|Date||Tuesday 7 October 2014|
|Match||Egham Town v Royston Town|
|Competition||Southern League: Central Division One|
For the second time this season Royston Town were worryingly woeful on the road for a Tuesday night game – as well as being equally poor at home in a similar midweek match – and this is a vital issue that manager Steve Castle has got to address before too many important league points are squandered.
In his post-Marlow game blog Castle alluded to the matter of team selection and sure enough changed the winning side from Saturday to try to keep his line up “as fresh as possible” – sadly it didn’t work. The dismal Crows tired quickly in the second half and barely threatened the Sarnies’ goal. They are undoubtedly fit players – but visibly weary in this match.
Castle rejigged his starting back line making two changes, bringing back Ryan Wharton for Dave Theobald, sticking with Jack Bradshaw and George Powell and giving a first start to new boy Kane Adams at left back. Influential midfielder Scott Bridges returned immediately to the team despite being unavailable for Saturday’s win.
Egham had lost their manager, Lee Passmore, in the week and skipper Luke Muldowney is the new man in charge as the home side looked to put behind them an indifferent start to the season and by all accounts a particularly poor performance against Rugby Town on Saturday. History has shown that midweek management changes can go two ways in the first game in charge.
The game started with both teams at 100 mph and Egham coped well with Royston’s harrying, closing down, style of play and were equally lively in pace and certainly determination for their new manager. The mainly midfield sparring was lowlighted with the Crows seeming unable to be careful enough with their passing – too often losing cheap and easy ball possession and spraying longer passes that frustratingly fell short into the Sarnies’ eager grasp.
The visiting spectators looked on with concern as they saw striker Kaan Fehmi collapse then limp from the pitch on the quarter hour to be replaced by the ever willing Ryan Lockett upfront.
The top speed but low quality match eventually sparked on 34 minutes when a seemingly easily defendable low Egham corner beat Paul Bastock and his defenders at the near post for Reis Stanislaus to bundle in. The Crows pleasingly reacted immediately with the kick off being fed left and a burst of pace and a bit of space for Chris Watters saw him deliver a trademark great left foot cross for striker Craig Hammond to head home his fourth goal in three games.
To compound the poor ball retention, Royston’s crosses and dead ball delivery were unusually substandard as the Crows failed to trouble Jamie Norris in the home goal for the rest of the first period and indeed for the rest of the game.
With the half time score even at 1-1 it was all to play for and chance for Castle to re-group his struggling players into some cohesive force. Castle moved previously right wide man Gary Hart into the central holding frontman role with Lockett shifting to the flank. This was the only visible immediate change.
Despite starting the half in lively fashion this was the best that it got for the Crows as they tired early and quickly and effectively ran out of ideas on the pitch and Castle’s substitutions did not inject any of the vital energy that his team lacked.
On the hour Reece Dobson replaced Hart and seemed to be given the line leading role and this change saw Hammond go deeper and noticeably out of the game as a goal scoring threat.
Egham scored their match winning goal in the 63rd minute winning a cheap free-kick deep in their own half and two passes later striker Dan Read – who hadn’t scored for 11 games – strolled between the statuesque centre backs and thumped the ball home past Bastock.
With absolutely nothing being won or held up in the final third of the pitch, Castle’s final substitution saw him replace the stymied Hammond with Daniel Bond for his first team debut on 71 minutes but the youngster couldn’t jump start his beleaguered team-mates and the usually continued offensive side of the Crows game eluded them tonight.
The determined home side presented a purposeful defensive display, not really looking to extend their lead, but did more than enough to take all three points from a somnambulistic and under-par Royston team performance.
Team: Bastock, Bradshaw, Adams, Wharton, Powell, Bridges Scott, Bridges Stuart, Hart (Dobson), Fehmi (Lockett), Hammond (Bond), Watters.
Subs not used – Mentis, Endacott.