ROYSTON EAGLES 3-4 ASHWELL ACADEMICALS
Eagles paid the price for a lack of numbers and a lack of concentration at key moments as Ashwell deservedly avenged their 7-2 defeat on the opening weekend of the season.
The home side were missing three players and not having substitutes, as well as some dodgy defending, cost them dearly against a side who were much stronger than the previous scoreline suggested.
Royston were in the game right until the end but no-one could deny that Ashwell were the better, more hungry side on the day.
Eagles made the worst possible start, going behind in the opening minutes before appearing to gain the upper hand.
Kian Harness put Cameron King through and when his shot was saved by the Ashwell goalkeeper, Sean Blois was on hand to put away the rebound.
Blois then put Royston in front with a touch of class. Receiving the ball just outside the box, the central midfielder turned inside his man with his right foot and then used his left to drill a shot into the bottom corner.
The visiting ‘keeper somehow injured himself as the ball went in and when Harness’s pace and poise won a penalty against the replacement, a two-goal cushion beckoned.
But the sub ‘keeper got down well to save Harness’ low spotkick and from then on Ashwell were the better side.
Their infamous centre forward had already hit the frame of the goal and was taking full advantage of a lack of decisive challenges from the Eagles.
It was no surprise when Ashwell equalised and the home team were relieved to reach the break still level.
Early in the second half, the visitors had the ball in the net again. But it was ruled out for offside, after the referee had failed to notice the linesman’s flag (good work, Mr Harness).
Ashwell were furious. Probably even more so when they failed to defend a Harness corner and Logan Downie headed in from close range.
But it proved to be Royston’s only decent effort on goal of the second half.
Eagles struggled to retain possession and to mount meaningful attacks as they began to tire because of a lack of substitutes.
Ashwell, who had three sets of fresh legs to rotate, equalised when one of the smallest players on the pitch was allowed a free header in the six-yard box.
Some more poor defending from a corner led to what proved to be the winner and although Royston kept pressing in the last 10 minutes, it was not their day.
There were positives, though.
The return of Ethan Karpuk was really welcome and Owen Maslen had a good game at right back despite the waves of Ashwell pressure.
Anthony Georgiou showed the composure and commitment which some of his team-mates were unable to match consistently and Jacob McGlynn did nothing wrong, and plenty right, in goal.
With players to come back and two cup quarter-finals coming up, there is still plenty to play for this season.
Team: Jacob McGlynn; Owen Maslen, Sam Fage, Ethan Karpuk, George Palmer; Anthony Georgiou, Sean Blois, Coner Caughtry, Logan Downie; Cameron King, Kian Harness.