pulled off a memorable victory on Saturday as they came within five minutes of inflicting a first league defeat of the season on Stratford Town.
Teenager Ryan Grocott’s goal on 69 minutes looked like it would give understrength Rocester — missing skipper Craig Holland and defensive lynchpin Darren Bullock — all three points.
Edwin Ahenkorah then hit the post for Dave Langston’s braves.
But Joe Halsall struck with just five minutes left to break Rocester hearts and keep Stratford’s unbeaten start in the Midland Alliance going.
The draw drops Rocester down to 10th in the table, while Stratford remain top.
Both sides made a cautious start and it was 10 minutes before the first effort of the afternoon, with Grocott’s shot from 20 yards sailing harmlessly over.
Town responded with Halsall setting up a chance for Tony Robinson, but he failed to get enough power into his shot and it was a comfortable save for Rocester keeper Richard Froggatt.
Town then enjoyed a real slice of luck when Carl Allen curled a free kick into their six-yard box from the right and Harry Donaghy’s miscued attempt at a clearance spun against the far post before being hacked away.
On the half hour, Tyrone Fagan worked a shooting opportunity for himself, but Froggatt made a smart save low down.
Froggatt then had to sprint off his line to beat Fagan to a through ball from Ricky Baker, and with Halsall and Aaron Forde controlling the midfield, Town began to exert pressure.
Chris Sterling was willing to shoot from distance whenever he had sight of goal and when he let fly from 25 yards in the 40th minute Town keeper Brendan Hazlett had to plunge full length to his left to deny him.
On the stroke of half-time Froggatt pulled off a superb save to keep out Robinson’s bullet header after he met Aaron Stringfellow’s cross.
Town were much more lively straight from the restart but the Romans were quick to break when they had the chance.
Froggatt pulled off another smart stop from Robinson’s fierce volley after substitute Aaron Lait got through down the inside-right channel.
And as if to prove how important the save was, Rocester broke upfield a couple of minutes later to stun the home faithful by taking the lead.
The pacy Mensah Kinch floated over a cross from the right which was turned past Hazlett by the unmarked Grocott.
Only the woodwork kept the Romans from going two up with a quarter of an hour to go as Edwin Ahenkorah escaped down the left and his thunderous drive cannoned back off the far post.
The tricky Ahenkorah then worked his way in to shoot against Hazlett from a narrow angle before Town piled forwards again.
Another brave block from Froggatt kept out a rasping effort from O’Grady, but he was finally beaten in the 85th minute when the ball broke to Halsall in the middle of a crowded penalty area and he lashed it into the back of the net.
GOALS: Grocott 69 (Romans); Halsall 85 (Town).
TOWN: Hazlett, Stringfellow, Donaghy, Edwards, Parker, Forde (Faulds 86), Bailey (Lait 57), Halsall, A Robinson, Fagan, Baker (O’Grady 74). Subs not used: R Robinson, Reynolds.
ROCESTER: Froggatt, Rogers, Allen, McComisky, Johnson, Swain, Kinch, Langston, Sterling, Ahenkorah, Grocott. Subs: Perks, D McLeod, K McLeod.
YELLOW CARDS: Langston (Rocester). Bailey (Town).