Rocester 0 Loughborough University 3

Thursday 25th April 2013
All the goals came during the opening 32 minutes after Loughborough University recorded their third victory of the season over Rocester. Sam Cook headed the students into the lead in the 11th minute and Ebby Nelson-Addy added a second goal 14 minutes later. Rocester, playing their 11 game in 25 days, struggled during the first half and the Midland Alliance’s leading scorer Daniel Nti scored the third goals just after the half-hour mark. Rocester fought back after the interval with a much-improved performance and deserved a goal which proved elusive. The Romans, suffering their fourth straight defeat, remain in 13th position in the Midland Alliance table while Loughborough move up one position to fourth.

Rocester 0 Loughborough University 3
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Hillsfield
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: free A4 teamsheet
Weather: mild, cloudy, showers

Rocester’s punishing end-of-season fixture list of 14 league games in 32 days is nearing an end. Following tonight’s home game with Loughborough University, they have just three games left to play: away at Heather St John and Tividale before finishing at Hillsfield a week tonight against Ellesmere Rangers. The last game could be crucial if Ellesmere still need points to avoid relegation.

Tiredness resulting from playing a game virtually every other day this month has no doubt played a part in the Romans slipping out of contention for a final position in the top half of the table.

Since my last [brief] visit to Hillsfield for the end of the Westfields game on Tuesday 9th April, Stratford Town have been confirmed as Baker Joiner Midland Alliance Champions. Also, relegation-threatened Highgate have announced their resignation from the league.

As I did for Wolverhampton Casuals in my blog of Tuesday's visit to Brinsford Lane, I think it is worth mentioning a few words about the history of Rocester FC and the Hillsfield ground (with acknowledgement of Barry Smith’s extensive history published on the Rocester FC website).

For many years it was widely believed that Rocester FC was first formed in 1890, and indeed the club held a highly-successful Centenary Tournament in 1990 to mark the occasion. However, since then further research has revealed that the origins of the club date back at least another fourteen years. The earliest reference found so far dates back to Saturday 16th December 1876, when an edition of the Staffordshire Advertiser newspaper briefly mentions a match played the previous Saturday at the Rocester ground between Tutbury Mill and Rocester, which ‘resulted in a draw in favour of Tutbury’.

The club played in various leagues including the Stafford and District Amateur League before becoming a founder member of both the Staffordshire Senior League in 1984 and Midland Alliance in 1994. Rocester have subsequently had spells in both the Southern League and Northern Premier League before commencing their current unbroken eight-season run in the Midland Alliance in 2005.

The Hillsfield ground, overlooked by Arkwright’s Mill (now a JCB Academy), has improved considerably since my first visit in 1989 and today has two stands and a nice clubhouse.

Over the past few seasons since I stopped following Stafford Rangers home and away, Hillsfield has become one of my regular favourite grounds to visit, so much so that my Pitch-Side Stories articles appear in the programme! As always, I was thankful to Secretary Barry Smith for a teamsheet and warm welcome. A copy was also pinned up next to the tea bar hatch as well. One new attraction at Hillsfield is free WiFi in the clubhouse!

Rocester (48 points from 38 games) went into tonight’s game in 13th position and mathematically safe from relegation. So they were looking to end a run of four straight defeats against a Loughborough University side (71 points from 39 games) still harbouring hopes of finishing in the top four. The sides have met twice this season with Loughborough winning 2-1 in the League Cup at Hillsfield back in February and 5-1 seven days ago in the reverse league fixture at the University Stadium. Danirel Nti scored of the five goals.

Referee Mark Murfitt, who has the ability to progress all the way to the Premier Division at some point in the future, took change of tonight’s game and Loughborough (in all purple) got the action underway defending the mill end in the first half.

Rocester quickly won possession and, with just 16 seconds on the clock, Edwin Ahenkorah hit a low shot from the edge of the area straight at Loughborough goalkeeper George Lawton.

Sadly, for the Romans, it wasn’t a sign of what would following during the first half and the visitors took full advantage of tired legs to score three match-winning unanswered goals.

Richard Froggatt was soon called into action. A slip at the back allowed Daniel Nti a run into the area on the right but the alert Rocester goalkeeper left his line to block the resulting shot.

