Rocester 4 Continental Star 0

Tuesday 21st August 2012
Rocester 4 Continental Star 0
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Hillsfield
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 118
Duration: first-half: 45:04; second-half: 51:01

Plenty of choice tonight, unexpectedly, with the car no longer ‘ailing’ after its successful service and MOT. While my two nearest clubs Stafford Town (away at Bloxwich United whose ground I last visited less than a year ago) and Brocton (at home to Atherstone) both had games tonight, I fancied the Midland Alliance clash at Hillsfield which pitted fourth-placed Rocester against third-placed new boys Continental Star. It turned out to be a good choice as Rocester played some exciting passing football with Edwin Asante-Ahenkorah bagging a brace in an impressive 4-0 win for the Romans which lifted them into the top three.

Looking closely at Continental Star, they won the Athium Midland Alliance Premier Division title last season to earn promotion to the Midland Alliance. They are managed by Delton Francis, a former Stafford Rangers player who scored 9 goals in 15 games during the 2001/02 season – six of those goals came in the 15-0 win over Kidsgrove Athletic! Assistant Manager Darren Wright also played for Stafford Rangers and leading the attack tonight was Dan Holgate, another former Rangers player who predominately played for the County League side as a defender.

Both sides made a decent start to the season. Rocester (7 points from 4 games) won their opening two league games and, after winning in the FA Cup at Stone Dominoes, lost at home to Dunkirk last Tuesday and drew at Bridgnorth Town three days ago. Unbeaten visitors Continental Star (7 points from 3 games) drew with Dunkirk on the opening day then recorded win at Heath Hayes and at home to Studley as well as winning their FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie.

Continental Star are considered a real title contender and, with their strong start to the season, so should Rocester. This was my 13th visit to Hillsfield, though a bit of a rarity as only two of the previous twelve have been for competitive games – May 1989 v Blakenall and last November against Chasetown. Teams were announced on the tannoy and pinned up near to the tea bar though Barry Smith, the Secretary, did let me have a teamsheet. Thanks Barry. Good to read my ‘Pitch-side Stories’ article in the programme!

Continental Star (wearing red shirts with blue shorts and socks) got the game underway defending the Arkwright Mill (now JCB Academy) end in the first half.

The first decent chance came in the 11th minute. Jack Langston received a short free-kick and crossed into the area where Carl Allen headed across the face of goal. In a decent contest between two positive passing sides, Rocester continued to create all the chances and, just before the half-hour, Edwin Asante-Ahenkorah forced a smart near-post save out of Star goalkeeper Karl Hunter.

A nasty challenge by Aaron Garvey on Jack Langton 30 yards out led to Rocester taking the lead in the 35th minute. Ryan Grocott sent the resulting free-kick past the helpless Hunter into the top-right corner.

With an unbeaten run in league games stretching back to last Christmas, the visitors looked to quickly get back on level terms and almost equalised just before the break. Richard Froggatt raced to the edge of his area in an attempt to head clear a throughball. Rikardo Reid picked up the loose ball and sent a lob towards the seemingly unguarded goal but a defender got back to brilliantly head clear.

Wayne Johnson could have doubled Rocester’s lead early in the second half but sent a close-range header straight at Hunter. At the other end, Dan Holgate saw a header cleared off the line amid appeals for handball.

I felt that the team which scored the next goal would go on and win the game and it was the Romans who found the net in the 56th minute. Hunter failed to hold Allen’s left-wing cross and the ball dropped into the net off the challenging Asante-Ahenkorah.

“Tonight’s attendance is 118”, the biggest of the season for a league game.

I thought the quality of football at times was superb and Rocester put the outcome beyond doubt just after the hour mark with a third goal. Chris Sterling sent captain Craig Holland who dribbled clear into the area and slotted home from a narrow angle.

I watched the second half sat in the stand, close to a group of Continental Star officials/fans who despite the scoreline retained plenty of optimism for the last half hour. “If we get one, we’ll get three,” said one and another replied, “25 minutes to get three goals”.

But Rocester’s night got even better just after those comments with a fourth goal. Grocott found Asante-Ahenkorah inside the area on the left and the pacy striker slipped a low shot ‘through’ Hunter into the net.

On the field, the Continental Star players shared the optimism of their officials and they kept on plugging away for a breakthrough. Froggatt was kept busy with diving saves from Jason Powell and Davion Hamilton. “Even if a consolation, we want a goal,” commented one of the Star officials.

In the closing stages, Langston almost scored a fifth goal for Rocester. He spotted Hunter off his line and hit a dipping shot on target from halfway which the goalkeeper somehow got back to push clear.

Perhaps the only frustrating thing all evening for Rocester occurred in stoppage time when Sterling needlessly picked up a second booking for blocking a quick free-kick. Hunter, already booked, was fortunate not to head to the changing rooms as well for handling outside his area.

I drove home buzzing about the performance I’d seen from Rocester, wondering how Stafford Town had got on at Bloxwich. Alas, the Reds went down 1-0 at the Red Lion Ground. Brocton lost 4-1 at home to Atherstone Town.

Rocester (amber and black stripes / black / black): 1. Richard Froggatt, 2. Chris McComisky, 3. Joe Rogers, 4. Wayne Johnson, 5. Rob Perks, 6. Carl Allen, 7. Jack Langston, 8. Craig Holland (capt), 9. Chris Sterling, 10. Edwin Asante-Ahenkorah, 11. Ryan Grocott. Subs: 12. Adam Swain (for Johnson, 76), 14. Craig Smith (for McComisky, 71), 15. Darren Bullock (not used), 16. Nick Ward (for Perks, 76), 17. Johnathon Baker (not used). Manager: Dave Langston.

Continental Star (red/blue/blue): 1. Karl Hunter, 2. David Stewart, 3. Natty Brown, 4. Aaron Garvey, 5. Franklin Hazell, 6. Tony Green, 7. Davion Hamilton (capt), 8. Ezekiel Thompson, 9. Dan Holgate, 10. Rikardo Reid, 11. Dwayne Robinson. Subs: 12. Ibrahim Benjamin (for Reid, 64), 14. Waza Mutambirwa (for Brown, 71), 15. Jason Powell (for Green, 62), 16. Ricardo Swaby (not used), 17. Lewis Wright (not used). Manager: Delton Francis.

Referee: Trevor Sharratt (Burton-on-Trent).
Assistants: P. Brown (Rugeley) and J. Conde (Cannock).

1-0 Ryan Grocott (35)
2-0 Edwin Asante-Ahenkorah (56)
3-0 Craig Holland (61)
4-0 Edwin Asante-Ahenkorah (67)

Rocester: Jack Langston (YC, 44), Chris Sterling (YC, 64), Craig Smith (YC, 84), Chris Sterling (YC/RC, 90+1)
Continental Star: Natty Brown (YC, 11), Aaron Garvey (YC, 34), Ezekiel Thompson (YC, 50), Karl Hunter (YC, 86)