|Date||Saturday 1 March 2014|
|Match||Royston Town v Ashford Town (Middx)|
|Competition||Calor League: Central Division One|
|Royston Scorers||Mason, Bradshaw|
Let us put this home league game in perspective – Ashford Town visited Garden Walk off the back of 20 (twenty) straight league defeats, they sat rock bottom of the table with only six points gained from two early season wins against fellow strugglers. They had a goals record of 17 for and 79 against and they hadn’t scored a goal since 14th December. The Ash Trees left Garden Walk with two goals scored and a deserved point and arguably were unlucky not to take all three.
Three players' suspensions were still in place and a training ground injury to Luke Robins saw him arrive on crutches that didn’t help Steve Castle’s cause. Debutant Ryan Wharton plugged the centre-back hole following a move from St Albans City.
To say Royston were poor today is an under-statement. The lack of cohesion between defence and midfield led to increased nervousness at the back that became infectious through-out the team, sub-standard individual performances, hesitant forward play and a worryingly impotent strike force led to the worst result seen for at least six seasons.
Whether over-confidence was the problem it cannot be said as this shouldn’t be a factor at this level of football in any game – it should be approached as professionally and with as much preparation as any other league match. The pitch wasn’t helpful but not many pitches at this stage of the season, having suffered the recent shocking weather, would behave differently.
The Crows had ample chances to put the game out of sight of their spirited, but inferior opponents in the first half with most action being seen in their visitor’s final third, but either hesitant forward play and finishing, coupled with poor basic ball control issues, meant that the score was just 1-0 at half time.
The goal had come from some good work down the right wing by Ryan Ingrey – who had a superb first half – producing a low cross in the 24th minute, for Robbie Mason to spin and shoot low into the corner with a good left footed finish. Royston had a shout for a second goal that the referee and his assistant deemed hadn’t gone over the line after a high cross was parried goal-ward.
Whatever was said at half-time obviously didn’t help matters as Royston came out with even fewer ideas how to break down the meagre resistance and the murmur of unease from the home crowd was audible. Even then the crowd didn’t think an equaliser was likely but a cheaply conceded free-kick on 61 minutes gave the Ash Trees a rare opportunity to get the ball into the box and Crows’ keeper Nick Thompson came out and flapped poorly at the cross leaving it to fall to Conor Moody who passed the ball into an uncovered goal to level matters.
Unbelievably for the suffering home crowd, three minutes later, the visitors took the lead with an undoubted fantastic strike from hard-working skipper Scott Weight who shot from twenty five yards high into the top left corner that Thompson had no chance with.
Visibly blind panic set in and desperate urgency led to on-pitch poor decision making and at the same time the bench went very quiet. In obvious need of a goal Castle replaced Robbie Nightingale with Ryan Lockett and Lockett set about taking the game to the Ashford defence. Two good runs later and Lockett was fouled on the edge of the box and Jack Bradshaw stepped up to curl a shot round an encroaching wall to sneak by the keeper.
Royston pushed on to get the winner but again their hesitancy to shoot at times was apparent and Mason and Hammond were not at the races in the second half. Despite the strikers not firing, surprisingly Castle replaced the hard-working Ryan Ingrey with Adie Cambridge and Cambridge’s long throws caused some problems – but not enough for the Crows to find another goal.
The decent home crowd of 171 were left bewildered at the unacceptable level of play produced by their team and were left asking worrying questions at the end of this match. Questions that Steve Castle needs to find the answers to if Royston are to stand any chance of securing what now seems a very distant play-off place.