U18 Match Report: St Neots Town v Royston Town

Royston’s unbeaten run continued after a hard fought victory at top-of-the-table St Neots. A solid defensive performance from reliable central defensive pairing Alex Hewer and Jake Bentley, was the reason for this victory, while behind them Ben Dolman was in inspired form, producing a string of saves which enabled the Crows  to take all three points.

The home side started with the confidence that being top of the league gives you. Waites spelt out his early intent for the hosts and on another day could have bagged a first-half hat-trick.

The striker had already seen one chance go begging before a well worked move down the left saw Hiscock cross left footed into the path of the on-running St Neot’s number 9. To the surprise of everyone his well hit shot was some how reached and then brilliantly tipped over the bar, by Crow’s keeper Dolman.

At this point it looked like St Neots’ pressure would surely pay off as repeatedly they found their way into the Royston box.

But then, against the run of play, Royston took the lead. A free-kick out on the right was taken left footed by Joe Babbage. It hung in the evening air and as it fell on the edge of the six yard box it was defender Jake Bentley who got his head to it first and nodded the visitors into the lead. Coupled with his solid defensive performance and composure in possession, it was arguably enough to make him man of the match.

Within minutes it was business as usual as the hosts ran at the Royston defence, on this occasion Waites opting for a chip, but it was high and wide.

Just after the half hour, for the second game in a row, Royston found themselves playing against ten men. This time the offender was judged to have handled the ball on the line as Ethan Morley shot hard and past the keeper. Babbage stepped up to slot home the resulting penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Unlike their last game though, you never quite felt that Royston could run away with it. They did keep attacking though and just minutes later Morley was presented with a great chance to volley his side further ahead, but the strike was arguably too clean and was saved well by the home keeper.

At the other end Ben Dolman was in outstanding form. From a corner as half time approached, Royston failed to pick up the opposition’s smallest player, Routs, but his goal bound header was caught cleanly by the keeper. Perhaps it was going to be Royston’s night.

The restart suggested St Neots had re-organised at half-time, as they came out with the intent of getting back into the game. Williams on the right hand side for the hosts was looking ever more threatening and looked like one of the few forwards in the league who might outpace Royston’s Kyle Augustine.

The game was opening up. At the other end Noah Costin, who had come in for his first start of the season, to replace the injured Michael Baulk, was making his presence felt by winning aerial duels as well as showing an abundance of pace and strength on the ground. He had a goal ruled out for off-side, but performed well to give Royston a real target to aim for.

The hosts though were far from down and out and with fifteen minutes remaining a long pass to St Neots’ right was collected by Williams who beat Augustine for pace and strength, before leaving a second defender in his wake and smashing the ball home.

It made for an exciting, tense and on times over-heated final fifteen minutes that raised the temperature on a cold October evening.

The Crows though held on and should arguably have had a second penalty when the advancing Costin was taken out by the home side’s keeper. But with tempers fraying as the league leaders saw the spectre of their first home defeat of the season becoming a reality, referee Paul Dobbs – whose daughter Lauren was one of the lineswomen – blew his whistle to end things. A hard fought victory for The Crows. A result which maintains their position of fourth in the league after four matches.