They say that what comes around goes around. This was a phrase that the Ravens were unfortunate enough to experience this weekend.
Three weeks ago, the team and indeed the club, were euphoric following Furo Davies’ last gasp equaliser against Maine Road that earned a 2-2 draw. Yesterday, it was a feeling of despair after a last-minute penalty robbed us of a hard-fought victory at Rocester.
Forty-eight hours prior, the game was actually in jeopardy as large parts of the Staffordshire club’s Hillsfield ground were under sizeable pools of water. However, a dry Friday and a tremendous effort from the Roman’s ground staff meant the game did go ahead.
As we predicted in our preview on Friday, manager Chris Bass was without a number of players. Veteran Sean Quaye was thrust into the team for the first time since September to replace the suspended Alex Maitland. With injuries to key forwards Davies and Luke Murray, teenager Nathan Cardy was paired up front with the returning Sean Doyle. Chris Bass Jr moved from his recent midfield role to his more familiar left-wing position as Dan Simpson was ill.
The Ravens started well and were ahead inside ten minutes, when Man on Fire, Sean Doyle guided Ste Whitley’s in swinging cross into the net. There were further half chances for Doyle, Cardy and Bass Jr before the hosts started to come into the game.
Rocester had been a tough opponent at the Bowl last month, and on home ground they were very confident of obtaining a result this day and just after the half hour they equalised. Sean Quaye gave away a free kick on the half way line, an offence for which he was also yellow carded, a decision that was to go on to have dire consequences for the visitors later in the game. The subsequent restart wasn’t cleared, and a loose ball fell to a home player who fired past Dean Kearns to score.
It took the Ravens only six minutes to retake the lead. That Man on Fire Doyle firing home from the edge of the box to score his 26th league goal of the season.
The Ravens went in at the half deservedly in front.
With the persistent rain, the pitch surface was becoming ever increasingly boggy and the second half was a much more even contest. Both sides had decent chances to score, but a combination of good goalkeeping and poor finishing on both sides kept the score at 2-1.
Then, half way through the half the game changed. Quaye, already on a booking was shown a second yellow card and ultimately a red, following what seemed like a nothing incident. Similarly to the reverse fixture last month, the Ravens would have to play the last 20 minutes with ten men.
Ironically, Quaye’s dismissal rejuvenated the Ravens and arguably they now had their most dominant period of the game. After Al Harrison made a magnificent tackle at one end, the Ravens broke swiftly and Bass jr let go a piledriver that the Rocester keeper initially did well to stop. The save, however rebounded straight back to Bass, who seemed certain to score and extend the Ravens lead, but the veteran’s left foot effort sailed over the bar. Further chances fell to Doyle and Whitely, but again the Romans goal wasn’t breached.
Going into injury time, the hosts piled everything forward, but it seemed as if the Ravens would hold out. The fates however, had other ideas.
A long ball was ricocheting around the visitor’s penalty area and as Jack Camarda (on a replacement for Bass jr) slid into block a shot, the ball hit his knee and rebounded onto his arm. The referee pointed to the spot and Rocester’s Holford calmly stepped up to equalise.
A gut wrenching feeling for all, especially having fought so hard, but Rocester had demonstrated their fighting spirit again and that’s what the Ravens must do now going into next week’s big match against Sandbach United at the Bowl.