|Date||Saturday 26 December 2015|
|Match||Royston Town v St Ives Town|
|Competition||Evostik League Southern: Division One Central|
|Royston Scorers||Bradshaw, Okay|
This Boxing Day home fixture produced a game of two different approaches with the home side keen to move the ball about swiftly, despite the heavy pitch, and the visitors determined to stifle all attacks, by foul means or fair, and seemed happy to nick a point and scuttle back to Cambridgeshire.
With Liam McDevitt still out with a rib injury Daniel Brathwaite was again asked to deputise at centre-back and put in an impressive and controlled performance alongside stonewall Joe De La Salle who made some superb timely tackles, but was less careful with his ball distribution. Match sponsor’s favourite Chris Watters remained at left back and Danny May was on the right of the back four. Captain Scott Bridges played his last game before his suspension kicks in with Ryan Towner sitting in and Jack Bradshaw put in another committed 90 minutes in the holding midfield position. The tried and tested attacking trio of Rob Mason, Ryan Ingrey and Rhys Hoenes would start upfront.
St Ives were sitting in the promotion play-off places before this game and had enjoyed a decent first half of the season in this slightly strange win one/lose one campaign, but their overall demeanour today seemed sluggish and lethargic, whereupon the Crows, hurting from recent dropped points, went about their business with purpose and a distinct ambition to achieve maximum points and reward and move on into 2016 with positively.
The first half was an even affair on a boggy surface that produced a number of half chances each end but neither team could convert and take any control.
Royston’s pass, pass then longer ball start saw the channel seeking passes being held up in the wind and asking a lot of the willing Ingrey and Mason to win cleanly and hold up under considerable challenge from Charlie De’ath and Steven Gentle, whose sometimes desperate efforts became more and more stretched and cumbersome, attracting the attention of referee Darin Geary and conceding multiple free-kicks around the edge of the box, notably one which Bradshaw struck cleanly but straight at Saints keeper Tim Trebes. Again ill-judged away team tackles saw the referee losing his patience and reaching for his yellow card and following a crude assault on Ingrey, May’s free kick found De La Salle, but his header went just over the bar.
On 25 minutes a rare lack of ball control by Bridges let Jared Cunniff rob him and his pass to debutant striker Andrew Phillips led to the number 9 dragging his shot wide of Ron Yates’ post. Yates himself was still carrying a previous game injury that saw him refrain from any kicks all match – but his shorter distribution was controlled and effective. The briefly lively Phillips had a similar chance two minutes later but again was off target with his hurried shot and he had a shout for a penalty waved away on the half hour mark as St Ives enjoyed their best passage of pressure of the game.
The Crows weathered the storm and began to counter-punch and a long ball in was misjudged by Trebes and Ingrey predatorily pounced but his effort was straight at the grateful keeper. More good Royston dead ball delivery stepped up the action on the St Ives goal and their back-line and keeper did well to maintain goalless parity before the interval but with the Saints being more like sinners with their caution tally mounting.
No Royston changes seen at half-time and the home side came out thrusting forward early on and Ingrey put in a strong right wing run cutting in and tried to surprise Trebes at his near post but the shot was blocked wide. Again spoiling tackles from the visitors brought a number of free-kicks but the Crows had to deal with sporadic breakaways and De La Salle was majestic in his tackle timing more than once and Yates’ goal was without real threat all half.
Again Ingrey ran and probed and Hoenes ran and dribbled, but Mason was substituted on 61 minutes seeing new striker Gary Cohen come on to replace him and The Crows continued their match-play dominance but with no move ending shots to speak of and Steve Castle made his final changes with 20 minutes to go, replacing the repeatedly clattered Ingrey with Reece Dobson and the hard-working Ryan Towner with Erkan Okay.
De La Salle, up for a corner, hit the post with a dipped header and we saw Royston shift up another gear as their spritely, pacey substitutes, alongside the incumbent Hoenes produced widening cracks in the scrambling St Ives defensive line and with their punitive yellow card count continuing to grow the game reached the 80th minute and the definitive goal searching pressure finally breached the under-fire visitor’s resolve.
Left back Watters delivered a perfect hanging free-kick and De’ath blatantly pulled back the in motion Dobson and referee Geary was well placed to adjudge a penalty inducing foul and show Saints’ skipper De’ath a second yellow and resultant red card. Bradshaw stepped up in the absence of Mason and hit a straight shot past Trebes. 1-0.
In the last few minutes the visitors were seen to start their play a lot further up the pitch with Trebes almost playing as a sweeper as they tried to steal a point, well against the run of play in this second period. This high pitch play was managed by good midfield work and ultimately punished by the Crows and as the keeper miss-kicked straight to the alert Okay just inside the St Ives half and he put in a long, accurate, defence evading 40 yard lob that went in off of the right hand post to seal the Boxing Day victory. 2-0.
St Ives sullied their disappointing afternoon further as following a yellow card deserving tackle from Royston’s Danny May, the Saints assistant manager showed sufficient indiscipline to find himself dismissed from the Saints’ bench to sum up the visitor’s miserable display, that meant Royston Town jumped above them in the Christmas league table and set up the New Year second half of the season optimistically for the determined and ambitious Crows.
Team: Yates, May, Watters, De La Salle, Brathwaite, Bradshaw, Scott Bridges, Towner (Okay), Mason (Cohen), Ingrey (Dobson), Hoenes.
Subs not used – Robins, Powell.