Midland Football League Premier Division
Rocester 3 Heanor Town 2
Rocester picked up a vital three points on Saturday with an excellent 3-2 success over Heanor Town at Hillsfield.
Leading 3-0 until late in the game the Romans appeared to be cruising towards a well-earned victory over their top six opponents, but Joe Naylor scored twice in the last few minutes for the visitors to set up a nail-biting finish.
Romans manager Danny Martin was able to recall central defenders Jordan Simpson and Ashleigh Lynch, Tom Brown into the heart of midfield and skipper Martin Smyth, all of whom missed the midweek League Cup Quarter Final exit at the hands of Hinckley AFC.
Heanor responded with Elliott Reeves sending a low drive narrowly wide of Richard Froggatt’s goal although the keeper did look to have it well covered.
Froggatt’s resulting goal kick then led to the opening Romans goal, which arrived under fortuitous circumstances in the 22nd minute. Roome and then Smyth helped the ball forward from midfield to Seb Szondi, who turned into a tackle from Keenan Layton only for the ball to cannon off the unfortunate defender and sail 20 yards over keeper Joe McCormack into the net.
Froggatt kept Rocester’s noses in front with a solid double-save from Jay Cooper followed by a comfortable save from Dom Wilkinson’s hopeful long-range effort, but the Romans were sniffing again when Joe Brockley’s pass found Roome inside the area only for the young striker to fire way off target from an angle.
Brockley’s ball forward in the 36th minute resulted in the Romans doubling their advantage, and what a strike it was from Callum Riddell. Receiving Szondi’s pass inside from the right, Riddell nonchalantly looked up and clipped a superb shot into the top right-hand corner from 18 yards.
Rocester continued to press and after a Brockley free kick was clawed out by McCormack there was a let-off for the visitors when Szondi leapt to head Riddell’s defected cross towards the net. A defender hoofed the ball clear but despite Rocester’s claims that it had crossed the line the match officials were unconvinced and waved play-on.
There was no real let-up after the break as Heanor looked for a way back into the game. A good spell for the visitors saw a couple of efforts flash wide of Froggatt’s goal and the keeper was called upon to palm a curling cross away at the far post, but it was Rocester who almost nicked a third goal when James Frost’s cross from the right bounced off the top of the bar with McCormack struggling to get back.
With ten to go, Frost sent Riddell down the right and his long cross was picked up on the left of the area by Matt King. His first time pass into the six-yard box picked out Roome and he stabbed it over the line to give Rocester a three-goal cushion.
But Heanor weren’t quite dead yet. Naylor side-footed what looked to be a late consolation in from Reeves’ pass, and in stoppage time with Heanor piling players forward he found the net again from close range when a cross dropped perfectly to him.
Rocester held out a further three minutes but only just – another Reeves cross could easily have been turned in by Jay Cooper but he didn’t connect properly.
T.G. Sargeant & Sons Man-of-the-Match – Jordan Simpson.
Romans: Froggatt; Frost; Nutt; Brockley; Simpson; Lynch; Riddell; Brown; Roome; Smyth; Szondi. Subs used: King; Bates.
Referee: Mr. A. Hall (Wolverhampton).
Top Right - Seb Szondi makes a tackle
Above left - Callum Riddell celebrates his goal with Tom Brown and Martin Smyth
Above Right - Callum Riddell clashes with a Heanor Town defender
Left - Seb Szondi, not sure what he's doing!