RESURGENT Romsey Town took another giant stride towards Sydenhams Premier safety on Saturday with a late 1-0 home victory over Verwood.
With the game seemingly heading for a 0-0 draw, Matt Austin popped up with a priceless winner with around nine minutes to go.
Central midfielder Craig Bryant played a smart ball over the top and Austin got in front of his marker before slipping a shot under Verwood ’keeper Chris Lynch.
It was Austin’s fourth goal in the last three games and continued a remarkable turnaround in Romsey’s season.
Having lost 17 of their opening 18 league fixtures, the Bypass boys have now won four and drawn one of their last seven to move up to 18th place.
Crucially, they have opened up a five-point gap over Lymington Town, who have replaced them in bottom spot, and are three ahead of second-to-bottom New Milton.
Romsey have played three games more than the bottom two and have tough assignments coming up away to Blackfield & Langley on Saturday and Moneyfields next Tuesday. But Town’s momentum is building and what pleases manager Danny Barker is that they are now winning games against the sides around them.
Two weeks ago Romsey caused a sensation by beating league leaders Downton 3-1 at Wick Lane. But it’s the following two results – a 1-1 draw at Portchester and Saturday’s victory over Verwood – that have brought the greatest sense of satisfaction.
“These last two results are even more pleasing than the Downton win,” said Barker. “You can go to the big sides with no pressure, but Portchester and Verwood are games where you’re looking to survive and we’ve shown real character to come out of them without losing.”
Romsey’s victory was even more impressive considering they had four players unavailable – striker Danny Phillips (ill), wingers Pete Walker and Elliot Richards (injured) and centre-back Gary Bagley (holiday) – on top of long-term injury absentees John Williams and Gareth Snelling.
For 15th-place Verwood, it was their fourth successive Premier Division defeat, leaving manager Adie Arnold a bitterly disappointed man.
Revealing there had been harsh words afterwards, the long-serving Potterne Park chief fumed: “The lads looked sluggish around the pitch and were second best.
“I am looking for a response against New Milton on Saturday because I won’t put up with performances like that.
Verwood handed a debut to former Romsey player Jake Long, signed from Blackfield & Langley, and have now completed the signing of Long’s striker brother Ryan from Romsey.
Elsewhere, New Milton’s woes deepened with a 3-0 defeat against ten-man Downton at Fawcetts Field.
Declan McGregor netted twice for the Robins before seeing red in an incident that came immediately after his second goal.
But New Milton were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage and Vince Rusher added a third for Downton before the break.
With Christchurch beaten 2-1 by Fareham, Downton’s win takes them back to the top of the Premier pile.