Lacklustre Crows held by Hillingdon

Spartan South Midlands Premier Royston Town 1 Hillingdon Borough 1

The contrast couldn’t be starker.

On Saturday Royston comprehensively outplayed high-flying Colney Heath in one of their finest performances of the season on route to a 4-0 victory.

Three days later – and with the same starting XI that had performed so well against Colney – they were forced to settle for a point against a mid-table Hillingdon Borough after a display which lacked the desire that had been so clearly evident in their previous outing.

Ross Collins gave Royston the lead six minutes into the second half but they were unable to build on their advantage and Stefan O’Brien grabbed the equaliser in the 71st minute during a rare attack to ensure The Hillmen left Garden Walk with a point for their efforts and leave Crows boss Paul Attfield questioning the commitment of his players after a below-par showing.

The Crows started the match on the front foot and striker Bobby Dance came within inches of giving them the lead after nine minutes. The former Hitchin man jinked his way past three defenders before bursting into the box and firing a left-footed effort just wide of the Boro ‘keeper’s left-hand post.

They went even closer four minutes later when Lewis Endacott’s free kick from deep was allowed to bounce through to an unmarked Martin Standen on the corner of the box. The big central midfielder wasted no time in unleashing a fierce left-footed volley that cannoned back off the upright with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot. It was a fantastic effort and one that deserved greater reward.

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Royston were marginally the better of the two sides during the rest of the first half as Hillingdon looked toothless every time they got near the Crows’ penalty area.

Attfield’s side created few goalscoring opportunities themselves, though, before the break but Martin Standen was unlucky to see his instinctive close-range effort cleared off the line following excellent wide play from Ricky Young.

The goal Royston so desperately needed finally arrived in the 51st minute. Full-back Jack Bradshaw picked out Martin Standen at the far post who nodded back across goal for the onrushing Collins. The Crows skipper saw his first attempt, a downward volley, beaten away by the ‘keeper before racing onto the loose ball to fire high into the net from six yards.

Royston went on to dominate possession for the next 20 minutes but did not threaten the Hillingdon goal anywhere near as much as they should have done.

And sure enough, the visitors took advantage of some hesitant defending on 71 minutes when O’Brien fired a loose ball into the bottom corner from 18 yards after the defence failed to clear their lines following a deep cross from the left wing.

The match went fairly stale after the goal and Royston looked out of ideas and in need of a shake up.

Attfield made a triple substitution by introducing striker Matt Standen, full-back Danny Apostolos and winger Paul Klein with less than 10 minutes remaining. However the changes did little to give them the impetus they needed to go on and find a winner and they were fortunate not to concede in the last minute when Apostolos was dispossessed cheaply on the edge of his own box before the Boro striker fired inches wide of Jorden Gibson’s post.

There was still time for John McGrandles to head just over the bar in the final seconds from a Collins corner but in the end they were unable to find a winner.

Royston Town (4-4-2): Gibson 6, Endacott 6 (Apostolos 81), Cain 7, McGrandles 7, Bradshaw 6, Collins 7, Edwards 6 (Klein 81), Martin Standen 7, Lamacraft 5 (Matt Standen 81), Dance 7, Young 6.