|Date||Saturday 5 December 2015|
|Match||AFC Rushden & Diamonds v Royston Town|
|Competition||Evostik League Southern: Division One Central|
|Royston Scorers||Bradshaw, Hoenes(3)|
|Crows MOTM||Ingrey (1st half), Hoenes (2nd half)|
In this eagerly awaited ‘Clash of the Titans’, the weather threatened to spoil the match as a football spectacle, but credit to both teams as they still produced a highly watchable game of football in high swirling winds and the visitors showed everyone that the Crows are certainly in the mix for the one automatic promotion place and that despite a couple of recent under par performances and arguably dropped points, certainly have the football ammunition to out play and over run the better teams in this close cut division.
Steve Castle and Chris Watters were able to name a strong starting line up and the bench looked equally potent and included the return of Reece Dobson, whose international playing clearance had eventually made its way through the FA’s ponderous administration system.
Because of the weather this game – like many others over the weekend – threatened to be a game of two halves and whilst it did prove to be as such – the overall quality shown by the Crows in the second half had nothing to do with wind advantage and it was sheer dogged class and determination that eventually dominated their high flying hosts.
In a reasonably open first period of play both sets of players got to grips with their surroundings and the home side looked the more dangerous early on as their two lively wingers caused Royston full backs, Danny May and Dan Brathwaite, to work hard and often to track back and cover.
The home team’s solitary goal came in the 19th minute from a lively surge up the right by Lewis Leslie who put over a high right wing cross that was caught in the wind and evaded the leap and swipe of Ron Yates as it swirled viciously and dropped in the goal. 1-0.
Unperturbed the Crows regrouped quickly and went again and superb work rate from Ryan Ingrey, ably supported by a more controlled and effective Robbie Mason, having his best game for some weeks, kept probing, prodding and testing the Diamond’s burly defence, creating early less than half chances, but certainly giving the home side more than something to think about.
A home side penalty shout from many on 24 minutes was stifled as the on the spot referee produced a punishing yellow card for a desperate diving ploy by Tommy Berwick following a good clean, charge out and parry by Yates.
The latter parts of the first half were mainly Royston gaining confidence on the ball and showing their own teeth with the highlight being some great work by the magnificent Ingrey who turned tightly from about 10 yards and spanked a hard shot that had Diamond’s keeper, Matt Finlay, well beaten but cannoned off the bar and away.
Half Time 1-0.
Eager to prove themselves and get back in this game and aware that the next goal was of paramount importance, Royston Town were absolutely dominant in the second half, adapting well to the change in direction of match conditions and not giving their hosts a look in, let alone a mild sniff of another real chance on Yates’ net.
The equaliser came as early as the 47th minute as skipper Scott Bridges refused to give up on a defender flicked on cross and put in a creative overhead retrieval cross back into the mix to find the arriving Jack Bradshaw who placed a controlled, perfect volley from the edge of the box low and accurate past the sprawling Finlay. 1-1.
Royston’s only substitution of the game was made on 57 minutes as Joe De La Salle gave way for Reece Dobson to come on upfront seeing the versatile Bradshaw drop back to centre half and the powerhouse Ingrey to drop into a more defensive midfield holding role.
Dobson had a great chance to announce his return when set up brilliantly by Ingrey, but the striker’s rusty finish from this superb opening went wide of the post.
Again the Crows cranked up the pressure and alongside more good work from Ingrey and Mason, step forward Rhys Hoenes, who had had a reasonably quiet first 45 minutes, to play a major role in the second half and match winning proceedings.
Hoenes punished a hesitant defence on 67 minutes as he seized a half chance eagerly and smashed an excellent firm strike across the keeper and in. 1-2.
Four minutes later and Hoenes was beginning to have fun this time picking up wide and cutting in dangerously, curling a precise shot low into the far corner. 1-3.
The home side were beaten and had no answers for this brand of speedy, incisive and penetrative football being shown by their visitors and the Crows confidence was tangible.
The closing stages were all Royston and Rhys Hoenes capped a fantastic second half with his third goal as he turned expertly running laterally across the penalty box and placed an accurate power shot mid height diagonally into the Diamond’s exposed goal. 1-4.
This excellent win was not just a deserved victory over one of the season favourites but the way in which the Crows went about their business, especially in the second half, was a pleasure to watch. AFC Rushden & Diamonds had no real answers when challenged and the pace, style and purpose of the Royston approach to this important game should make the whole division sit up and take notice again.
Team: Yates, May, Brathwaite, McDevitt, De La Salle (Dobson), Bradshaw, Scott Bridges, Okay, Mason, Ingrey, Hoenes.
Subs not used – Watters, Stuart Bridges, Robins, Towner.