Match Report: Royston Town v Heybridge Swifts

Date Saturday 20 August 2016
Match Royston Town v Heybridge Swifts
Competition Emirates FA Cup: Preliminary Round
Result Lost 4-1
Royston Scorers Thomas
Crows MoM

The first game of every season in the FA Cup is always one that is looked forward to with great excitement and anticipation at the unknown adventure that awaits. Unfortunately for Royston fans it was a bit like expecting to go on a date with Rachel Riley only to find Lisa Riley sitting with the popcorn on the back row of the cinema.

With Steve Castle having bemoaned his sides “cutting edge” after the last couple of performances, a busy week in the transfer market had seen the signings of a proven goal scorer in John Frendo and the return of Simon Thomas. In an attempt to find the elusive “cutting edge” Castle shuffled his front three, with Thomas immediately picked to lead the line with support being offered by Josh Castiglione and a first start of the season for Martel Powell.

Kicking into a stiff wind Royston lost the initiative straight away as right from the start Heybridge demonstrated a greater desire to win the game that was evident throughout the whole unequal contest. As early as the second minute the visiting captain, George Cole, who was prominent throughout, had a well-executed free kick tipped round the post by Reece Paine. Heybridge did not have long to wait to take the lead as in the fifth minute Callum Leahy collected the ball on the left hand side in an unthreatening position. This soon changed as he skipped past two half-hearted challenges that epitomised Royston’s overall display, and then rifled in an unstoppable 30 yard pile driver into the top right hand corner of Paine’s goal. It was a wind assisted goal of real quality but one that should have been stopped before he reached dangerous territory.

If this was not bad enough for Royston, 3 minutes later things got worse, as a defensive mix up between Paine and the usually assured Ryan Frater gave Reece Grant the opportunity to dispossess Paine, after he took an additional touch, and subsequently had the easy task of rolling the ball into the unguarded net.

At this point Royston were shell shocked and second best in every department, indeed Heybridge were only denied a deserved third goal from a well worked move that sliced through the home defence, by a correctly waved flag from the linesman to signal an offside. Three minutes later Heybridge once again broke through the home ranks and only a heavy touch from Leahy gave Paine a chance to rush from his line and claim the ball.

It was at this point that Royston suddenly realised that it was a Saturday afternoon and they had actually congregated to play a game of football, as the midfield started to get to grips with their previously untroubled counterparts and began to dominate possession. As in previous games possession did not translate into goal scoring opportunities as we saw Heybridge’s ability to defend resolutely, which was shown in abundance in the second half. The closest Royston came was a rasping Jack Bradshaw drive that went the wrong side of the post and a shot from Castiglione that gave the visiting goal keeper a gentle reminder that he was involved in the game.

The knockout punch in this game came against the run of play after Royston’s promising 15 minute spell. Again it was a poor goal to concede, as a drop kick from Danny Sambridge in the Heybridge goal was flicked on by Leahy, for Grant to race clear of the absent home defence and easily place his shot past Paine.

Needing a goal before half time Royston finally produced some quality in the 44th minute when Powell flicked a positive forward pass from Joe De La Salle into the path of Gus Scott-Morriss down the right hand side and an excellent cross was not quite cleanly met by Thomas enabling Sambridge to gratefully grab the ball.

The half-time whistle sounded and the home crowd hoped this would give the Crows a chance to re-group and come out fighting, looking for an early goal that would give the wind assisted home side, hope of a comeback. The team certainly started with a lot more intent and again had the lion’s share of the play but Heybridge were well organised and had an annoying knack of producing a covering defender every time one of the Royston players managed to wriggle free from their marker. A mixture of good and bad crosses from both open and set players only created a couple of headed chances that missed the target despite Royston’s obvious height advantage over the away defence.

To prove Royston’s failure to produce any real quality against the resilient visitors it took until the 33rd minute of the second half for them to produce a shot on target and this provided the solitary Royston goal. A fine move involving substitutes John Frendo and Kaan Fehmi gave Castiglione the chance to cross low for Thomas to steer into the goal. This gave Royston renewed hope and just a minute later Castiglione cut in off his wing and unleashed a fierce shot that Sambridge beat away, fortunately for him the ball evaded the Crow’s forwards. A couple of penalty appeals were quickly dismissed by the referee before the final nail in Royston’s coffin was hammered in by the impressive Cole in the 86th minute. Collecting the ball 30 yards from goal he advanced unchallenged before unleashing a shot that deflected off Daniel Brathwaite completely wrong footing the unfortunate Paine to loop into the now unguarded side of the goal.

Altogether an afternoon to forget for the home side as Heybridge ran out worthy winners having bettered the home side in every department. A real wake up call for the home side who have a week to lick their wounds and prepare to come out fighting for 2 important games in 3 days over the bank holiday weekend that will hopefully get the season back on track again. It will also provide a chance to find the correct formula that made them such a potent attacking force last year finishing top scorers across the 3 southern league divisions.


Team: 1-Paine, 2-Scott-Morriss, 3-May, 4- Bridges (Scott), 5-Frater, 6-De La Salle, 7-Mentis, 8-Bradshaw, 9-Thomas, 10-Powell, 11- Castiglione

Subs: 12-Fehmi (for Powell 72), 16-Frendo (for May 65), 17-Brathwaite (for De La Salle 56)