IT WAS disappointment for Rocester at Hillsfield on Saturday when their bid to reach the last 16 of the FA Vase was ended by North West Counties League outfit Runcorn Town.
In a game of few chances the Cheshire side took advantage of two defensive slips to come from behind to win the game. But the Romans will have few complaints after their gritty performance failed to produce enough in front of goal.
The early signs looked bleak for Rocester who were put under pressure from a series of free kicks and dangerous inswinging corners.
But it was Dave Langston’s side who drew first blood against the run of play in the 19th minute after Edwin Ahenkorah forced a corner. Ryan Grocott delivered it into the six-yard box from the left and Darren Bullock stole in unchallenged to send a downward header into the net.
Unfortunately for Rocester their lead lasted little more than a minute. Another free kick, this time floated in from Runcorn’s right by Sam Bailey, saw Romans keeper Richard Froggatt get down smartly to save Paul Shanley’s header. However, the ball slipped from Froggatt’s grasp and Mark Keddie was on-hand to stab home.
With their tails up the visitors continued to keep Rocester pegged back and with better finishing could easily have wrapped the game up. Danny Dalton headed a great chance narrowly wide, and then Stuart Wellstead collected a poor clearance just outside the area only to lob the ball over the bar.
The half time whistle came at a good point for Rocester, allowing manager Langston the opportunity to shuffle his pack by introducing left-back Carl Allen and reverting to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation.
The change certainly gave the Romans a foothold in the game and they began to enjoy more possession. However front-runners Chris Sterling and Edwin Ahenkorah were afforded little time and space in and around the area and Karl Wills in the Runcorn goal was largely untroubled
Jack Langston’s header from Mensah Kinch’s cross just after the hour was comfortably dealt with by Wills. And going into the final 15 it was Langston again who threatened with a ferocious first-time effort from fully 25 yards that just cleared the bar.
With both teams tiring on the heavy surface the scales tipped decisively in Runcorn’s favour nine minutes from time when a harmless-looking cross-field pass was not dealt with by Bullock.
The speedy Shanley darted in to take the ball before Bullock could put it out of play. He raced away into the area and although his low shot was well saved by Froggatt, the ball came back off the near post to James McShane, who had the simplest of tasks to tap into the net.
There was no way back for the weary Romans, whose lack of matches in recent weeks had clearly caught up with them. They kept going forward but made little impression, and it was the visitors who came closest to adding another goal when Keddie’s powerful long range effort was tipped over the bar by Froggatt.
Three minutes of added time failed to produce a clear chance, and Runcorn will now meet the winners of the tie between Walsall Wood and Hanworth Villa.