A SUBLIME strike from Malvern Town substitute Nathan Hughes wasn’t enough for the Hillsiders as they were knocked out of the FA Cup extra preliminary round stage by higher-ranked Rocester at the HDAnywhere Community Stadium.
The Midland League Premier Division visitors had taken the lead in first-half injury time through Callum Riddell before a fantastic free-kick from Martyn Smith five minutes from the end fired the East Staffordshire-based outfit into a 2-0 lead.
However, the best was yet to come as Hughes latched on to a cross from Reece King to scissor-kick home in the third minute of injury time but it proved to be too little too late as Rocester held on to progress to the preliminary round where they will face Bedworth United.
Malvern started the game very brightly and looked dangerous on the break but efforts from Dave Reynolds, Matthew Turner, Luke Corbett and Lewis Platt failed to trouble Rocester’s keeper Ashley Warner.
The visitors slowly grew into the tie and got their first shot on goal in the 33rd minute and probably should have taken the lead but after Malvern stopper Charlie Weaver dropped Robert Ritchie-Smith’s shot, Karl Ashton somehow managed to poke the rebound wide of the goal.
Turner wasted a good chance to fire the Hillsiders into a 1-0 lead eight minutes later but after wonderfully collecting a long ball from the back which sent him on his way into the box, he fluffed his lines and miscued his shot before tumbling over a Rocester defender – a half-hearted penalty appeal which was waved away by the referee.
With Malvern in the ascendancy, there was the feeling if they didn’t take their chances it would prove costly, and prove costly it did as in the first minute of first-half stoppage time Rocester took the lead as Riddell capitalised on a poor defensive clearance on the edge of the area to arrow the ball into the bottom left corner.
After the break, Reynolds tried to instigate a comeback for the Hillsiders but a trio of efforts from the striker failed to test Warner in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Weaver kept his side in the game in the 78th minute as a fantastic save prevented Riddell from adding a second from long range.
Four minutes later Reynolds should have equalised but somehow, with the goal at his mercy, blazed over the bar from Sam Rathbone’s cutback following some good work down the right wing.
The miss proved to be the turning point as straight up the other end, Louis Loader conceded a free-kick on the edge of his area before Smyth smashed home from 20 yards out with Weaver rooted to his spot.
However, Malvern were given a lifeline in third minute of second-half injury time as Hughes wonderfully scissor-kicked home King’s cross from the right with the aid of the post and probably should have pulled the Hillsiders level in the sixth minute of injury time but his volley from inside the area sailed over the bar.
Rocester resisted the increasing pressure but held on to victory which saw Malvern knocked out of the extra preliminary round for a second successive year.
Malvern will hope to secure victory in their first West Midlands (Regional) Premier Division fixture on Tuesday night when they travel to Smethwick.