|Date||Thursday 26 December 2013|
|Match||Royston Town v Dunstable Town
|Competition||Calor League: Central Division One
New first team manager Steve Castle’s first game in charge saw the visit of league leaders Dunstable Town to Garden Walk for this Boxing Day fixture with the visitors currently enjoying a fine run of form with twelve consecutive league wins, with their last league defeat being way back in September.
New boss Castle sensibly worked with Duncan Easley on squad selection for this game with the only real surprise being the inclusion of renewed loanee Jhai Dhillon on the bench, seeing fit again stalwart Joe De La Salle omitted from the playing squad altogether.
A decent sized crowd of 208 were treated to a combative, competitive and committed match, that saw no goals scored – the first time Dunstable had been shut-out all season in the league – which was testament to the performances of both defensive units and goalkeepers in a game that provided chances at both ends, on a difficult heavy pitch with the underlying threat that an individual error, rather than a moment of quality, would settle this close encounter.
Crows' stopper, Will Norris, was called into early action with a solid save from a Blue’s free-kick, but it was Dunstable keeper, Jamie Head, who shone in the first half making two excellent saves, the first following a slick bit of Royston football that led to Ryan Ingrey powering a shot high and goalward for Head to deny with a flying tip over, then a fierce Kaan Fehmi drive was blocked by Head low right for a corner to deny the lively Crows frontman.
Dunstable engineered efforts of their own and mainly controlled, but sometimes frantic, defending together with quality goalkeeping thwarted the Duns attacks and both well organised back lines soaked up the probing attacks well.
The second half saw Dhillon replace Taylor Parr at left back and the Crows started at a high tempo forcing their visitors back in these early stages and this match, whilst being highly competitive, was never vicious, and both midfield units were engaged in an intriguing skirmish on a challenging tacky surface. Sustained periods of ball retention for both teams usually brought some kind of chance on goal, keeping all supporters interested and entertained.
A late winner for either side would have been harsh and the introduction of substitutes Luke Robins and Rob Mason for the home side, replacing Mitch Bryant and Ryan Lockett, nearly provided the impetus as Robins went about his business with lively surging runs up the left that were only halted by some spoiling and heavy-footed defending. It was Robins who had the best chance for the Crow’s to steal all three points when a fine cross by Fehmi found him three yards out to head low for Head to produce a point blank block. The Blues dominated the final five minutes, forcing a few dead-ball deliveries but could not break down the resilient home team defence, impressively marshalled by Jack Bradshaw and Lewis Endacott, and the game finished with a deserved and well-earned point each.
Team: Norris, Collins, Parr (Dhillon), Bradshaw, Endacott, Edwards, Ingrey, Spencer, Lockett (Mason), Fehmi, Bryant (Robins).
Subs not used – Cambridge, Hammond.