Match Report - Royston Town (Home, League)
Play-Off Semi-Finals: Rebels v Poppies; Linnets v Terras
1 - 0 (Dobson, 6m); 1 - 1 (Murray, 41m); 2 - 1 (Dobson, 48m);
Man of Match: James Dobson
League positions changed several times over the course of 90 minutes, but in the end it was ‘as you were’ with Slough finishing in third place and looking forward to welcoming fourth-placed Kettering Town at Arbour Park on Wednesday evening in the play-off semi-final.
But Royston were the width of a crossbar away from denying Slough a home tie when Adam Murray hit the frame of the goal deep into second half stoppage time.
It’s been an incredible season, with the four sides in the play-off places separated by only three points in the end, each amassing at least 97 points. Securing a home tie had looked beyond Slough until an incredible late run of form, with 11 wins from the last 13 games, including 9 of the last 10 away games.
Speaking after the match, joint manager Neil Baker reflected on his side’s efforts.
“It’s been an amazing season. To finish on 99 points is a huge credit to these boys. We now potentially have two huge games to try and get into the National League South”
His co-manager Jon Underwood added: “We did our job today and that’s all we could worry about. Hopefully there will be a big crowd here on Wednesday evening for a tough game”.
Royston will also look back on the season with pride, having secured their highest ever league placing under manager Steve Castle, after winning promotion just last season.
The Hertfordshire side arrived at Arbour Park looking to avenge their 4-0 home defeat against Slough on Tuesday evening and try to secure sixth place, but fell behind after just six minutes when Matthew Lench’s inch-perfect cross into the box was met by the head of James Dobson, who powered it beyond Josh Tibbets.
Just two minutes later, there was confusion as Ben Harris ran clear before rounding Tibbets and slotting home, but he was eventually denied by an offside flag which was initially ignored by referee John Bonnick.
Harris had a great chance to make it two as he broke clear again soon after, but his weak early effort rolled through to Tibbets when he had intended to try and loft it over the keeper.
Slough had the better of the play, but Royston were a threat, let down by the final pass or frustrated by the linesman’s flag on numerous occasions. Adam Murray headed a corner narrowly wide on 31 minutes as the visitors grew in confidence.
And four minutes before the break, Royston were level as Murray, who had previously fired a warning shot, this time planted a header past Jack Turner from a well-worked corner to equalise in the visitors’ best spell of the game.
Lench blazed a good chance over after Harris had pulled the ball across as Slough looked for an instant response, but the Rebels didn’t have long to wait to go back in front.
Three minutes into the second period, a foul on Lench 25 yards out gave Dobson the chance to have a strike at goal from the free kick, and his effort flashed past Tibbets and into the bottom corner to put Slough back in front.
Tibbets made a fine save to tip a piledriver from Lench onto the crossbar as Slough almost extended their lead, and Lench also fired over from a Chris Flood cross.
Seven minutes remained when a fantastic run from Dobson left him one-on-one with Tibbets, but he scuffed the ball horribly wide as he looked to complete his hat-trick.
Then, with the four minutes of stoppage time played, Royston loaded the Slough penalty area for a corner kick and were relieved as the final whistle sounded seconds after Murray’s header bounced down off the bar and into the arms of Turner.
Slough Town: Jack Turner, Sean Fraser, George Wells (yellow)), Guy Hollis, Mark Nisbet, Lee Togwell, James Dobson (yellow), Simon Dunn (Scott Davies), Ben Harris (Perry Coles), Chris Flood (Manny Williams), Matthew Lench
Royston Town: Josh Tibbets, Sam Corcoran, Sam Gaughran, Scott Bridges (c), Adam Murray, Dan Brathwaite (Romelle Alomenu 83), Josh Castiglione (Aidan Dawson 63), Martel Powell, Adam Marriott, Scott Thomas, Rohdell Gordan (Michael Baulk 83).