|Date||Saturday 23 January 2016|
|Match||Royston Town v Petersfield Town|
|Competition||Evostik League Southern: Division One Central|
|Royston Scorers||Bradshaw, Mason|
Royston Town supporters were helpless witnesses of a painful false dawn as they endured another disappointing afternoon of underperformance and ultimate surrender of three winnable home points.
Petersfield Town came to play football, despite the heavy pitch, and deservedly made the long journey home with the victory over the woeful Crows.
Encouragingly, Steve Castle had done some high profile business in the week by bringing in ex Grays Athletic and Chesham United experienced striker Simon Thomas. Thomas would start on the bench as Castle surprised many by also benching top scorer Rob Mason and giving Reece Dobson a match start in the number 9 shirt, despite Dobson struggling for any real form in his previous outings since his return to the club. Castle chose to change a winning 4-4-2 formation to that of 4-3-3 to enable Dobson to play this central role.
The Crows also had former favourite Lewis Endacott returning to provide defensive bench cover but he would not be called upon today.
It was with real hope and belief that we saw the Crows kick off hoping and believing that this would be a positive and progressive day when top five league position would be consolidated – with one eye on our main rivals slipping up – Disappointingly, it would be Royston that lost ground today dropping out of the coveted play off places.
It was clear from the first 15 minutes of game play that the Rams were not the same side, in the same mood, that the Crows despatched convincingly 4-0 away back in September and they were the more pleasing on the eye in the first period, capitalising on the acres of space they were being generously allowed and looking dangerous in front of goal calling on Ron Yates to be busy early on making two good stops in the 5th and 6th minute giving Royston early warning of their visitor’s frame of mind today.
The Ram’s were fortuitous to find their own keeper, Anthony Ender, in top form today and Ender produced a fine reflex save as Ryan Ingrey’s firm effort was deflected goal ward off of a defender’s head.
With the ball being regularly pumped clear from the Royston backline they were looking for hold up respite but none was forthcoming as this cannot be argued as Reece Dobson or Rhys Hoenes’ strengths and the more effective in this role, Ingrey was seen in a wider position, so the ball was coming back at the beleaguered midfield and stretched defence far too quickly.
Royston got some positive momentum and forced another good block from Ender and won two threatening corners that were subject to elaborate routine that did not pay out today.
The home side did get the lead in the 23 minutes following this brighter spell and Hoenes doing what he does best had the ball at his feet and was in tricky motion – however, he seemed to be being well marshalled away from the shooting danger area – but an ill-judged and hefty defensive foot in sent him sprawling and the referee cried foul and penalty. Skipper Jack Bradshaw did the business again sending a good spot kick past the diving Ender. 1-0.
The Rams responded well and with purpose and the Crow’s defence looked particularly ragged in this pre half time period as players were drawn out of position often and let their runners find and exploit the space that was being handed to them.
Petersfield regained parity on 30 minutes when with Chris Watters drawn into a central position a longish lateral ball eluded Daniel Brathwaite’s last ditch leap and striker Joseph Briggs did really well from a right central pick up and precise finish. 1-1
Still the ball was not sticking in Royston’s final third and the game quality was scrappy at best. A good Ingrey run led to a cut back that was wastefully misplaced and a penalty handball shout from Crows’ players and supporters alike was waved away and this frustrating and worryingly poor half from Royston was brought to an end allowing Castle some time to regroup and rethink.
This rethinking did not manifest itself in any immediate changes but it was clear that the home side was pumped up to perform, but repeatedly poor, pitch affected delivery and control let themselves down and it was the visitors whom looked more threatening, first having a half effort scrape Yates’ post, then converting a well delivered corner with a firm top of the goal targeted header from Lewis Hyde finding the net. 1-2.
A good reaction from the wounded Crows led to surges forward and better attacking play and the Rams thwarted this with card earning tackles and play stopping fouls notably a good run by Ingrey put over a more directed team-mate finding cross and Erkan Okay arriving at the back post was favourite to score – but his shot was straight at Ender who made another impressive stop.
On the hour mark Castle had seen enough and looked to change the frontline with a double substitution removing Ingrey and Dobson from the match and replacing them with Luke Robins and the big new striker Thomas to make his Crows debut.
Castle made his last change on 68 minutes taking off midfielder Towner, re-jigging slightly, and replacing him with Rob Mason. Mason’s first touch was a goal strike in the 71st minute as he found himself on the end of a dangerously delivered Danny May free-kick that had taken a deft defence defying deflection on route and blasted the ball in from two yards at the far post. 2-2.
The Crows were back in this game and must have felt the match was there to be won. It was won – but not by the home side. Petersfield struck back almost immediately and on 74 minutes a loose left wing ball was not given due care and was crossed back in high and the grateful attackers were not marked close enough and it was the Ram’s David Jerrard who delivered the punitive header. 2-3.
Royston pushed for an equaliser of their own and with ten minutes to go Watter’s stroked a sublime free kick top corner bound only to see Ender produce the save of the game – diving full length and tipping it over the bar.
The Crows were denied a match levelling and point grabbing goal as a Thomas central header had crossed the line on 83 minutes – but the keeper smothered both ball and line leaving the angle impossible for the lateral linesman to call and the poorly placed perpendicular referee was in no position to award what was a valid score. Striker Mason received his tenth yellow card of the season in the ensuing melee.
The Rams absorbed the final throes and two late Crows’ corners saw Yates up and involved but this late desperation to nick a point came to nothing.
Petersfield were the more committed team on the day, displaying control and finishing and deserved their day of jubilee – Royston must lick their wounds quickly and bounce back immediately to re-state their promotion intentions in this tumultuous season.
Team: Yates, May, Watters, Okay, McDevitt, Brathwaite, Towner (Mason), Bradshaw, Dobson (Thomas), Ingrey (Robins), Hoenes.
Subs not used – Scott-Morriss, Endacott.