|Date||Saturday 30 August 2014|
|Match||Royston Town v Brightlingsea Regent|
|Competition||FA Cup: Preliminary Round|
|Royston Scorers||Bradshaw, Scott Bridges|
Unfortunately, it is impossible to summarise this well contested FA Cup Preliminary Round match without criticising the match officials. From start to finish they mismanaged this tie and ruined what was an equally matched game, played in the true spirit of this fantastic competition.
It is unsurprising that both teams’ players, management and supporters’ blood boiled throughout the game as the referee was seen to lose all control due to his total refusal to let a good competitive match play out.
The game started in true cup tie fashion with tempo high and excitement palpable. Brightlingsea had an early strong penalty shout unbelievably ignored and on the counter attack Jack Bradshaw’s overlap fed Chris Watters but no shot followed.
Striker Kaan Fehmi thought he was in as a Jhai Dhillon cross was arrowed in but a faint glance from a stretching Scott Bridges took it away from his own goal-ward dive. Up the other end Paul Bastock made an excellent save unknowing that a whistle had sounded for an attacker’s foul.
As the home side exerted steady pressure, some interesting Royston corner routines saw decent Crow’s efforts, notably Jack Bradshaw arriving late to power shoot just wide.
On 21 minutes Ryan Wharton made what was deemed a last man tackle, despite seemingly being covered by full-back Bradshaw, and conceded an obvious penalty, but was extremely unfortunate to suffer a straight red card. The penalty was converted by Ben Newson low to Bastock’s left.
Steve Castle was forced to re-jig and Dave Theobald was replaced by Spyros Mentis at the back. The referee chose to book Mentis for supposedly entering the pitch without his permission.
A clear deliberate handball out of his area by visiting keeper Luke Avenell was missed by the ref (and his inert assistant) and if seen may have made his own place on the pitch in doubt. Robbie Nightingale’s last input into this game was a soft shot from a half cleared Fehmi free-kick and he was replaced on the right of midfield by Lewis Endacott.
A fine move from the Crow’s lifted the crowd as more good work by Dhillon set up Endacott to put over a searching cross and Gary Hart’s effort went just over the bar. Home team momentum was building before half-time and an Endacott long throw was strongly flicked on by Hart but Fehmi’s despairing lunge was just too short to connect. The equaliser deservedly came to the ten men as pressure brought a central free-kick 25 yards out and Fehmi’s drive was flicked on by Bradshaw and the half time whistle blew with 50 minutes played.
The crowd’s forlorn hopes that the referee and his assistants would re-group during the break were dispelled as the next 45 minutes of so called officiating went from bad to worse.
A very early effort created by the absolutely superb Scott Bridges set up Dhillon whose shot from 8 yards was bravely blocked. An early substitution saw Fehmi replaced by Ryan Ingrey six minutes into the second half.
Dhillon surged on and put a shot in to the near post that had the Brightlingsea keeper scrambling to concede a corner but almost immediately from this Crow’s corner the visitors broke with a route one long ball that attacker Phil Kelly ran on to nod home too easily to retake the lead.
Less than two minutes later and this match was all square again as a pinpoint cross from Ingrey found Scott Bridges’ soaring header and he directed the ball past the flailing Avenell. A further two minutes later and the same Bridges brother had the ball in the net again as he rose to cleanly head home from another well delivered cross ball from Endacott. The reason why this goal was ruled out escaped everyone in the seething Garden Walk ground.
The bewildered Crow’s continued to take on their opponents and the struggling referee, but a seemingly good tackle by Watters was penalised and he received a second yellow card and was sent from the pitch reducing the home team to nine men with twenty minutes to go. To probably even it up Brightlingsea’s Kelly saw a straight red card five minutes later for a similarly committed challenge.
With the collective crowd from both clubs apoplectic from the unacceptable level of refereeing the remaining players on the pitch tried to get a cup-tie winner. Half chances fell to Bradshaw, Hart and both Stuart and Scott Bridges but the visitors' desperate defending was sufficient to thwart the stretched Crows’ efforts.
Brightlingsea won this game with a diving back post header from Newson from a last minute corner and Castle’s cumulative provoked reaction saw him sent from the dugout.
A draw would possibly have been a just reward in this blighted cup-tie but the Crows’ faithful couldn’t fault the Royston players for their effort and endeavour in this match that was ruined by the out of his depth man in the middle.
Team: Bastock, Bradshaw, Dhillon, Theobald (Mentis), Wharton, Bridges Scott, Bridges Stuart, Nightingale (Endacott), Fehmi (Ingrey), Hart, Watters. Subs not used – Azzopardi, Collins.