Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

Royston Town

Adams (10), Bateman (62)

(0) 0

(1) 2



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Chay Tilt



Stourbridge (H) 29.3.22

Royston Town completed a league double over their hosts this afternoon with a confident and commanding victory over a poor Hednesford side that struggled to compete with their strong and well-drilled visitors

Having returned to winning ways against St. Ives Town in midweek, manager Keenen Meakin-Richards had once again dipped into the transfer market to add to his burgeoning ranks with the double signing of ex-Premier League striker Leroy Lita from Stratford Town and Birmingham City striker Yoane Zohore on loan until the end of the season. Lita was suspended for today's game after being sent off for Stratford against Leiston last weekend, whilst Zohore was named as one of the substitutes as Meakin-Richards chose to stick with the same XI that had started on Tuesday night

Royston - sitting one place above the Pitmen but also on forty-four points for the season - arrived at the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park off the back of a 2-0 win at Taunton Town in the semi-final first leg of the Southern League Cup on Tuesday night. Crows manager Steve Castle made two changes for today's game as Ed Asafu-Adjaye and Brandon Adams came back into the side ahead of Spyros Metis and Isaac Galliford respectively

It was a beautifully bright and sunny day in Hednesford as the crowd basked in the sunshine ahead of the clocks moving forward tonight and winter moving into spring. The visitors carved out the game's first opening in the fourth minute as Brooklyn Ilunga tried his luck from twenty-five yards out but blazed his long-range effort high over the crossbar

Two minutes later, a free-kick from James Brighton on the left flank was partially cleared by the Pitmen to the edge of the penalty area, where Ilunga picked the loose ball up and sent it back into the box - the ball was headed up and over Oliver Basey by Newton from fifteen yards out, but landed on the top of the net

Royston grabbed the game's opener in the tenth minute as the Pitmen's inability to play out from the back was once again in evidence; Lewis Hayden's loose pass into Riley-O'Sullivan was seized upon by Asafu-Adjaye, who took the ball back into the danger zone before picking out Adams - he was allowed far too much time and space to confidently fire past Basey from twelve yards out and give the Crows a deserved lead

The Pitmen had offered next to nothing as an attacking threat so far, with Reece Flanagan's deep free-kick in the thirteenth minute headed tamely wide of the target by Luke Ward as he was pressurised by Brighton

Three minutes later, a rare touch of the ball for George Cater saw the winger get the better of Ronnie Henry and drift into the penalty area, but the winger wanted a touch too many and allowed Daniel Brathwaite to turn the ball behind for a corner kick

Midway through the first half, Crows skipper Brathwaite flattened O'Sullivan as the pair scrapped for the ball thirty yards from goal. Somehow, referee Mr Corbett failed to show the centre-back a yellow card for the foul but awarded the Pitmen a free-kick, which was wasted by Flanagan as Royston cleared their lines with ease

The Pitmen were forced into making their first substitution of the afternoon on twenty-six minutes as Ward went down just inside his own half and had to be carried off with what was later confirmed as ankle ligament damage. Fellow youngster Harvey Portman came on and slotted in at centre-back in Ward's place

A well-delivered corner kick from Todd Parker on twenty-eight minutes found the head of Lewis Ison inside a congested Royston penalty area, only for the Hednesford skipper to head wide of the far post

Sixty seconds later, Cater did well to escape the attentions of Henry and pulled the ball back from the byeline to find Kyle Bennett, who took a touch too many as he weighed up his options and saw the giant Carl Mensah clear the ball with ease

More lack defensive work from the hosts almost gifted Royston a second goal on thirty-one minutes as Lycett's lazy pass out of defence was seized upon by Devonte Aransibia, whose pass into Adams saw him sweep the ball into the path of Ilunga and in behind the ball-watching Hednesford defence. However, Ilunga blazed over from the edge of the penalty area with a wild shot when he perhaps should have taken another touch

Royston were content to play the game at their tempo, allowing the hosts to have the ball in front of them but stepping in where necessary to clear any danger once the Pitmen entered the final third of the pitch. Mensah was having an impressive game in nullifying any threat posed by the disappointing O'Sullivan, whilst Bennett continued to frustrate the Keys Park faithful as he offered little in the way of a creative threat

Chay Tilt appeared to be the Pitmen's best option for a piece of inspiration, dancing past Brighton and pulling the ball into the path of Hayden on thirty-six minutes, only for another block from Mensah to deny the former Walsall Wood right-back a shot at goal as O'Sullivan looked to pick up the scraps

Another quick break from the visitors on forty minutes saw Ilunga play Adams in once more, only for the Hednesford defence to step up in unison and play the Royston goalscorer offside as he received the ball

The Pitmen's first attempt at goal finally came with three minutes of the first half remaining as the Pitmen broke quickly into the Royston half through O'Sullivan, who played Lycett into space down the left. The full-back's miscued shot fell to O'Sullivan, whose lay-off to Cater was fed out to Tilt on the right-hand side of the penalty area. However, the winger elected to sidefoot his effort at goal and made it an easy save down at his near post for Royston goalkeeper Dimitrios Kyriatzis

