|Date||Saturday 1 November 2014|
|Match||Royston Town v Witham Town|
|Competition||FA Trophy First Qualifying Round|
In a match where Royston struggled for any real competitive cohesion the final score of 2-1 to Witham, plus a missed Crows' penalty, suggest that this FA Trophy match was closer than it actually was as the visitors dominated throughout.
The Crows are still racked with multiple injuries and were forced to put out a rearranged team to try and combat the recently promoted Ryman Premier League team. The re-jigged defence saw Jack Bradshaw initially play at right back, the usually more attack minded Chris Watters slot in at left back with rookie George Powell lining up with midfielder Spyros Mentis at centre back.
In a totally uninspiring first half of no real home team efforts on goal Witham won the midfield tussle with Royston not at the races with their unusually slow tempo pressing and loose passing in evidence and the visitor’s lively trio of mobile attackers caused constant trouble with their exciting on and off the ball movement. Witham took the lead on 18 minutes when a misplaced pass from Scott Bridges exposed the Crows up the left wing and the grateful attacker easily got behind the now scrambling Bradshaw, squaring a pass for Lewis Godbold to place the ball low past Dominic Russo.
With Steve Castle constantly tweaking the positional line-up the two Royston banks of four were pushed further back and with less and less attacking outlets, keeper Russo was called upon to make a fine save to keep the score differential to one.
Kaan Fehmi was working hard to get something going, having to drop deeper and deeper to get the ball, and man of the match Gary Hart constantly won the forward balls but had no tangible support from Reece Dobson to make the most of his good work.
Russo was called upon to make another smart stop early in the second half as the spritely forwards had the Crow’s defence spinning and chasing. Hard working Ryan Ingrey left the pitch on the hour nursing an injury being replaced by Lewis Endacott who had passed his own pre-match fitness test and the injury list lengthened.
Royston’s play was becoming more cup tie desperate but this enforced haste saw Endacott find Fehmi well but his cut back and low drive was well blocked by the committed Witham defenders.
The visitors doubled their advantage on 74 minutes with some great play by the impressive number 7 – Daniel Emmanuel – turning Endacott inside out and right wing crossing accurately for Ellis Brown to finish off his afternoons work as he was then promptly substituted.
A reasonably soft penalty decision two minutes later gave the Crows minimal hope with Dobson getting man-handled just inside the box but the home faithful saw the usually clinical Fehmi strike the left hand post low and away.
Dobson did get one back for Royston on 82 minutes as more good work by Hart set him up for a neat side-step and firm left foot finish. Chris Watters left the pitch with five minutes to go and Ryan Lockett – also returning from injury – took his place.
In a pressing but shot lacking last five minutes Fehmi again had a shot blocked but the resilient and no nonsense defending of the capable visitors saw out the remaining time to earn the deserved victory, the prize money of £2,700 and relatively easy passage through to the next round of the FA Trophy.
Team: Russo, Bradshaw, Powell, Mentis, Watters (Lockett), Bridges Scott, Bridges Stuart, Hart, Fehmi, Ingrey (Endacott), Dobson. Subs not used – Wharton, Kilgallon, Meredith.