Royston Town 2-2 Eastbourne Borough after extra time: FA Trophy heartbreak as visitors win third qualifying round replay 4-3 on penalties

Royston Town hosted Eastbourne Borough at Garden Walk. Credit @laythy29

Royston Town hosted Eastbourne Borough at Garden Walk. Credit @laythy29 - Credit: Archant

Royston Town cruelly lost 4-3 on penalties following a 2-2 draw after extra time as the Crows were knocked out of the FA Trophy by Eastbourne Borough.

The match programme between Royston Town and Eastbourne Borough. Picture @laythy29

The match programme between Royston Town and Eastbourne Borough. Picture @laythy29 - Credit: Archant

Steve Castle’s men looked to be coasting at 2-0 around the hour mark before a mistake by keeper Josh Tibbetts allowed Gavin McCallum to grab a goal back and change the game.

The Crows had gone 2-0 up through a first half Josh Castiglione strike. The lead was doubled through a resounding header by Ed Asafu-Adjaye.

John Frendo played a crossfield ball to Josh Castiglione who slotted hom to make it 1-0. Picture: Da

John Frendo played a crossfield ball to Josh Castiglione who slotted hom to make it 1-0. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

But McCallum’s goal handed momentum to the visitors who equalised with eight minutes remaining through a Harry Ransom goal.

Thirty minutes of extra time couldn’t separate the sides before the Sussex side eventually triumphed 4-3 on penalties after Ransom slotted home the winning penalty.

Earlier, kick-off was delayed by ten minutes prompted by Borough’s late arrival after heavy traffic on the M25.

The visitors started the match as if they were still on the coach as they were stung by a lively start from the home side.

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Eastbourne needed to respect the Crows bearing in mind Castle’s side won promotion to the Southern Premier – one step below the Sports in the pyramid – where they have performed creditably, if not spectacularly, even if there is a certainty there is more to come from this young side.

It is in cup competitions where Castle’s men have shown flashes of what they should be capable of on a more consistent basis – not least when dispatching Hendon and Leatherhead in the equivalent Bostik Premier.

If the valiant but ultimately disappointing result over two matches against Braintree Town in the FA Cup was anything to go by, the Crows were hungry for a cup run – to banish the memory of that underwhelming home loss against their visitors from Essex.

They started well, with James Potton feeding Josh Castiglione who fired a shot that was blocked before Scott Bridges fired over.

Charlie Harris was booked for catching the visitors’ Scott Thomas but a yellow card was the correct result from referee Lloyd Wood.

Despite strong protests from the furious Eastbourne players, with memories of the tempestuous first game still fresh in the memory after Will Hendon’s sending off around the hour mark at the weekend.

The lively Crows went ahead on 16 minutes after a splendid crossfield pass from former Hitchin Town forward John Frendo to the promising Castiglione.

The talented Crows’ youngster slotted home at the near post confirming the promise this correspondent saw when watching the lad impress when he played against Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup in January 2015.

There was plenty of endeavour from both sides in an open game, even if the end product was lacking in quality as the Crows went in 1-0 up the break.

Castle’s men then went 2-0 ahead nine minutes into the second half after Asafu-Adjaye headed home emphatically from a corner by substitute Gus Scott-Morriss.

It seemed the Crows could lose only by throwing the game away.

Yet it appeared they were set on doing just that as kepeer Tibbetts completely misjudged a powerful low shot from McCallum which went through him and into the net.

Although it was a threatening strike it was an eminently stoppable – even if you felt for the keeper who had shown bravery throughout the match in dealing with aerial balls, and the physicality surrounding the visitors’ challenges.

The goal gave Eastbourne momentum as they immediately went hunting for a second.

They were to be rewarded with eight minutes to go through a Harry Ransom goal after a goalmouth scramble to make it 2-2, which remained the score at the end of the regulation 90 minutes playing time.

Half an hour couldn’t separate the sides and so it went to penalties, before the cruel loss 4-3 sealed by Ransom, denying a trip for Castle’s men to Dover.

It was cruel on the Crows. But then football can be a cruel game.

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