Royston Town: The season so far

At the halfway stage of the season, we look back on the ups and downs of Royston’s campaign to date

ROYSTON TOWN couldn’t have wished for a better start to the season.

Despite a disappointing exit from the Herts Charity Shield during pre-season, five wins from their opening five league games gave credence to the belief that Paul Attfield’s side would be strong contenders for promotion in the Spartan South Midlands Premier after falling just short last time out.

They scored 15 goals in their five matches in August, with Tom Malins in particular showing his eye for goal with five strikes to his name before making it six in six with a 1-1 draw away to Tring Athletic in early September.

August was tainted slightly with a poor defeat at home to Crawley Green in the FA Cup preliminary round but the team bounced back with a 4-1 win against Hertford Town in their next fixture.

While the goals were being fired in at will at the right end, hardly any were being conceded at the other as the back-line looked extremely solid throughout the opening games of the season. Paul Attfield had stated his desire to see a marked improvement from his side defensively from the last campaign where, on numerous occasions, too many late goals were conceded which resulted in crucial league points being thrown away. And all seemed to be going well until a disastrous night away to Hatfield Town on September 7 signalled a run of three straight defeats.

All was going according to plan when an own goal and a Luke Robins strike put Royston two goals to the good. It was no less than they deserved after dominating the first half and another three points looked to be on their way.

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However, a terrible second half collapse in which Hatfield scored the winner three minutes from time resulted in the players receiving a stern dressing down from Attfield after the match who was far from happy at the manner of the defeat.

The loss was compounded a week later with the Crows’ third cup exit of the season, this time away at Leverstock Green in the Challenge Trophy.

Not the best preparation, then, for the visit of promotion rivals Chalfont St Peter to Garden Walk 11 days later. It would have been interesting to see what the outcome of the match would have been had the Crows not suffered such a confidence-sapping defeat against Hatfield but, as it was – the Saints cruised to a 5-0 win to leave the players much to ponder. It was the Crows’ worst home defeat in four years.

Cup competitions continued to come thick and fast for Attfield’s side as did their share of bad luck as another cup exit ensued, this time in the Premier Division Cup away at Kingsbury London Tigers. It was a match in which Royston should have won at a canter after creating enough chances against what was average opposition. Debutant Tom Haynes got his name on the scoresheet but it wasn’t enough as Tigers ran out 3-1 winners.

A narrow 1-0 defeat away to Leverstock ensured their bad run continued before eventually getting back to winning ways at home to Oxhey Jets at the end of September. It wasn’t a straight forward win, though, as Royston had looked to have squandered the three points after conceding two goals in the final six minutes, only for Ricky Young to save the day with a late winner to make it 3-2.

It was a much-needed victory and one which the Crows duly built on with a 1-0 win over Stotfold in the following match with Josh Bronti scoring the only goal.

They then followed this up with probably their best performance of the season away at basement-side Langford on a Tuesday night in early October.

Weeks of not taking chances were seemingly forgotten as Royston put seven past a desperately poor opponent at Forde Park. Both George Brinkman and Bronti scored hat-tricks that night with the latter bagging his treble after only coming on as a 74th minute substitute.

A 3-2 home loss to Hanwell Town and a penalty shoot-out defeat at home to March Town in the Cambs Invitation Cup proved to be a only minor blips as Royston then went on to win their next six matches going into November – a run which included two cup wins.

Former Hitchin striker Bobby Dance, who had recently joined the Crows, scored the winner against Hullbridge Sports in round one of the East Anglian Cup before Brinkman and Robins strikes ensured a victory for the holders over Bedford in the Floodlit cup a week later.

Just when things looked to be on the up for the team, another dip soon followed, with successive defeats to Dunstable Town and St Margaretsbury.

The team’s drop in form prompted Attfield to fear the worst before coming up against a strong, in-form Leiston in the FA Vase in mid November.

Attfield said before the match that his side would have to pull something out of the bag if they were going to progress to the second round but, as it turned out, Royston were desperately unlucky not to have won the match in front of 196 spectators at Garden Walk.

An early Leiston goal had looked like setting the tone for a long afternoon for the Crows but goals from Brinkman and Glen Lamacraft turned the game on its head as they dominated their Ridgeons Premier Division opponents for the majority of the match.

However, a late penalty four minutes from time denied the Crows a thoroughly deserved victory and the draw meant a long trip to Suffolk for the replay three days later.

And so, both the squad and supporters embarked on the 200-mile round trip to Suffolk on a cold November night. And again, Royston got off to a terrible start which was to eventually prove their undoing. Leiston scored inside two minutes and, despite another excellent passing display from Attfield’s side, luck just wasn’t on their side as they bowed out of the competition.

The defeat clearly left its mark on the squad as they crashed to a 4-2 defeat away at Hillingdon Borough four days later in what was a below-par showing. And, due to the recent adverse weather conditions, they have only played one game since – a 2-1 win at home to still bottom club Langford.

The most consistent element of Royston’s season so far, put simply, is that it has been terribly inconsistent. Impressive wins and runs of form have too often been followed by inexplicable defeats and bemusing performances that have left them with a mountain to climb if their pre-season promotion objective is to be realised.

It has to be said, though, if Chalfont hadn’t won all but two of their matches to date, the league table would almost certainly make far better reading given the fact Royston themselves have won 13 of their 20 games and currently sit third in the table. In that respect, Royston have had a good campaign so far, but given the context of Chalfont’s blistering start and the unfortunate truth of there being only one promotion spot – third place seems strangely unsatisfactory at this stage of the campaign.

There have also been a few notable ins and out during the last month or so with goalkeeper Lee Robinson moving back to Hertford Town while influential winger Luke Robins has signed for Cambridge City after impressing during a one-month loan period.

Coming the other way was the triple signing of former Hertford duo John McGrandles and brothers Martin and Matt Standen. All three players should hopefully prove to strengthen the squad enough to ensure a successful second half of the season.

There is plenty of hope Chalfont will continue their recent and surprising run of form having lost their last two league matches. They capitulated last season to allow Aylesbury to sneak promotion instead and, if history can repeat itself, Royston must ensure they remain there or thereabouts come the business end of the season to take full advantage.