Friday 8th September 2017
F.A. Vase 1st Qualifying Round
Nuneaton Griff 5 Rocester 8 (AET)
By Sam Goldsworthy
Friday Night Thriller as Romans progress in the Vase
In what was a once in a blue moon game, Rocester made it through to the 2nd Qualifying Round of the Buildbase FA Vase on Friday evening with an unforgettable 8-5 victory over Midland League Division One side Nuneaton Griff.
It certainly wasn’t a game for the faint hearted as Rocester came from behind before surrendering a 4-2 lead, only to end the ninety minutes at 4-4.
There was a huge let-off when Griff hit the bar in the last minute of the 90, but as the game moved into extra time the Romans found that extra bit of quality, grit and determination to score four more times to see them through to the next Round where they will travel to Heather St. John’s.
Something of an injury crisis and players missing through work commitments left boss Danny Martin short of options, and he was only able to name three substitutes with only one of them, young striker Sam Bates, really fit to play.
Both sides exchanged early efforts with Matt Brennan for Griff and Ryan Griffin for the Romans setting their sights, however after a decent enough start from the Romans it was Griff who drew first blood in the 21st minute.
A long range shot was saved by Charlie Wood but he couldn’t hold onto it and it fell kindly into the path of Brennan who had no trouble following up to put the rebound in.
Griff had their tales up and were prepared to have a go at their higher-ranked visitors, but Rocester survived near misses when Steve Merry headed over and Craig Jee shot wide before hauling themselves level.
Rob Ritchie-Smith had dragged a shot wide after an excellent build-up, but a fantastic run into the box by Oli Roome opened up the home defence and he finished it off with a lovely shot past George Woodward in the home goal.
Rocester were beginning to find their feet after a rough spell, and just before half time they grabbed the lead. James Frost provided a superb cross and Roome arrived to send a brilliant header into the net, giving the keeper no chance.
Any thoughts that the Romans would now see the game through without too much difficulty were well and truly thrown out the window three minutes into the second half when Griff leveled things up again with an audacious long-range effort from Brennan who saw Wood off his line and thumped a big 40-yarder over the back-pedaling stopper into the net.
The Romans had to go again, but as much as their forward play was good their defence was struggling against a direct Griff front line.
Two goals in the space of four minutes however, appeared to have given the Romans enough breathing space. Martin Smyth struck the first of them with a superb 25-yard free kick, and Ritchie-Smith increased the lead with a well-directed header from Roome’s cross.
But again Griff refused to throw in the towel and Lee Hewitt held off a couple of challenges as he burst onto a through ball before slipping a low shot past Wood.
Then two minutes from time Matt Lamb capitalized on some more tired defending to make it 4-all from close range.
Their comeback was almost completed in stoppage time when a shot cannoned off the bar, but Rocester made the most of their lucky break with three quick goals in extra time.
Ritchie-Smith with a great run and shot (96), Roome with a poacher’s goal to complete his hat-trick (100) and another stunning free kick from Smyth (103) gave the Romans a 7-4 lead at the midway point.
Hopes of another comeback for Griff increased when Hewitt reduced the deficit soon after the restart, but this time there was no way back for them and Smyth sealed the win by completing his hat-trick four minutes from the end with another excellent finish.
Scorers: Griff – Brennan (21) (48); Hewitt (73) (109); Lamb (88). Romans – Roome (37) (44) (100); Smyth (63) (103) (116); Ritchie-Smith (67) (96).
Romans: Wood; Frost; Pratt; Bromley; Lansdowne; Allen (King 111); Ritchie-Smith; Griffin (Bates 81); Roome; Smyth; Riddell. Subs not used: Brockley; Lynch.
Referee: Mr. R. Cairns (Bedworth).