It was no surprise when Loughborough took the lead in the 11th minute. Hesitancy at the back set up a chance for Nti who again saw his shot saved by Froggatt. From the resulting short corner, the ball was crossed from the right towards the far post where Sam Cook headed home.

A nice move down the right almost led to an equaliser. Ryan Pirrie crossed into the area where Joe Rogers saw a header held by Lawton.

However, the visitors always posed a threat going forward and doubled their advantage in the 25th minute through Ebby Nelson-Addy who hit the headlines on Saturday by netting a hat-trick in four minutes against Boldmere St Michaels. Nti slipped a pefect pass through the Rocester defence into the path of Nelson-Addy who guided a low shot past Froggatt from 12 yards out.

It wasn’t all one-way as Rogers fed Ahenkorah in the area who saw a resulting shot blocked by a defender at the expense of a corner.

Loughborough striker Nti, scored of four goals in a 5-0 win against Rocetser seven days ago, is honing in on the Midland Alliance Golden Boot and added another to his tally just after the half-hour mark. Cook robbed defender Darren Bullock of possession 35 yards out and took the ball forward. He then fed Nti on the right inside the area who clinically fired low past Froggatt into the far corner of the net.

It could have got even worse for the Romans when unmarked Cook glanced a header wide from Seb Baxter’s cross.

Rocester showed some positive signs just before the interval as Ahenkorah latched on to a pass from Chris Sterling and forced a near-post save out of Lawton.

I didn’t hear it myself but someone say that the Rocester players were given a *******ing by Dave Langston during the break and whatever was said did the trick. The Romans started the second half well and, within a minute of the restart, Ahenkorah pulled the ball back for Carl Allen to drive over the bar. Jack Langston then crossed from the left and Ahenkorah headed straight at Lawton.

While chances at both ends were scarce, the Romans continued to impress, so much so that manager Dave Langston encouraged them to “keep doing it” during the last 15 minutes. They deserved a goal and it almost came in the 80th minute, Sterling exchanged passes with Rogers and thumped a 35-yard shot just wide of the right-hand post.

At the other end, Bullock produced a brave last-ditch tackle inside the area to prevent Jordan Barker from getting in a clear shot on goal.

The final chance of the game fell to Loughborough’s Michael Emmerson who received a pass from Nti before firing over the bar and fence to send the ball hurtling towards the mill.

Louughborough moved up one position in the table to fourth with the win while Rocester remained in 13th minute. The Romans need a point to make sure they finish no lower than 13th and a couple of wins from their last three games could see them move into 12th position.

On a final note from a groundhopping point of view, this visit to Rocester was my 18th and Hillsfield is now fourth most visited grounds behind Stafford Rangers’ Marston Road, Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane and Stafford Town’s Evans Park.

Rocester (amber and black stripes / black / black): 19. Richard Froggatt, 2. Ryan Pirrie, 3. Carl Allen, 4. Jacob Sturgess, 5. Darren Bullock (capt), 6. Lee Spencer, 7. Joe Rogers, 8. Jack Langston, 9. Dean Bromley, 10. Edwin Ahenkorah, 11. Chris Sterling. Subs: 12. Kieran Mortiboys (for Spencer, 82), 14. Wayne Johnson (not used), 17. Adam Swain (for Bromley, ht). Manager: Dave Langston.

Loughborough University (purple/purple/purple): 1. George Lawton, 2. Daniel Wilkinson, 3. Seb Baxter, 4. George Nash (capt), 5. Tom Peberdy, 6. Callum Williams, 7. Charlie Turnbull, 8. Tom Nadin, 9. Daniel Nti, 10. Ebby Nelson-Addy, 11. Sam Cook. Subs: 12. David Tarawali (for Baxter, 68), 14. Michael Emmerson (for Nelson-Addy, 68), 15. Jordan Barker (for Nadin, 78), 16. Alun Webb (not used), 17. Jack Howard (not used).

Referee: Mark Murfitt (Stoke-on-Trent).
Assistants: B. Heath (Great Wyrley) and P. Magness (Wednesbury).

Attendance: 45

Duration (45): first-half: 45:00; second-half: 46:14

0-1 Sam Cook (11)
0-2 Ebby Nelson-Addy (25)
0-3 Daniel Nti (32)

Rocester: Ryan Pirrie (YV, 87)
Loughborough: none