|Date||Saturday 5 October 2013|
|Match||Royston Town v Three Bridges
|Competition||FA Carlsberg Trophy: Preliminary Round
||Joe De La Salle
The Crows exited the second biggest competition of their season with a whimper with a largely lacklustre and embarrassingly indisciplined performance at the first hurdle.
The young Three Bridges side that came to Garden Walk had far more desire and the right attitude in their game to finish worthy winners whilst the Royston team were well wide of the mark in those aspects, especially in the first half and by the full time whistle had to endure an embarrasing added insult of having three players sent off in a crazy six minute period late on. This shouldn't take anything away from the opposition as The Crows were trailing 3-1 before the altercations.
Manager Paul Attfield had to respect a one game changing room and touchline ban as did regular keeper George Lawton, who was suspended. 17 year old keeper Zach Binge made a first team debut. Ryan Lockett and Jack Bradshaw missed the game through injury but the squad had more depth than in recent games with Lewis Endacott, Taylor Parr, Robbie Mason, Luke Robins and Tom Pepper all returning.
Royston got off to a disastrous start when on 45 seconds a weak back header by Adie Cambridge left his keeper short and whilst the young stopper deflected the ball away the follow up by a forward left the gift of an empty net to roll the ball into.
This was compounded further on 14 minutes when The rows fell asleep from a short set play and whilst the cross was well over hit a visiting player had ample time at the far side of the area to knock an unchallenged ball back into the danger area. The ball slipped through Binge's grasp and was bundled over the line by a forward.
The Crows tried to burst into life but their energy and quality levels were at a premium. Craig Hammond was unlucky when his flying header was superbly turned away by the keeper whilst a number of goal mouth scrambles ensued with the ball not quite rolling Royston's way but the dogged, if sometimes desperate, defending by the visitors was worthy of winning a high calibre cup tie.
In fact the visitors could have added more first half goals with Binge making a tremendous double save from a 25 yard free kick that flew through a weak wall and a one on one with the visiting forward rounding the keeper but just leaving a too difficult angle for the completion.
Royston came out firing in the second half with more tempo and enthusiasm in their game but they lacked a clear cutting edge too may times in and around the area. Craig Hammond was unlucky again when he got behind the Three Bridges defence but his angled shot was blocked at close range by the keeper's legs and Robbie Mason had one looping header saved and another just clear the crossbar.
Luke Robins and Kaan .Fehmi both entered the fray with 25 minutes remaining and immediately Ross Collins reduced the arrears with a sweetly struck 25 yarder that flew into the top corner via the post.
This was as good as it got for The Crows though as minutes later with their first attack of the second half Three Bridges completed the scoring. Tom Pepper was out-muscled on the touchline with the winger advancing into the area and pulling the ball back to the edge with the resulting shot deflecting off a flailing leg and into the net giving Binge no chance.
Cue the indiscipline with frustrations boiling over with the referee and within a six minute period Ross Collins (dissent), Robbie Mason (foul) and Kaan Fehmi (foul) all picked up second cautions to leave a disgruntled home side seeing out the last few minutes with eight bodies on the pitch, which was never going to threaten the outcome.
Team: Binge, Endacott, Pepper, De La Salle, Cambridge, Spencer (Fehmi), Collins, Ingrey, Hammond, Mason, Bryant (Robins) – Unused: Baird, Edwards, Parr
Paul Attfield commented at the end of the game: " My initial reaction is one of sheer annoyance and embarrassment. I can only apologise right now to our regular supporters and young supporters that had to witness that Whilst the performance was well below the required standards expected to win any game of competitive football the level of team indiscpline was at a completely unacceptable level and will be dealt with in the severest way possible by me in due course. We had a decent draw in this competition on paper in the early rounds and that opportunity to progress has been blown away – caused only by our own incompetence."