Tuesday 5th September 2017
Midland Football League Premier Division
Coventry United 2 Rocester 2
By Sam Goldsworthy
Point on the road as Romans draw at Butts Park
Rocester gained their first away point of the season after seeing out a late surge from league leaders Coventry United to gain a well-deserved 2-2 draw.
It was the Romansí first ever visit to Unitedís new home, Coventry Rugby Clubís Butts Park Arena, and they put in a fantastic 90 minute performance against a side that had a 100% record going into the game.
Rocester defended superbly throughout a tight first half, but took the lead soon after the break through Martin Smyth. However a straight red card for Unitedís Chris Cox seemed to galvanize the home side and they managed to turn the game around to lead 2-1 in the space of nine second half minutes. However the Romans battled back into the game and won a penalty with nine minutes remaining which Smyth confidently tucked away.
The fact that Danny Martinís side could only rely on one substitute due to Charlie Wood and Joe Brockley both being injured during the warm-up made the result even more impressive.
Goalkeeper Wood was a doubt before traveling to the game so Martin had taken the precaution of asking the recently retired Richard Froggatt to brush off the cobwebs and stand in if necessary. The rest of the side remained unchanged from the previous outing at Bromsgrove Sporting with the exceptions of Dean Bromley starting in central midfield alongside Carl Allen, with Ashleigh Lynch returning at centre back. Sam Bates was the only fit substitute named on the team sheet.
Early on it was the Romans who had the better chances. Smyth tried a cheeky chip in the first minute to try and catch out home goalkeeper Ash Maholtra, however he was wise to it and managed to catch the ball mid-air.
Next Oli Roome was sent through on goal only to be halted by an offside flag, but midway through the half Coventry United began to test their aim and Froggatt rolled back the years with a fine close range block to deny Josh O'Grady from inside the box.
Callum Riddell did manage to find Roome in space near the United box however the striker couldnít get his shot away and the ball was cleared.
The final chances of the half fell to the hosts, but Rocesterís resolve remained unbroken thanks to Froggattís diving save after Dean Bromley had given the ball away in midfield, and an off-target header from defender Robert Prinzel, who had come up for a corner.
Despite a lack of goalmouth action it had been a keenly contested and entertaining half with Rocester frustrating their lofty opponents, but the second period was to prove much more eventful.
Soon after the restart the Romans stunned the vociferous home crowd by taking the lead. Smyth collected the ball in midfield and dribbled a fair distance to just outside the area, where he was given the time and space to unleash a powerful low drive which nestled into the bottom left corner.
The game appeared to swing further in Rocesterís favour just before the hour when United were reduced to ten men. Smyth had conceded a free kick just inside the Romans half, injuring himself in the process, but as he lay on the floor awaiting treatment opposing captain Chris Cox kicked the ball straight at the grounded Romans player. This sparked a confrontation among the players from both sides, and after consulting with his assistants the referee cautioned Smyth for his initial challenge before showing Cox a straight red card for his actions.
Yet this seemed to galvanize the home team and their supporters, and they were soon back on level terms. In the wet conditions Froggatt dived to push away a long range free kick to his left, but the ball was played back into the goalmouth for Jeff Woodward to prod it home.
With their tails up United continued to press, and when a corner wasn't cleared Prinzel was on-hand to head powerfully into the top corner to spark mad celebrations from the home players and supporters.
However the Romansí never say die attitude was rewarded with nine minute to go. Smyth was played through with a ball over the top and as he chased onto it the Coventry keeper clipped him over. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and after the protests were waved away Smyth tucked it away confidently to level things up again.
The dogged Romans still had work to do as United pushed hard for a winner throughout seven minutes of stoppage time, but they couldnít find a way through and Rocester returned home with a well-earned point.
Scorers: United Ė Woodward (67); Prinzel (75). Romans Ė Smyth (52) (81).
Romans: Froggatt; King; Pratt; Bromley; Lansdowne; Allen; Lynch; Ritchie-Smith; Roome (Bates 79); Smyth; Riddell. Subs not used: Brockley; Wood.
Referee: Mr. W. Ottaway (Rugby).