Swifts soar to FA Cup victory over lifeless Crows

Simon Thomas on the ball. Picture: David Hatton

Simon Thomas on the ball. Picture: David Hatton - Credit: Archant

Royston Town were dumped out of the FA Cup by an on-song Heybridge Swifts 4-1 in the preliminary round at Garden Walk on Saturday.

Kicking into a stiff wind Royston lost the initiative straight away as Heybridge demonstrated a greater desire to win the game that was evident throughout the unequal contest.

As early as the second minute visiting captain, George Cole, who was prominent throughout, had a well-executed free-kick tipped round the post by Reece Paine.

Heybridge did not have long to wait to take the lead as in the fifth minute Callum Leahy collected the ball on the left hand side in an unthreatening position.

This soon changed as he skipped past two half-hearted challenges that epitomised Royston’s overall display, and then rifled an unstoppable 30-yard piledriver into the top corner of Paine’s goal.

If this was not bad enough for Royston, three minutes later things got worse, as a defensive mix-up between Paine and the usually-assured Ryan Frater gave Reece Grant the opportunity to dispossess Paine and roll the ball into the unguarded net.

At this point Royston were shell-shocked and second best in every department.

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Heybridge were only denied a deserved third goal from a well-worked move that sliced through the home defence, by a correctly waved flag from the linesman to signal an offside.

Three minutes later Heybridge once again broke through the home ranks and only a heavy touch from Leahy gave Paine a chance to rush from his line and claim the ball.

The closest Royston came was a rasping Jack Bradshaw drive that went the wrong side of the post and a shot from Josh Castiglione that gave the visiting goalkeeper a gentle reminder that he was involved in the game.

The knockout punch in this game came against the run of play after Royston’s promising 15-minute spell.

Again it was a poor goal to concede, as a drop kick from keeper Danny Sambridge was flicked on by Leahy, for Grant to race clear of the absent home defence and easily place his shot past Paine.

Needing a goal before half-time Royston finally produced some quality in the 44th minute when Martel Powell flicked a positive forward pass from Joe De La Salle into the path of Gus Scott-Morriss down the right hand side and an excellent cross was not quite cleanly met by Simon Thomas enabling Sambridge to gratefully grab the ball.

Royston certainly started the second half with more intent and again had the lion’s share of the play but Heybridge were well-organised and had an annoying knack of producing a covering defender every time one of the Royston players managed to wriggle free from their marker.

A mixture of good and bad crosses from both open and set plays only created a couple of headed chances that missed the target despite Royston’s obvious height advantage over the away defence.

To prove Royston’s failure to produce any real quality against the resilient visitors it took until the 33rd minute of the second half for them to produce a shot on target and this provided the solitary Royston goal.

A fine move involving new signing John Frendo and Kaan Fehmi gave Castiglione the chance to cross low for Thomas to steer into the goal.

This gave Royston renewed hope and just a minute later Castiglione cut in off his wing and unleashed a fierce shot that Sambridge beat away, fortunately for him the ball evaded the Crows forwards.

A couple of penalty appeals were quickly dismissed by the referee before the final nail in Royston’s coffin was hammered in by the impressive Cole in the 86th minute.

Collecting the ball 30 yards from goal he advanced unchallenged before unleashing a shot that deflected off Daniel Brathwaite completely wrong-footing the unfortunate Paine to loop into the unguarded side of the goal.