Romulus were looking to get a result yesterday evening against Atherstone Town at Castle Vale Stadium. The Roms are chasing the play offs and came into this match only eight points off 5th with four games in hand over AFC Wulfrunians. It’s been an ok season by the Roms so far in the league who are comfortably in mid table.
One of their main strengths which has put them in play off contention has been their home form with four wins from seven matches coming into this one.
Atherstone have been gradually growing into the season following a tough start with four points from their first 8 league matches. The Adders had been playing well of late with 10 points from their last six matches to sit comfortably in mid table coming into this one.
The appointment of new manager Mitch Thomson over the last month has helped turn their season around. One of their issues this season has been their form on the road with one win from seven matches coming into this match.
The atmosphere around Castle Vale Stadium was excellent prior to kick off and a notable attendance of 131 supporters turned out for a mid-week match in December. There was a large following for the Adders which was commendable given the distance travelled and the tough weather conditions throughout the day.
Starting line ups
The starting line up for Romulus featured Lewis Gwilliams starting in goal and Callum Lee captaining the team from central defence. The formation looked like a 5-3-2 with a front two of Ryan Nesbitt and Isai Marselia being supported by George Manning in the attacking midfield role.
There were two changes from the team that started against AFC Wulfrunians last weekend with Isai Marselia coming into the team and playing up front.
Atherstone Town’s starting line up included Finn Osborn starting in goal and Richard Blythe captaining the team from holding midfield. The formation appeared to be a 4-3-3 with a front two of Lewis Collins and Jake Brown being supported by Lewis Noon in the attacking midfield role.
There was one change from the team that started against Tividale last weekend with Jacob Shilton coming into the team and playing at right back.
The first half was mainly cagey with both teams settling into the match and working each other out. Both Romulus and Atherstone Town were well organised off the ball which reduced the clear-cut chances in front of goal in the final third. The main pattern of play was both teams cancelling each other out in the final third and heading dangerous balls away from the box.
The opening 45 minutes were an interesting tactical battle rather than a free-flowing game with both teams showing a bit of caution to not get caught out defensively. Atherstone shaded it and were passing the ball around well in midfield and in the final third. The only thing missing from the Adders was the final ball and that bit of composure in the box to have a shot on target to test Lewis Gwilliams.
It took a while for any notable chances in front of goal in the opening half an hour. Romulus had a few half chances in front of goal with the best one falling to Ryan Nesbitt who fired wide from the edge of the box. The Roms looked dangerous when going forward and committed players into the box in search of the opener.
The best chance for Atherstone came at the end of the half with Callum Rudd having a good chance in the box in injury time but headed wide from a good position.
The second half was more action packed than the first and the match got more stretched as it went on. Substitute Joe Phillips had an excellent chance for Romulus early in the second half but fired wide with the Adders a bit stretched at the back.
There was also a subtle tactical change for Romulus in the second half with Jordan Francis coming on for Dan Okoje at left back which gave them more of an attacking threat down the left. The Roms were searching for the opener and were positive with their build up play in the final third. Similar to Atherstone in the first half, the only thing missing was that bit of composure to unlock the Adders defence.
Atherstone produced a moment of genuine quality to take the lead in the 70th minute. Lewis Noon played an excellent cross into the box which was well anticipated by Lewis Collins who headed home into the bottom right corner to make it 1-0.
It was a good goal by Atherstone, and the visitors produced a moment of quality when it mattered to take the lead in a fairly even match. The question was whether Romulus would find an equaliser to get back into the match late on.
The Roms managed to find an equaliser in unlikely circumstances to make it 1-1 with ten minutes to go. Following a dangerous ball into the box Jack Wells made a failed clearance that resulted in an own goal. It was unfortunate on Atherstone, but Romulus were applying pressure on the visitor’s goal prior to the mistake and committed players in the box in search of an equaliser.
Atherstone showed a lot of character late on to not let the defensive mistake get to them in the final stages of the match. They were positive on the ball and looked to make things happen in the final third. They had a late chance with Lewis Collins playing a good ball into the box which just evaded the head of Gabe Webster.
The match looked like it was heading for a 1-1 draw until a moment of late drama in injury time.
Atherstone substitute Reece Massey made an inspired run down the right and went to the byline where he beat James Bowen before being fouled by Callum Lee in the box for a penalty. Lewis Collins stepped up to take the penalty and took it brilliantly into the bottom right corner to make it 2-1 to the Adders late on.
Not long after the referee blew for the full-time whistle with Atherstone taking home the three points and going into the top half of the table.
Romulus were ok in this match and showed moment of quality despite the defeat. Cameron Lee was reliably good at the back for Romulus and headed dangerous balls away from the box throughout the match. He was unfortunate to concede the penalty late on, but he had a good match overall.
The holding midfield of Dean Morris and Paul Ibhadon looked good and were regularly breaking up the play to give the Roms a foothold in the match. They covered a lot of ground defensively and helped stop promising Atherstone attacks.
Substitutes Jordan Francis and Joe Phillips looked good off the bench and offered the Roms an attacking threat in the final third and were direct with the ball.
Atherstone were good in this match and showed quality both on and off the ball. Callum Rudd was excellent at the back. He was constantly dealing with dangerous balls and reading the game well. Jacob Shilton had an underrated game at right back and looked defensively solid as part of a back four. He was constantly winning the ball back and linking up the play well when building attacks down the right.
Richard Blythe was brilliant from holding midfield and passed the ball well to get attacks going. He gave the visitors that composure on the ball to settle into the match.
Lewis Collins was excellent as the number nine, and he held up the ball well in this match. He showed brilliant anticipation for the opening goal and had that composure to score the winner from the spot late on.
Overall, an encouraging performance from Atherstone and they could be a dark horse for the play offs if they can keep this form going over the next few months.
FT score: Romulus 1-2 Atherstone Town
Man of the match: Lewis Collins (Atherstone Town)
Match report written by Rhys Beardmore for the Midland Football League
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