Crows on course for second placed finish

Royston Town 2-0 Hadley

A RESOLUTE performance from the Crows in stifling hot conditions extended their unbeaten league run to 13 games and, with Tring Athletic and Leverstock Green also gaining victories, the race for second place will go down to the wire and the final weekend of games.

Hadley set their stall out like so many other teams visiting Garden Walk this season with a very defensive formation.

Royston needed to move the ball with pace to counter this set up which they did from the start.

Surprisingly it was the more direct ball from defensive positions that the visitors struggled to deal with in the first half and the hosts could have been two goals up by the half time interval.

In the opening five minutes both Ryan Lockett and Tom Malins had opportunities hacked off of the line by defenders from lobs. Crosses into the box were also causing problems and Matt Standen was unlucky not to find the net with two chances.

Hadley had the pace on the counter attack to get some joy but the support to the lone forward was often found wanting and the few half chances that did materialise never affected Jorden Gibson’s goal.

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Royston lost Rhys Lawrence to injury midway through the half and his replacement Ricky Young could have scored twicewithin two minutes of coming on. A shot from a narrow angle was only just kept out by an unbalanced ‘keeper and from a free kick the ball landed at Young’s feet and with his back to goal he hooked the ball just over the crossbar.

The hosts also had two decent penalty shouts before half time with a Malins shot hitting a defender’s hand but being deemed not intentional before an even better shout when another cross was about to land on Ross Collins’ head but a defender nudged him in the back sending the midfielder sprawling to the ground.

Another injury to forward Matt Standen meant another enforced interval change with Will Turl entering the fray.

Hadley had a decent chance early in the second half when David Cain tried to run the ball out for a goal kick but was caught out and their wide player crossed along the six yard line but fortunately Jack Bradshaw beat the oncoming forward to concede a corner. As the half gained momentum it was clear Royston were struggling to make the same inroads in and behind the Hadley defence as the first half and it would probably take something special to unlock the door and break the deadlock.

And that special moment arrived on 58 minutes when a half cleared cross came out to Lockett 25 yards from goal who arrowed a fantastic volley past the ‘keeper that went in via the underside of the crossbar. It was a fantastic strike from Lockett and it was fitting that it should be Royston’s 100th league goal of the season.

Hadley made a double substitution and with both sides looking increasingly tired, mistakes in possession of the ball occurred more often.

Gibson came into his own with one tremendous right-handed save down low to his right and stood big to block a one-on-one effort soon after.

The visitors threw bodies forward but were largely contained after those two clear chances and Royston threatened on the counter themselves. This was shown in the 86th minute when a quick break away from a visiting set-play saw Malins beat the offside trap down the right-hand channel and a swift advancement from the winger and unselfish square ball allowed a simple finish for Paul Klein from six yards out.

This goal deflated the visitors who had fought hard to get back into the game after Lockett’s strike but on balance of play Paul Attfield’s side fully deserved the win and they will go to Haringey Borough next Saturday with a second placed league finish well within their grasp.

Royston Town: Gibson, Endacott, Bradshaw, McGrandles, Cain, Collins, Edwards, Malins, Standen (Turl), Lockett, (Klein), Lawrence (Young).