Rovers left feeling blue
Kempston were beaten by high-flying Hayes & Yeading United at the SkyEx Stadium
Two goals from forward Manny Duku and a strike from Ismael Ehui sealed a win for the hosts over a Rovers side that gave their all in this first league match of the new year for both sides.
New Year’s Day brought both sides a postponement, so we had to wait until the sixth to celebrate New Year with Kempston Rovers. It was a trip to former Conference side Hayes & Yeading United in their brand new SkyEx Stadium. A marvellous construction for this level of football and will prove to be a fine home for a club looking to get back on their feet after the last few seasons of stumbling downwards.
A meagre 136 hardy souls braved the cold and the wind to attend this game, just a handful from Rovers made the trip.
But it was Rovers that started brighter in their splendid royal blue third kit and should’ve taken the lead in the eighth minute as Ben Shepherd threaded through for Josh Crawley, who tried to curl the ball around the huge frame of Grenada international keeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle. The young stopper, on loan from League 2 Barnet got down quickly and turned the ball on to the post. United looked dangerous on the attack but couldn’t break through the Rovers back line. Keita twice air-kicked at the ball when it looked certain he would score. Manny Duku spurned three glorious chances as the half wore on, showing a lack of composure in the box. Kyal McNulty earned himself a yellow card for a robust challenge on Kinnane although calls from the home directors’ area for him to be sent off did seem a little unnecessary. With ten minutes before the break, Ben Shepherd shot over the bar after the first mistake from McKenzie-Lyle in goal. Lifting the ball over the bar after a punch from the keeper failed to clear the lines properly. The hosts opened the scoring with three minutes left of the half, some neat interplay on the edge of the Rovers box saw Duku with time to shoot. The forward lashed at the ball, sending it high past Martin Conway. Had he been further out from goal, it may have flown over the bar.
The hosts made a change for the start of the second half, bringing on Ismael Ehui – a forward, for their right back. It was Rovers, however that showed the early attacking intent. Some intricate build up play between Josh Crawley and Jake Newman set up Luke Heneghan for a stinging drive, which McKenzie-Lyle held on to at the second attempt. Rovers then thought they were in on goal as a Hayes player challenged in the middle of the park, the loose ball fell to Newman who was clear through on goal. The referee’s assistant flagged for offside as Newman bore down on the target, despite the last touch clearly coming from a home player. Newman was booked for his protests. Two minutes later, Hayes had doubled their lead, Little found himself free on the left flank and put an inviting cross for Ehui to tap in at the near post for two nil. Shortly after the goal, Hayes surged forward again, captain Donnelly broke into the box and went to ground, looking at the official. Who promptly booked the former QPR man for simulation. On the hour mark, Rovers shuffled the pack and made three changes. Lee, Stoyles and Heneghan were withdrawn as Lyon, Tshikuna and Riley were introduced. Duku and Ehui missed further chances in the half. There was a moment of real concern for Rovers with ten minutes left as Josh Crawley went down holding his neck. Medical attention was immediately called on. The forward later revealed that something had jarred as he turned which caused him pain from his neck to his knee on the right-hand side of his body. Thankfully, after the game he was fine, if a little sore and stiff. Michael Lyon was shown a late yellow card for a challenge on a Hayes forward before Conway produced a stunning save flying away to his left to deny Donnelly. In stoppage time, Hayes sealed their victory with a deflected free kick by Duku from the edge of the box, which completely wrong-footed Conway in goal.
Rovers showed potential in both attack and defence in this game, but were beaten by the better side. Hayes & Yeading stay in the play off chase, while Rovers slip to eleventh in the table.
On Tuesday, Kempston travel to face Biggleswade Town of the Southern Premier Division in the Southern League Cup. Rovers have been reinstated in the competition after the ejection of Royston Town, after the Crows were found to have fielded an ineligible player in the second-round tie between the two sides.
Friday evening sees the return of the ever-popular Supporters Club Quiz Night, 7pm start at Hillgrounds, all are welcome. Teams £20, to a maximum of six players per team.
And then, Saturday sees Rovers face Uxbridge at Hillgrounds in the next league action for the club.