An under-strength Royston team slumped to a 5-0 defeat at in-form Kettering Town to put a dent in their play-off ambitions.

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The Poppies are undefeated in the Calor League Division One Central since October 19, and for a patched-up Royston outift, it was always going to be a tough ask to get something out of the game.

Royston lined up without Lewis Endacott and Kaan Fehmi (first game of four game suspensions) and Jack Bradshaw and Sam Spencer who were both ill.

These absences saw regular striker Craig Hammond line up as centre-half alongside the soon to be suspended Joe De La Salle, in a 4-5-1 formation with new dad Rob Mason up-front.

The opening goal came on 28 minutes when an innocuous forward ball was parried by Hammond with his left arm in the box and Andy Gooding struck home the spot-kick.

Three minutes later and De La Salle collided with Robbie Nightingale, both missing the clearance, and while they debated the matter, two crisp passes later and Elliot Sandy thumped home to punish them and their team.

It was Sandy who set up the third and Royston were in disarray – a pass to Gooding on the right and he was past his marker too easily for a low cross to Josh Moreman to have three attempts in a messy goal-mouth scramble that saw his persistence pay off to make it three.

Steve Castle must have been willing half-time to arrive so he could help his team re-group but a minute before the break a deep cross looked to be going long but an athletic right foot reach from Chris Logan deflected the ball across the goal and in off the opposite post.

Castle chose to keep everything the same for the first segment of the second half and whilst Kettering had an early chance that hit the post the bedraggled Crows worked hard to restore some kind of pride.

Substitutions were made in the 57th minute as Ryan Ingrey was replaced by Spyros Mentis and Reece Dobson for Adie Cambridge.

The latter went into centre-back position. allowing Hammond, who, despite the hand-ball, had answered his team’s call to fill in at centre-half admirably – to push up-front.

But the visitors did not create any real chances on goal and sometimes were frustratingly hesitant to pull the trigger when well-placed.

Kettering got their fifth and final goal in the 68th minute as James Jepson to fired home.

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