In the first minute of added time, O'Sullivan held off Mensah as the pair challenged for Parker's pass and laid the ball off the Bennett, whose wild shot from eighteen yards out sailed harmlessly over the crossbar

It had been a timid and lacklustre display from the hosts in the first period, having struggled to cope with the physical threat posed by Royston and limiting them to half-chances throughout the first forty-five minutes. The visitors had been no-nonsense in their approach and had given their shot-shy hosts no quarter for much of the opening half

Another tough tackle on a Hednesford player went unpunished just a minute into the restart as Matt Bateman's crunching challenge on Flanagan in the centre circle left the midfielder in a heap, only for Mr Corbett to take a lenient stance once more and only hand the hosts a free-kick, rather than show Bateman a yellow card

A deep free-kick from Brighton caused the Pitmen more defensive woes on fifty minutes after Ison had fouled Bateman to the left of the Hednesford penalty area, allowing Brighton to whip in a fine ball to the far post that was weakly headed into the grateful hands of Basey by Danny Newton from only six yards out as he failed to get a firm connection on the ball

The Pitmen responded with a series of corner kicks from Flanagan on fifty-five minutes, but the hosts were once again guilty of over-playing and wasting a good position as they attempted two over-indulgent short corners that were cleared by the Crows, something that irked the fans in the Heath Hayes terrace 

Royston made their first substitution of the afternoon on fifty-eight minutes as Brathwaite - who had been warming up on his own before kick-off in a bid to prove his fitness - was replaced by Adam Murray, who also took the captaincy of the Royston side from Brathwaite 

Just a minute later, Bennett - who had once again flattered to deceive behind O'Sullivan - was taken off by Meakin-Richards as Zohore was handed his debut by the hosts as they looked for some inspiration up front

However, it was the Crows doubled their lead and put the game out of Hednesford's reach on sixty-two minutes as a deep cross from the right from Asafu-Adjaye found Bateman in acres of space, with the striker diving in to head the ball beyond Basey from six yards to make it 2-0. There were desperate calls from the Hednesford defence for an offside flag against Bateman in the build-up, but in truth there were two players in white shorts playing him onside as he stopped the head home; yet more poor defending, which has become a sad feature of the whole season for the home side

A deep corner kick from Parker four minutes later was recycled by Tilt, who did well to keep the ball in before pulling the ball back into the path of Ison, whose rising shot ended up amongst the disgruntled supporters behind the goal

The impressive Aransibia was taken off by the visitors on sixty-seven minutes, having given the Pitmen the runaround in the first half with his strength and stamina, and was replaced by Isa Rotimi

Ison came off worst from a challenge with Bateman on seventy minutes, limping out of a challenge with the striker and requiring treatment before he gingerly got to his feet to continue. However, after manfully attempting to play on, he was forced off on seventy-three minutes and replaced by Cain Smith. This prompted a reshuffle in the ranks as Hayden and Lycett moved inwards to make it a defensive three alongside Portman for the remainder of the game, whilst Smith played at the base of the midfield in front of them to give the makeshift back line more protection

A great run from Zohore on seventy-four minutes saw him scamper away from the Royston defence to reach Lycett's angled through-ball, only to be pulled back by a late offside flag on the main stand side before he could shoot

With eleven minutes of the game remaining, the Pitmen finally tested the reflexes of the under-used Kyriatzis as the ball was worked out to Cater on the left by Parker and Smith, with the winger stepping inside before rifling in a shot at goal that the Royston stopper parried away to his left. Tilt picked up the loose ball and turned it onto his left boot, but cut across it and sliced his effort across goal wide of the far post from eight yards out

Cater looked to test Kyriatzis once more with five minutes remaining as he picked up Flanagan's raking pass out on the left touchline, bringing the ball inside once more but striking a tame shot at goal that was easily saved by the Royston number one adown to his right

O'Sullivan - who had struggled to make any headway against a big and strong Royston defence - was the first player to be booked by referee Mr Corbett on eighty-eight minutes for hauling down Newton

In the first minute of added time, O'Sullivan brought the ball under control just inside the Royston penalty area and struck a bobbling shot at goal that was saved with ease once more by Kyriatzis down to his left 

Adams was also shown a yellow card by Mr Corbett for blatant time-wasting as he attempted to run the clock down in added time by not taking a free-kick in a timely manner

An instantly forgettable game for the Pitmen and their supporters, as they crash to a league double at the hands of the Crows and drop down to tenth in the table as a result. With only six games to go and nothing to play for, the season feels like it is petering out for the Pitmen ahead of what is likely to be another summer of rebuilding in 2022-2023. Next up - a visit from local rivals Stourbridge to Keys Park on Tuesday night

Hednesford Town: Basey, Hayden, Lycett, Ward (Portman 26), Ison © (Smith 73), Flanagan, Tilt, Parker, O'Sullivan , Bennett (Zohore 59), Cater     Subs Unused: Webb, Williams

Royston Town: Kyriatzis, Henry, Mensah, Asafu-Adjaye (Newman 71), Brathwaite © (Murray 58), Brighton, Ilunga, Adams , Aransibia (Rotimi 67), Bateman, Newton      Subs Unused: Titchmarsh, Welch


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