Rocester 1 Stafford Rangers 1

Tuesday 11th July 2006
Rocester 1 Stafford Rangers 1
Pre-season Friendly
At: Hillsfield
Kick-off: 7-30 pm
Attendance: 174
Weather: warm and sunny
Duration: first-half: 44:54; second-half: 44:15

With the close season over, there was no better way to start the 2006/07 season than a trip to the familiar destination of Rocester. Some 66 days ago, I was there at the Pirelli Stadium celebrating Stafford's win over Droylsden to win that covered place back in non-league's top flight.

It always seems to be warm and sunny whenever I visit Rocester and this evening was no exception. Stafford Rangers created a hat-full of chances but in the end needed a late equaliser from Dave Walker to gain at draw against a side that ply their trade in the Midland Alliance.

To reach the ground from the A50 roundabout adjoining McDonalds at Uttoxeter, take the B5030 to Rocester (also signposted for Ashbourne and Alton Towers). After approximately four miles turn right (opposite the JCB factory) over the narrow bridge into Rocester village. At the mini-island turn right into Mill Street and the ground was 500 metres on the left, just past the former cotton mill.<

here was a large car park, on grass, at the rear of the ground. Entering the ground from this side, all the facilities were to the left with a press/PA box, tea bar, social club, changing rooms and seated stand. Opposite on the Mill Street side, was a small area of cover containing benches.

Phil Robinson named a strong and familiar starting line-up lacking Danny Edwards and Nathan Smith, both sidelined by injury. In fact, the only trialist in the starting line-up was ex-Port Vale defender Steve Rowland though plenty of trailists were waiting for their chance in the second half.

Rocester (wearing amber shirts, black shorts and socks) got the game underway in bright sunshine attacking the mill end ofthe ground in the first half.

The lively Robin Gibson was inches away from giving Stafford the lead inside the first minute. He got on the end Neil Grayson’s knockdown and sent a shot flashing past the top-left corner.

Never at their best, but then again this was the first outing of the season, Rangers (wearing last season's black and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks) dominated the Romans in the first half and created a number of good chances. Amongst them, Kevin Street was unlucky to see a low shot rebound off a post while Grayson was thwarted by a brave block by keeper Brad Clark.

As expected at the interval, both teams made wholesale changes. Rocester brought on five substitutes for the second half while Stafford boss Phil Robinson replaced all his players bar Liam Murray.

Rocester replaced Mike Ruddock with Richard Owen in the 57th minute and then upset the form book by taking the lead a minute later. Jemiah Richards brought down Kyle Esplin inside the area and Rowley beat former Accrington keeper Danny Alcock from the spot.

Player-manager Robinson replaced Liam Murray in ther 62nd minute and saw his side dominate without success in front of goal. Ed Booth twice headed over from crosses by ex-Wolves man Simon Osborne while Dave Walker saw a close-range shot pushed on to the bar by Clark.

With time running out, good work on the left by Jamie Phoenix ended with Walker firing low past Clark from inside the area.

Boro finished on the attack with both Phoenix and Delapo Olaoye going close to netting the winner.

Full credit to Rocester for gaining a draw in this curtain raiser.

First half
Rocester (amber/black/black): 1. Brad Clark, 2. Pete Johnson, 3. Carl Allen (capt), 4. Mark Grimley, 5. Mick Ede, 6. Dave Brown, 7. Kevin Milward, 8. Chris Rowley, 9. Mark Ruddock, 10. Nick Ward, 11. Steve Caswell.
Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Steve Rowland, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Craig McAughtrie, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Craig Lovatt, 7. Lee Downes, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Neil Grayson, 10. Liam Murray, 11. Robin Gibson.

Second half
Rocester: 1. Brad Clark, 14. Matt Johnson, 17. Darren Braithwaite, 6. Dave Brown, 3. Carl Allen, 12. Martin Gadsby, 15. Liam Sowter, 8. Chris Rowley, 7. Kevin Millward, 9. Mark Ruddock, 16. Kyle Esplin. Subs: 18. Richard Owen (for Ruddock, 57).
Stafford Rangers: 17. Danny Alcock, 2. Danny Whittaker, 5. Jemiah Richards, 4. Ed Booth, 10. Liam Murray, 15. Ged Murphy, 14. Simon Osborn, 16. Stacy Caldicott, 17. Jamie Phoenix, 9. Dolapo Olaoye, 12. Dave Walker. Sub: 3. Phil Robinson (for Murray, 62).

Referee: Steve Nixon (Stoke).

1-0 Chris Rowley (59 pen)
1-1 Dave Walker (83)