Dominant Stratford Town held by resilient Royston Town
Stratford Town 1-1 Royston Town
Southern Premier Central
STRATFORD Town dominated the majority of their clash with Royston Town at the Arden Garages Stadium but somehow only had a point to show for their efforts.
The Crows, who had knocked the Bards out of the FA Trophy at the first qualifying round stage for a second successive year in October, had taken the lead against the run of play in the 26th minute when Cole Dasilva tapped in from Matthew Bateman’s cutback.
Stratford had several chances to get back into the contest but they come up against an inspired Dimitrios Kyriatzis who pulled off a string of fine saves to keep his side’s lead in tact.
However, with 15 minutes to go Mikey Taylor restored parity with an emphatic finish into the top corner from close range. The Bards pushed for a winner but they just could not find their way through a resolute Royston defence and were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
Taylor felt aggrieved he had not been awarded an early penalty in a bright start for the Bards on a cold afternoon at the Arden Garages Stadium, but referee Matthew Perry was making clear he felt the ball had been won following a challenge from behind.
Stratford, making three changes to the team which lost 4-3 at Mickleover last time out, with debutant James Mace, the returning Ahmed Obeng and midfielder Josh Hawker all drafted into the starting XI, continued to enjoy the majority of the possession.
And it needed a fine save from Kyriatzis to deny Obeng from nosing the home side ahead with quarter of an hour gone. Mace, who arrived from Leamington where he made more than 400 appearances, delivered a beautiful outside-of-the-boot cross towards the back post where Obeng’s first-time effort was smartly saved down low.
For all their dominance, Stratford fell behind in the 26th minute. Carl Dickinson misjudged the bounce of a long ball and it allowed Bateman the chance to nip in, draw out Liam O’Brien and square to Dasilva who made no mistake from ten yards out, lashing into an unguarded net.
Royston were lucky to be ahead and they were continually having to defend doggedly up until the half-time break as the Bards were left scratching their heads as to how they were a goal down.
Stratford continued the second half from where they left off in the first, dominating the possession and creating chances, with Will Grocott seeing a lobbed effort seven minutes after the restart saved by Kyriatzis. Royston, though, should have added a second on the hour mark when Bateman rounded O’Brien but his back-heeled attempt drifted wide of the mark.
Moments later Ashley Sammons was guilty of giving possession away inside his own penalty area and it seemed as though Fernando Bell-Toxtle was bound to make it 2-0 but he could only hit the side-netting from a relatively tight angle.
The Bards eventually got their reward 15 minutes from time when the Crows failed to clear their lines and Taylor was there to smash into the top corner from close range to level proceedings.
Kyriatzis continued to play an important role in keeping the Bards as bay, firstly saving a volley from outside the area from Andre Wright before getting a strong two hands behind a vicious 30-yard piledriver from Sammons. Grocott then lashed over from inside the area with a left-footed effort as the Bards pushed for a winner.
However, that was not forthcoming and in the end the Bards had to settle for a point, making it just one win from their last 11 league outings. A crucial game away at bottom-of-the-table Hednesford Town on Saturday (12.30pm kick-off) is up next for the Bards.
STRATFORD TOWN: Liam O’Brien, James mace, Taylor Morrison, Ashley Sammons, Paul McCone, Carl Dickinson, Andre Wright, Joshua Hawker, Michael Taylor, Will Grocott, Ahmed Obeng (Jesse Akubuine h/t). Unused subs: Louis Beresford, Dan Lafferty, Cameren Philip, Aksum White.
ROYSTON TOWN: Dimitrios Kyriatzis, Cole Dasilva, Joel Nakatani-Brown, Spyros Mentis, Adam Murray, Ronnie Henry, Alfie Williams, Fernando Bell-Toxtle, Matthew Bateman (Kian Harness 69), Nathan Tshikuna, Connor Furlong (William Hall 50). Unused subs: Matthew Crowther, Shaun Keane.
REFEREE: Matthew Perry
MATCH RATING: 4/5