Heath Hayes 2 Rocester 1

Wednesday 3rd April 2013
Heath Hayes gave their chances of avoiding relegation a real boost with a 2-1 victory over mid-table Rocester. In what was an enthralling encounter from start to finish, the Romans took an early lead in the 16th minute through Chris Sterling. However, the visitors were left stunned when Heath Hayes hit back early in the second half with two goals in a minute both scored by Tim Smith; the equaliser coming from a penalty and the winner from a defensive error. The win moved Heath Hayes up one place to third bottom in the table and level on points with the team immediately above the three-team relegation zone.

Heath Hayes 2 Rocester 1
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Coppice Colliery Ground
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: cold, dry

I’d been waiting for this rescheduled game after it was postponed on Boxing Day as it pitted two of my nearest Midland Alliance clubs in what could be described as a ‘local derby’. I don’t like cutting things fine and tonight family duties meant not leaving home at 7-15 pm and arriving at the ground after a nine-mile trip shortly before kick-off with comments of “football on Friday, Saturday, Monday and now Wednesday” ringing in my ears! We decided to take a teatime trip up to Brindley Village to see the snow on Cannock Chase and return via a detour to the Little Fawn. Thankfully, on arrival at the Coppice Colliery Ground, there will still some programmes remaining at the gate and line-ups, as usual, displayed on the wall of the changing rooms as well as being announced.

As I said, tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Boxing Day afternoon as, for me, the second leg of a ‘double’ also involving the morning Midland Combination fixture between Stafford Town and Brocton. Alas, both games fell victim to the weather that day.

While visitors Rocester (12th position with 43 points from 29 games) were comfortable in mid-table, Heath Hayes (21st with 24 points from 30 games) really needed a win tonight to aid their fight against relegation. Heath Hayes were hit more than most by the bad winter weather and didn’t play a league game for almost two months from early December to early February. Since returning to action they had picked up just one win and four draws from 11 games though one of those draws was a runaway league leaders Stratford Town. On Saturday Heath Hayes drew 4-4 at Highgate while Rocester lost 2-1 at home to Boldmere St Michaels.

Briefly, the pitch runs lengthways from the entrance with all the facilities down the left-hand side – two seated stands with changing rooms in between, tea bar and a further area of covered standing near the top corner. The ground bank behind the near goal is out of bounds as it access behind the top goal. The change to British Summer Time meant I got a rare but brief glimpse of the ground in daylight.

Heath Hayes (in blue and white) got the game underway defending the entrance end in the first half. Both sides created early chances with Darren Bullock heading over from a corner and Lee Smith hitting a low shot which Richard Froggatt got down to hold.

Rocester made a “very good start” and took a 16th minute lead. Chris Sterling got the better of Karl Wallis on the right, cut into the area and fired a low shot past Adam Lane into the far left corner of the net.

As Heath Hayes looked to quickly respond, the lively Chad Degville-Cross, on the right, shot just wide of the near post.

Jack Langston almost doubled Rocester’s lead on the half-half. He latched onto a pass from Edwin Ahenkorah and hit a low shot narrowly wide of the target into the near sidenetting.

I ought to mention that also at the game tonight were some familiar faces in ‘Cannock Rob’ and ‘Middlewich Martin’, who both provided good company throughout the game. I was also able to catch up with Rocester Secretary Barry Smith and reporter/groundhopper Dan Bishop as well.

As the interval approached, Heath Hayes appealed for a penalty when Degville-Cross headed Gavin Saunders’ deep cross at a defender but the referee said no handball. Rocester were forced to make a change in the 36th minute when Wayne Johnson replaced Darren Bullock.

Now attacking the entrance end, Heath Hayes made a bright and positive start to the second half. Rocester goalkeeper Richard Froggatt did well to parry a well-stuck 25-yard shot from Andrew Davis and Carl Allen booted clear the resulting loose ball.

The turning point in the game came in the 52nd minute. Froggatt brought down Degville-Cross while trying to claim a loose ball and Lee Smith sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with the penalty.

Straight from the kick-off, Smith beat Froggatt to an underhit backpass and the ball rolled into an unguarded net.

The referee had a relatively trouble-free game apart from an incident in the 64th minute which saw three players booked.

Heath Hayes confidently held their lead during the 25 minute or so minutes with few decent chances created. Degville-Cross beat Froggatt only to see his shot cleared by a combination of Allen and Dan McLeod.

The win lifted Heath Hayes up one place to third bottom and level on points with fourth-bottom Coleshill Town, Highgate United dropped into the bottom two but have the opportunity to move back up the table tomorrow evening when they entertain Dunkirk at The Coppice.

Heath Hayes (blue and white stripes / blue / white): 1. Adam Lane, 2. Joe McNulty, 3. Karl Wallis, 4. Andrew Davis, 5. Harry Phillips, 6. Tom Baggott, 7. Chad Degville-Cross, 8. Gavin Saunders, 9. Chris Deakin, 10. Lee Smith, 11. David Waple (capt). Subs: 12. Alex Scott (not used), 14. Liam Degville (not used), 15. Stephen Allen (not used), 16. Daniel Scragg (for Degville-Cross, 86), 17. Hayden Marklew (for Deakin, 90+3). Manager: Simon Davies.

Rocester (amber and black stripes / black / black): 19. Richard Froggatt, 2. Lee Spencer, 3. Carl Allen, 4. Dan McLeod, 5. Darren Bullock, 6. Ashley Bennett, 7. Jack Langston, 8. Adam Swain (capt), 9. Jacob Sturgess, 10. Chris Sterling, 11. Edwin Ahenkorah. Subs: 12. Wayne Johnson (for Bullock, 35), 14. Keiran Mortiboys (for Swain, 85), 15. Ryan Pirrie (for Ahenkorah, 58), 16. Karl McLeod (not used), 17. Chris McComisky (not used). Manager: Dave Langston.

Referee: Adam Dean.
Assistants: Andy Holmes and Graham Sanders.

Attendance: 48

Duration (45): first-half: 45:08; second-half: 48:00

0-1 Chris Sterling (16)
1-1 Lee Smith (52 pen)
2-1 Lee Smith (53)

Heath Hayes: Lee Smith (YC, 64)
Rocester: Lee Spencer (YC, 62), Ryan Pirrie (YC, 62)