|Date||Tuesday 7th March 2017|
|Match||Barton Rovers v Royston Town|
|Competition||Evostik League Southern: Division One Central|
|Royston Scorers||Sco Bridges, Nolan, Castiglione, Frendo|
Team: Welch, Towner, Scott-Morriss, Bridges Scott, Murray, Bridges Stuart, Fehmi (Castiglione), Mentis (Watkins), Nolan (Frendo), Powell, Orlando-Young.
Subs not used – Frater, Neilson.
It was way back in September when Royston suffered their only home loss of the season to Barton who made the Crows look very ordinary that night with a humbling 6-3 win. The superb current Royston squad have come a long way since that painful night and with a pleasing 4-0 away win can claim the 7-6 aggregate victory over the two ties.
Steve Castle and Chris Watters again delved into their deep player pool and came up with a starting line-up to suit the match. Rod Orlando-Young – whom had been instrumental for Barton in the home match before transferring to the Crows – was lined up eagerly against his previous team, Kaan Fehmi and Matt Nolan were brought back in with Scott Neilsen, Josh Castiglione and John Frendo on the strong and enviable looking bench.
Barton’s keeper Tim Coulton picked up an early knock that encumbered him throughout the match following a clash with Orlando-Young but it was immediately obvious that Barton had the clear height advantage as their two giant centre-halves, Steve Gentle and Benny Martin, were easily picking off early long balls forward. It was Barton who had the first real chance on 15 minutes as a long throw was headed on and the Crows scrambled it clear.
The Crows got a foothold in this game and started to control the match – albeit on a tricky and sticky midfield surface, the superb Scott Bridges started to exert his considerable influence with great work rate and effective closing down, ably supported by equally industrious Spyros Mentis and Martel Powell getting the link up play between midfield and wingers slowly underway.
The game settled into a rhythm of more controlled build up play from the Crows, but not yet finding an end product, contrasting with exuberant breakaway moves from the home team that were finding some success, but mainly ending with solid and committed defending or relatively easy catches for Joe Welch.
Royston created their best chance of the first half on 39 minutes with a clever low spin pass from Powell flat-footing the defensive giants and Matt Nolan found himself one on one with Coulton who closed down the angle quickly and Nolan put his effort too close to the keeper instead of lifting it over him – much to his own disgust.
Nolan had two further headed efforts leading up to half time but the tight and competitive game remained score-less.
The second half was 45 minutes of play from the Crows that encapsulated their superb season so far, dogged determination to dominate and deadly and dynamic finishing.
Following a double substitution on 57 minutes that saw Kaan Fehmi and Spyros Mentis depart for Adam Watkins and Josh Castiglione, the renewed energy and domination proved too much for the home team and the scoring commenced.
Stuart Bridges, lurking on the edge of the box for half cleared corner spills, picked up the ball and was impeded and duly flattened to earn his side a free-kick. Little brother Scott stepped up to plant a sublime free-kick high into the Barton goal for another top quality dead ball strike from the skipper on the hour mark. 0-1.
Three minutes later and Nolan, whose work rate and headed efforts against his taller opponents tonight cannot be understated, was the beneficiary of a clever lob cross in by Watkins and Nolan collected well on his chest and quickly prodded towards the goal with his shot being aided by a defender’s hand to avoid the keeper on the way. 0-2.
There was no respite for the home team on 70 minutes as they now had Castiglione to deal with and this time the impressive No 3 for Barton, Charlie Smith, couldn’t stop the youngster on his jinking cut in run and he finished this close control skill with a precise low left foot shot into the bottom right hand corner. 0-3.
Castle showed his positive approach by bringing on striker John Frendo for the hard-working Nolan in the 71st minute.
Welch was called into action and showed brilliant concentration in a quiet second half by denying Barton a score with a top class point blank shot low down and strong.
Frendo got down to business on 76 minutes and his bullish power created a chance from the ten- yard line, out-muscling his marker and shooting well but to find the keepers right hand post. Coulton did well against Scott Bridges as the midfield man found himself through centrally but the keeper did enough to block away before Bridges could get a shot off.
It was the 89th minute when Frendo put the icing on the cake. A strong run by Orlando-Young up the left was matched with a good inviting cross and the veteran striker doesn’t need asking twice and he arrived perfectly to make a difficult volley look easy and hammer high and hard into the top of the net. 0-4.
This was a great result on the road for the top-class Crows and another giant step forward as they move towards their ultimate target – league winners and automatic promotion. Keep it going boys!