Midland Football League Premier Division
Long Eaton United 0 Rocester 1
Rob Ritchie-Smith scored a stunning goal to mark his 100th Rocester appearance on Saturday, and it proved to be just enough for the Romans to continue their winning streak with a 1-0 win at Long Eaton United.
The midfielder found the net in the 9th minute with a superb shot that flew inside the far post after he had collected Karl Ashton’s pass out wide on the right.
It was a quality finish worthy of winning any match, but despite claiming their fifth straight win in all competitions and making it eight since their last defeat, the Romans were slightly fortunate to come away with all the spoils after a below-par second half performance and a number of let-offs as the home forwards failed miserably in front of goal.
Jerome O’Connor’s mazy run into the Rocester area ended with a shot off-target and Michael Towey stung Richard Froggatt’s hands after he was allowed to turn in the box as Long Eaton showed some early intent, but with both teams looking to get forward a quickly-taken free kick almost gave Seb Szondi an opening for the Romans only for a defender to slide the ball out for a corner before Szondi could take aim.
Ritchie-Smith had already sent a couple of terrific balls across the goalmouth before he opened the scoring, and as the end to end action continued Shaun Rickford’s free kick for Long Eaton bounced off Froggatt’s right-hand post although the keeper looked to have it covered had it been on target.
Another whipped-in cross from Ritchie-Smith caused havoc in the home defence, and as they struggled to clear the danger Szondi’s drive from the edge of the box was beaten out by Jamie Hannis.
Rocester were looking comfortable for a period but they weren’t able to extend their lead as Hannis easily gathered up Callum Riddell’s 25-yard punt and Martin Smyth’s hopeful long range effort sailed over the bar.
The home team then had a couple of sniffs when Andy Todd’s shot was deflected over the bar before O’Connor’s snapshot was well blocked by Froggatt.
A flowing Rocester move ended with Riddell feeding the ball out to Ritchie-Smith but his shot was saved low down at the near post by Hannis, and moments later at the other end Towey fizzed a shot across the Rocester goal after a good break down the left.
The Romans just about deserved their interval lead, but after the break they were almost non-existent as an attacking force and had to rely on their defensive resilience to come through unscathed.
Central defenders Darren Bullock and Tom Land mostly looked to have everything under control as they snuffed the home forwards out time and again, but Todd grazed the upright with a back post header and Kevin Hemagou clipped a great chance over the bar when clean through.
Substitute Adam Kemp had only just entered the fray when he was presented with a chance but Froggatt pounced quickly to grab hold of the ball, and with time running out another home substitute Blair Anderson sent a header over the top from a great position.
It may not have been pretty but Rocester’s grit and determination to see the game out was impressive.
Goals: Romans – Ritchie-Smith (9).
Long Eaton: Hannis; McKeever; Randle (Kemp 82); Lister (Rooney 75); McCormick; Towey; Piliero; Todd; Hemagou; Rickford (Anderson 60); O’Connor. Subs not used: Sucharewyz; Dakin.
Romans: Froggatt; Frost; Chatfield; Land; Bullock; Griffiths; Ritchie-Smith (C.Martin 79); Szondi (Simpson 75); Ashton; Smyth; Riddell (Brockley 75). Subs not used: Shaw.
Referee: Mr. L. Martin (Chelmsley Wood).