Mighty Royston Town hold out for FA Trophy replay at National League South high-flyers
- Credit: Archant
Steve Castle’s Royston Town can look forward to a second bite of the cherry against higher-ranked Hampton & Richmond Borough in FA Trophy third round qualifying on Tuesday night after grinding out a goalless draw at the in-form Vanarama National League South outfit this afternoon (Saturday).
The Crows were good value for this Station Road stalemate, even without pivotal central defender Adam Murray who pulled up in the pre-match warm-up with injury, fighting tooth and nail to keep out the probing, but in the end blunt, Borough attack.
Josh Castiglione and John Frendo served up the best chances for the away side, one either side of the interval, to pinch the unexpected victory but it was determined away defensive work that ensured Hampton & Richmond, third in National League South at present, would visit Garden Walk for a replay in midweek.
There was further insult to injury for the home side who had defender Michael Kamara sent-off for a second bookable offence in second-half added time after his arm caught Danny May in the face in an aerial tussle.
Southern League Division One Central leaders Town were not intimidated by a Borough side who had lost just one of their previous eight league and cup outings and they threatened to take a shock 15th-minute lead.
Full-back Gus Scott-Morriss played in Castiglione on the left-hand side of the area but his side-foot effort from 12 yards was blocked by keeper Charlie Grainger.
Six minutes later the home side thought they had broken the deadlock.
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Stocky forward Nicke Kabamba stole a march at the back stick but fired his shot across Joe Welch’s goal and agonisingly wide.
Alan Dowson’s Hampton & Richmond are currently joint top scorers, alongside St Albans City, in England’s sixth tier, boasting the likes of Jamal Lowe – a forward who has put pen to paper on a move to League Two Portsmouth in January – and former AFC Wimbledon and Newport County star Christian Jolley but they rarely troubled Welch.
Instead it was the courageous Crows who looked the bigger handful with Frendo just being squeezed out by two Borough men inside the box after defender Nathan Collier had inexplicably let a long ball bounce into a dangerous area.
Town hearts were fluttering on the stroke of half-time as Josh Casey smashed a 20-yard free-kick inches wide of the right post.
Royston continued to impress at the start of the second half and Frendo almost notched a goal similar to his winner at AFC Dunstable last month.
Setting his sights 25 yards out, he clipped a delicious lob towards Grainger’s near post but it just flashed wide of the upright.
At the other end, Welch, formerly of Borough’s rivals St Albans, continued to frustrate the home side and further kept Royston’s hopes alive in the 67th minute.
A terrific cross was met by the towering leap of Kabamba but his header was acrobatically tipped over the bar.
For all of the Beavers’ possession they could not find the killer instinct in the final third and it took until three minutes from time for their next real chance to surface.
Lowe prodded the ball goalwards following a scramble at a corner but somehow two vital blocks kept it from finding the net and breaking Royston’s resolve.
The hosts thought they had a lifeline when referee Andrew Laver added seven minutes on at the end of this intriguing affair but the only talking point the final moments produced was the sending-off of Kamara for his clumsy challenge on May.