We ran out of steam and AFC Rushden & Diamonds deserved it - Crows boss Steve Castle on play-off exit

Royston Town manager Steve Castle

Royston Town manager Steve Castle - Credit: Archant

Steve Castle cut a dejected figure after Royston Town’s second successive Southern League Division One Central semi-final play-off exit, this time to AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday night, and proclaimed that his side simply ran out of steam.

With various postponements due to bad weather, the Crows were faced with four league games in their final seven days of the season including the visit of fifth-placed Diamonds.

That proved too much as the away side bossed the encounter from start to finish and can count themselves unfortunate they did not boast a heftier scoreline going into Monday’s play-off final at St Ives Town.

Jack Bowen struck the bar midway through the first half but 10 minutes later he found the all-important opener to put the hosts under pressure at Garden Walk.

Staring down the barrel at half-time, Royston could not get themselves going in the second period and the game was effectively finished as a contest in the 79th minute. Keeper Ron Yates was given his marching orders for a last-man trip on the excellent Bowen inside the box.

Up stepped captain Liam Dolman to do the honours for 2-0.

Rushden’s one-man advantage evaporated four minutes from the end as Claudiu Hoban was given a second yellow for a poor tackle but despite skipper Scott Bridges’ injury-time consolation, Royston were left to ponder what might have been.

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Castle said: “I don’t think I’ve been as disappointed with this group of lads all season as I am now.

“I’ve just tried to take a positive from the game with them in the dressing room and I really struggled but maybe it was too many games?

“That was our fourth game in seven days and it might have been too much.

“Ryan Ingrey, Rhys Hoenes, Scott Bridges have all played four games in seven days.

“We needed to play those games but we also needed to turn up here and play and my biggest disappointment is that we didn’t compete. I’ve got no complaints about Rushden winning the game.

“They thoroughly deserved it. They were the better team first half, second half, in all departments.

“I’m absolutely gutted. It’s now two years in a row we’ve fallen at this stage.

“I love this club, the people around here. The board and the supporters have been absolutely superb and I’m gutted for them as I am for myself.”

When asked about possible nerves getting the better of his side, he added: “It’s not the first time it’s happened.

“We were winning 1-0 over at Egham Town and went on the back foot. We have a real bad habit of not keeping the ball and that reared its ugly head here and we never recovered.”

In the moment, Castle wavered about his future at the club however he will most likely be back in the hotseat at Garden Walk next season.

He continued: “Hopefully we can do it automatically next year.

“We have to go away, everybody, and have a think about everything. That’s the lads, myself. Non-league football is a big commitment.

“I enjoy it, the club is tremendous and I’m fully backed but we’ve come here and we want success and the play-offs are very, very cruel.

“I’ve won a few but I’ve also lost a few and they’re very callous especially in non-league football where it’s just the one game.

He added: “I’d love to take the challenge of getting them up. The club will eventually get up to a level where I believe they should be with the quality of players that we’ve got.

“It hasn’t happened this year so it’s for me to dust myself off and hopefully come back again.”