Fledgling Crows have wings clipped on opening day as AFC Telford buck trend of eight games without a win to stop the rot to earn three points
A comfortable win for the home side. Royston didn’t start well but improved as the game went on, particularly in the second half, asking more questions of Telford’s defence, but mainly from distance.
Royston will have to accept a 3-0 defeat on the opening day of the season, away to AFC Telford, who were worthy winners, particularly based on their first half performance.
On a day when “Storm Antoni” brought unseasonably strong winds and heavy rain — which made the playing surface slippery — both sides starting elevens were unrecognisable from the teams that finished their respective league campaigns last season.
Telford reportedly fielded only three players from the side that got relegated from the National League North last term — Jordan Piggott, Brad Bood and Bryon Moore; while joint Royston manager, Chris Watters — backed by Steve Castle, who wasn’t in attendance — had a fledgling Crows squad comprising nine debutants with only Ronnie Henry, captain Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Matt Bateman, Tom Newman and James Brighton at Royston last season. Significantly the Crows were without influential centre half, Adam Murray, due to suspension, but the defender who is sometimes employed in a forward role, travelled with the squad.
But it was the home side, who got into their stride quicker after the first whistle despite winning only three of their pre-season friendlies, losing three and drawing the most recent games before this contest.
That said, The Bucks looked more comfortable and cohesive in the opening exchanges, their first effort coming in the first minute but it was well wide of the post.
In the 18th minute the social media account from the home club tweeted “Royston isn’t parking the bus”. However a minute later, after some neat and promising build up play, Telford were rewarded for their efforts with a goal.
A long, direct ball over the top of Royston’s defensive back line was met by the advancing forward and eventual Player of the Match — former Coventry and Nuneaton forward, Ricardo Dinanga — who was deemed not in an offside position as Telford’s young and promising number seven ran through on goal and made no mistake in slotting the ball home, composed, calmly and clinically, under Royston keeper Louie Chadwick. 1-0.
It will be disappointing for Royston not to have negotiated through the opening 20 minutes of the game without conceding as this was something that was all too prevalent and a common issue on the road last season.
The Crows’ travelling form being one of the worst in the league during the 2022/23 campaign collecting a measly 14 points on the road all season with the three teams amassing fewer away points were all relegated.
Royston, playing in a new purple and yellow kit for the first time, inspired by a rare, protected species of flower with purple petals and a yellow stamen on Therfield Heath, should take solace from their second half performance.
Josh Coldicott-Stevens in midfield did well and was composed and neat in his footwork and was unfortunate to slip and lose his footing on a wet pitch twice in the opening half.
The first instance he got away with it thanks to a great intervention and tremendous sliding tackle in the defensive penalty area by Alfie Williams. But Town weren’t so fortunate the second time of asking, when in the 34 minute, he slipped again, and Royston’s lines we breached. As Telford pushed forward, the Crows were cut open down their left hand side thanks to Telford’s impressive wing back Ellis Myles, who was a regular threat, crossed in for Buck’s debutant Remi Walker to stab the ball home to make it 2-0.
At this point, with their resilience breached twice, Royston’s confidence was being tested, and in 40th minute Louie Chadwick made a good save after another misplaced pass from a Royston player which invited Telford forward, but the shot was smothered.
Shortly after AFC Telford’s twitter commentary emerged stating: “it’s a good job Chadwick wears XL gloves, as his fingertips denied [Montel] Gibson”.
Following that passage of play, a threatening direct ball towards Royston’s goal was flicked out for a corner by Ronnie Henry, however the home team made it 3-0 from the resulting corner after a deep cross to the back post was met and tapped in, across Chadwick, this time by Montel Gibson.
The visitors continued to try and play football for the remaining moments of the opening half.
Royston were much improved after the interval.
The Crows earned a free kick in the 50th minute but the chance was wasted, the ball going high and wide.
Then, in what would have been a controversial moment, there was a clash of heads in midfield involving Jordan Piggott and Mackey Townsend-West, but the referee failed to blow the whistle to stop the game. Play continued, with Dinanga racing toward’s goal. But Telford’s forward shot wide of the right hand post.
In 53rd minute Matt Bateman turned and shot over the crossbar.
A minute later, another inviting and dangerous cross behind the Royston defence and in front of Chadwick from Telford’s Ellis Myles flashed through without any advancing Buck to convert with applying the finishing touch.
In 56th minute Brandon Hall, Telford’s keeper, who had largely been an untested spectator for close to the opening hour made a fantastic save to deny Cain Keller who was unable to find the net. The resulting corner cut out at the near post by Telfords defence.
On 58 minutes some good play down Royston’s right by Florian Tsagium, who encouraging evaded two challenges for the visitors before running the ball out of play, behind the goal line.
Some good interplay between Royston’s Samson Esan and Florain Tsagium followed, too, with the visitors unlucky to not reap dividends.
In the 69th minute Royston contrive another chance through the midfield who showed good awareness — but the eventual shot cleared the crossbar and stand.
Moments later a Telford shot hit the post and cannoned off at an angle that saw the ball precariously ricochet off just in front of the goal line to safety. The ball was cleared but only to Telfords dangerous, Ellis Myles, who showed great technique to half-volley a great effort towards goal but the effort was blocked en route to goal.
On 71 minutes Royston’s number 11, Cain Keller beat the offside trap but his cross couldn’t find Matt Bateman.
A minute later Royston had created another rare chance for Bateman but Brandon Hall the Telford keeper was equal to it.
In the 74th minute Josh Coldicott-Stevens — who continued to be brave in possession — attempted a pass and the balls cut out and Telford are on another threatening attack —but the shot was saved by Chadwick.
Good interplay between Royston’s Cain Keller, Greg Saniford, Josh Coldicot-Stevens, substitute Ange Djadja and Samson Esan, again showed promise and the philosophical intent from the visitors, but the eventual cross was cut out by keeper, Hall.
Royston were rewarded a free kick on 76 minutes about 25 yards out from goal on the right hand side but Town’s Alife Williams left footed effort was high and struck the back of the stand.
Chadwick, whose accurate distribution both short and long had been good all afternoon, also impressed with a fine save after some direct play from a goal kick and flick on. The attempt was offside, but the young keeper didn’t know it at the time.
As the game entered its final stages and the last five minutes, it was encouraging to see Royston sticking to their new philosophy of playing out from the back with patient build up, between the lines.
The Crows earned a late corner but the cross ended up in the magnetic hands of Hall, once more.
In 89 minute a frustrating afternoon for Royston was illustrated by towns Cain Keller who held on to his opposite numbers shirt drawing a reaction and yellow card from the referee’s pocket.
The game finished 3-0.