CONNOR DEARDS grabbed a late winner as Bromsgrove Sporting booked their place in the second round of the Birmingham FA Senior Challenge Cup with a 3-2 victory over higher-ranked Romulus.
Sean Brain gave Paul Smith’s Rouslers a 24th-minute lead with an acrobatic finish inside the area before Jordan Francis pulled the Northern Premier Division One South visitors level four minutes into the second half.
Brain then struck again in the 67th minute but the game looked as though it was heading for penalties when Jack Jeys dispatched from the spot five minutes from the end.
But immediately up the other end Deards swept the ball home from Brain’s cross to secure Sporting’s place in the next round where they could meet the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Walsall.
Smith made six changes to the team which fell to a 3-0 league defeat to Shepshed Dynamo on Saturday, with Reece Francis, Jack Wilson, Guy Clark, John Pykett, Deards and Brain coming in for Brendon Bunn, Craig Jones, Josh Quaynor, Liam Spink, Robbie Bunn and Danico Johnson.
And Sporting could have been ahead after just 30 seconds but a fine save from Matthew Sargeant denied Sam Wills’ stinging shot from the edge of the area.
Romulus came within a whisker of opening the scoring in the 23rd minute when a poor clearance from Francis landed at the feet of Harry Harris whose lobbed effort from 40 yards went over the Sporting keeper and just wide of the post.
But straight up the other end Sporting took the lead when Aaron Roberts’ pin-point cross was expertly finished by Brain who volleyed home into the far corner.
Roberts almost became the villain just before half-time as he gave the ball away cheaply to Jeys who could only curl a shot just wide after jinking inside from the left flank.
But Sporting’s sloppiness soon cost them the lead four minutes after the interval.
Another poor clearance from Francis allowed Drew Aiton to play in Roms’ very own Francis who made no mistake from a couple of yards out.
After a nervy start to the second period, Sporting settled and they almost regained the lead just before the hour mark but Deards could only poke wide after Sargeant parried Wilson’s angle drive.
But nine minutes later the hosts had their second.
A lovely weighted throughball from Spink found Brain in the box who held off his man before turning and firing the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
Defender Guy Clark came close to doubling Sporting’s lead 17 minutes from time but his header from Wills’ corner, which looked destined for the far corner, was somehow hacked away off the line by a Roms defender.
As the game started drawing to close, Romulus looked like they had forced the game to spot-kicks when they were awarded a penalty five minutes from time when an innocuous challenge by Wilson on Jeys was punished by referee Andrew Ellis.
Jeys slotted home the penalty but Roms’ joy was short-lived as immediately from kick-off they fell behind once more.
The ball made its way to Brain in the box who showed the composure to pick out Deards in the centre of goal where the former Alvechurch striker swept the ball home to score his first goal in a Sporting shirt and book his new club’s place in the next round of the county cup.