The Emirates F.A. Cup Extra Preliminary
Boldmere St. Michaels 3 Rocester 3
Rocester skipper Tom Land netted a last-gasp equaliser to earn his side a Tuesday night replay in Saturday’s F.A. Cup Extra Preliminary, but that hardly begins to tell the tale of what was a real rollercoaster of a game.
At one stage the Romans had led 2-0, but after being pegged back to 2-2 they were reduced to ten men following the dismissal of Sam Griffiths. When the Mikes scored a third goal with less than three minutes of the 90 remaining Rocester looked to be dead and buried, but Land had other ideas and his bullet header deep into stoppage time provided a dramatic finale and a fully deserved replay.
Rocester could hardly have hoped for a better start when, in only the third minute of the game, Josh Williams and Rob Ritchie-Smith combined well on the left. Ritchie-Smith fed the ball inside to Tom Brown, who unleashed a powerful 20-yarder that whistled into the net.
Ritchie-Smith was only just off-target with a low drive, but he made no mistake in the 26th minute when he capitalised on a poor clearance to double Rocester’s advantage. He still had plenty to do when he received the ball some 25 yards from goal, but after leaving a defender on the floor with some neat footwork he entered the penalty area before steering the ball past goalkeeper Sean Butler.
From a seemingly comfortable position however, the tide quickly began to turn. Within two minutes Boldmere reduced the deficit through Stuart Capaldi, who made no mistake after the Romans failed to clear a ball into the area.
Karl Demidh then went close to restoring the two-goal cushion when Andrew Mottershead’s free kick fell to him on the edge of the area, but his shot drifted narrowly wide of the far right-hand post with the keeper struggling.
With the interval fast approaching there was more drama when Charisma Agbonlahor drilled home a fine shot to wipe out Rocester’s lead, and the tide turned further when Romans midfielder Sam Griffiths was shown a red card for a high tackle right in front of the home dug-out. It was mistimed rather than malicious, but with a foot raised the referee had little option.
The Romans now had a survival battle on their hands, and they set up to defend in depth while trying to hit the Mikes on the break. The tactics looked like working perfectly as they kept the home side at bay for long periods.
Despite conceding much of the possession it was in fact Rocester who created the better openings. Demidh forced a great tip-over from Butler with a speculative effort after his own corner had been cleared back out to him, and Mottershead’s driven free kick cleared the bar by a foot or two.
With ten to go a great chance fell to Demidh who was sent clear of the defence. But he could only watch in frustration as his early shot beat Butler before passing just the wrong side of the far post.
Another Mikes substitute Jack Skinner was presented with a golden opportunity after Kyle Wadsworth was beaten by a high bounce. In on goal, Skinner took aim with a low shot but Richard Froggatt made a great save, getting a finger-tip at full stretch to concede just a corner.
All Rocester’s hard work appeared to have been wasted when the Mikes snatched the lead in the 87th minute after Land had needlessly given away a free kick between the corner flag and the penalty area. It was floated in by Wilkinson, Agbonlahor got his head to it and the ball nestled into the net after cannoning off Troy Carty’s head as he tried to block it.
In keeping with the eventful nature of the game there was a big finish still to come. Almost three minutes into stoppage time Rocester won a corner, and with everybody pushed forward including goalkeeper Froggatt, Demidh delivered a deep ball to the back of the area where Land arrived to send a rocket of a header into the net.
It was no more than Rocester deserved, and set up a Tuesday night replay at Hillsfield when the tie must be settled – the winners will face a Preliminary Round tie at Leek Town later in the month.
Scorers: Mikes – Capaldi (28), Agbonlahor (41) (87). Romans – Brown (3), Ritchie-Smith (26), Land (90+3).
Romans: Froggatt; Wadsworth; D.Allen; Land; Mottershead; Moran; Brown; Griffiths; Williams (Carty 80); Demidh; Ritchie-Smith. Subs not used: Nutt; C.Allen; Martin.
Referee: Mr. R. Brookes (Kidderminster).