GRESLEY manager Martin Rowe bemoaned a series of injuries and a missed penalty after a late winner gave Romulus all three points on Saturday
The Moatmen lost Marc Strzyzewski to an ankle injury just moments after he netted the game’s opener on six minutes.
Liam Guest (shoulder) was a second casualty in the first quarter of the match, before Alex Steadman’s weak penalty towards the start of the second half allowed Roms the opportunity to snatch victory at the death.
“In the second half we allowed Romulus to bully us,” said Rowe. “When you haven’t got guys like Liam Guest, who is a six-footer, and Strez (Strzyzewski) who is also a six footer, you are relying on Jamie Barret and Mitch Hanson to do all the work.
“We missed a penalty – Alex Steadman didn’t hit the ball hard enough which was unfortunate, as it would have put us back in the lead.”
Rowe stuck with almost the same squad which beat Kidsgrove one week earlier, with the only change being the introduction of recent signing Serge Makofo in place of Rob Spencer.
On a 3G artificial surface, with a stiff wind behind them, Gresley started well, winning an early corner before Eric Graves forced a save from Romulus keeper Paul Evans.
Romulus also had an early chance with Daniel O’Callaghan heading Tom Turton’s cross narrowly over the bar.
The Moatmen took the lead when Graves found Makofo, who flew down the right flank before putting over the perfect cross for Strzyzewski to head home from the centre of the box.
That was almost the last action for the big defender, who damaged an ankle when he landed awkwardly a few minutes after scoring and was replaced by Mickey Lyons on 11 minutes.
The early change seemed to unsettle the visitors and Romulus took advantage to level.
A cross from the left found Luke Shearer unmarked at the far post, and he made no mistake with his header which went in off the upright.
A minute later Gresley were inches away from regaining the lead.
Lyons’ free kick from the left flew through the box, but eluded both Guest and Mitch Hanson running in at the far post.
Gresley were dealt a second blow on 21 minutes when Guest, who had landed heavily on his shoulder earlier in the game, had to be replaced by John Guy.
Minutes later the Moatmen had regained the lead. Another superb run down the right by Makofo ended with a cross which Steadman drilled home at the near post.
Things were all square in less than 60 seconds. Straight from the re-start Romulus capitalised on a slip in the Gresley backline and O’Callaghan strode through and coolly slipped the ball past the exposed Mats Morch.
Gresley then created two decent chances to retake the lead. The first came from a long free kick by Morch, which Hanson met solidly but his header flew over the bar.
Then, Makofo almost got on the end of a loose ball as Evans failed to hold onto a low shot from Steadman.
As the first half was drawing to a close Hanson was unlucky once more, when his perfectly met header from Lucas Harrison’s corner scraped the top of the bar.
The opening moments of the second period proved a fairly even affair, before Gresley were handed a golden chance to once more take the lead.
Steadman was scythed down in the area and referee Scott Postin did not hesitate as he awarded a penalty kick.
An incredible seven penalties in six consecutive games have been awarded in matches involving Gresley – but this time the decision went in their favour.
Steadman chose to take the kick himself, but a combination of the keeper choosing the right way and a weak kick enabled Evans – diving full length to his left – to keep the scoreline level.
Guy had a half chance with 10 minutes remaining, but his sweetly struck shot whistled the wrong side of the upright.
Gresley seemed to tire in the final minutes and Romulus’ fresh legs began to cause problems as the hosts started to get on top.
Reid forced a fine save from Morch, with a shot which the keeper did well to hang onto at his near post.
Reid tested Morch again minutes later with a strongly hit shot – but the young Norwegian was up to the task, saving well.
However, Morch could do nothing about Romulus’ third goal.
A corner from the left was not cleared and the ball landed nicely for substitute Lee Smith, who rifled his shot into the roof of the net from close in.
It was a sickening blow for both for the Gresley players and the travelling faithful, who at the very least deserved to take a share of the points home with them.
Fans will have been buoyed by the performance of Makofo.
Rowe said: “Serge Mokofo put two crosses in and we scored two goals. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the ball to him enough.
“Every time we did get the ball to him in the second half there were three players around him. It was an impressive full debut.”