I remembered not to follow my Sat-Nav this time, it has always previously taken me into a cul-de-sac from where I can see the ground but there is no entrance, however I forgot to put this information in the group chat and one or two players ended up in the side road!!
Barton Rovers, the home of Luton Town Ladies, has had some money spent on the terraces and a bit of a spruce up all round, since we were here last season – however the infamous slope still remains …
With Becky, Alish, Georgia, and Amy Martin unavailable, Nicole and Chloe came into the squad from last week’s win against King Lynn. We are aware of the quality of the opposition and were prepared for Luton to have more possession than the previous weeks opponents – getting back into shape when out of possession and ensuring we use the ball intelligently when we had it, were going to be key to getting anything out of this fixture.
The opening exchanges were just as Lewis had predicted, Luton having a lot of possession, Royston countering with quick, accurate, forward passing – Indeed Royston had the first clear shot on goal on 10 minutes when a low cross from Char was spilt by the keeper, the ball found its way to Annie some 20 yards out but her shot just cleared the crossbar.
Royston were working hard out of possession to get players between the ball and the goal, making it very difficult for Luton to break through the lines, this restricted Luton to longer range efforts – all of which were confidently handled by Elle who was to keep goal for the full game today.
Another quick break in the 23rd minute resulted in Becca nearly getting on the end of a through pass, but the Luton keeper was fast out of her box to clear the danger.
I was stationed on the opposite side of the ground from the dug outs, listening to the spectators. The common theme was that, although this was a game of few clear chances, it was clearly demonstrating a great advert for this level of Football, such was the cut and thrust of the match and the skill levels of the players on view.
Half Time 0-0
The second half started with Royston on the front foot (may well have been that we were now playing down the slope) with several half chances coming our way, the best which came to Emma Slater who narrowly shot wide in the 58th minute following good build up play on halfway with Emma Todd.
Finally, in the 63rd minute the first goal arrives, and a deserved goal for Royston who had the majority of the better chances so far this half – following good retention of the ball around the Luton penalty area, Char tries a speculative effort, on target, from 25 yards, which is spilled by the keeper and falls to MILLSY who is the quickest to react and taps home from 6 yards.
The Luton bench are now demanding more from their players and the referee, resulting in a caution for their Manager and Luton having more possession, albeit that this possession is largely in front of Royston’s defence and chances are restricted again to longer distance.
As time ticks into additional time the Luton Management team are getting more vocal and the referee’s tolerance level is reached with both the Manager and Coach being cautioned (2nd caution for the Manager see’s him walking slowly all the way across the pitch to go behind the barriers)
The additional time for these sanctions to take place are added on, and unfortunately, in the 100th minute we concede an equaliser, a Luton player gets to the byline and chips a cross to the back post, the ball hits our defender on the line and results in an own goal leveller.
There was just enough time for Royston to have one last shot at goal, unfortunately Emma’s shot was just off target as the final whistle blows.
In my opinion, in hindsight a point was a good return, there are not many teams that will take anything away from Luton Ladies at home – but the late goal was really deflating for the team, especially when we consider just how hard everyone worked – sometimes it’s a cruel game ……….
Great to see the togetherness of the TEAM, all getting round the unfortunate scorer of the own goal on the final whistle, who was devastated – albeit there was little she could do.
It’s always difficult to make mention of individuals when such a team effort was predominant – however ROPER was my player of the match at centre half. she told me, upon her arrival at Royston that she wasn’t a centre half and wasn’t sure about her ability to play at this level as she had never played this high before – Wrong on both accounts!!! I only hope that the knock she took, that resulted in her leaving the field of play in the last few minutes, is not serious.
I do want to finish this report focusing on the team, all 16 played their part on Sunday – including those that didn’t get on the pitch who were cheering just as loud as any Royston Supporter.
Needham Market at Garden Walk next week, nothing easy in this league!!