ROYSTON TOWN 1 EGHAM TOWN 1
By Tempest Ward
It's St Ives at home in play-offs after first away draw
EVO-STIK SOUTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE CENTRAL
SATURDAY 23 APRIL 2016
ROYSTON TOWN 1 (0)
SIMON THOMAS (71)
EGHAM TOWN 1 (0)
BAJRAM PASHAJ (60)
For eleven second half minutes Egham Town’s dreams had come true, and they were Southern Central Champions. Bajram Pashaj had just scored a magnificent goal while Petersfield Town were holding Kings Langley to 0-0. That was the ideal scenario facing Gary Meakin’s men before this match at second placed Royston Town. Egham, in third place, briefly were on 85 points, Kings on 84 and the Crows on 83. Then, for the very shortest time, it was thought by one of the Sarnie fans that Petersfield were beating Kings Langley, which was even better. That was wrong; when it was established that Mitchell Weiss, Kings’ top marksman, had scored it meant that what was unfolding at Garden Walk between the Crows and the Sarnies was only a battle for second and third places. At about the same time the error was rectified the home side had equalised and Egham central midfielder Kurtney Brooks was in the process of being sent off for a second yellow card. Brooks’ dismissal evened up the numbers after Crows’ towering centre back Ryan Frater had seen red for what the referee Marc Wilson interpreted as an elbow in the face of Egham striker Chris Moore.
This was a match that had everything or nothing riding on it. Both sides were guaranteed home ties in the play-offs, against either AFC Rushden & Diamonds or St Ives Town. Royston have already beaten both of them at home, while Egham beat Diamonds last week and lost at home to St Ives in the early days of the season when even mentioning the Sarnies being in the play-offs would have been certifiable. Egham gave one of their best home performances of the season when recently beating Royston 3-1 at the Runnymede Stadium, which made the Herts side aware that the return was not going to be easy. It was not surprising, therefore, that the first period was tight. Initially Royston were on top, and could have taken the lead when Daniel Brathwaite collected a free kick, turned well and fired in a shot that Jamie Norris did exceptionally well to turn away at point blank range. Egham gained a firmer foothold in midfield and came close when Pashaj skinned Danny May before whipping in a cross that skidded away from the inrushing Moore at the back post. Ryan Parsons then executed a perfect tackle on Simon Thomas as the centre forward threatened and just before half time Moore turned well but hit his shot just wide of the Royston goal.
Mitchell Gutteridge has not had many starts since his return after a shoulder injury but here picked up another knock and gave way to Ryan Phillips at half time. Five minutes in Egham midfielder Ollie Jones could not get sufficient power in his shot at the end of a flowing move up the Garden Walk slope. Royston came close when Turner’s shot dipped late but just wide of Norris’ goal. In the next phase of play Egham’s experience striker Moore was about to control a pass when he was robustly challenged by Frater. It looked like an elbow to me, others disagreed, but the result was a red card. The Crows had just sorted out how to fill the gap when Norris’ kick found Pashaj out on the left wing. He moved forward, sensed that there was space to attack and made his way to the edge of the box. There he rode a couple of challenges then hammered a thunderous shot past home keeper Ron Yates. Another top drawer save from Norris, this time from Rhys Hoenes, kept the Sarnies ahead, but not for long as eleven minutes after going ahead they were pegged back. Brathwaite found a way past Ryan Parsons and his cross into the box found Thomas, who angled his header out of Norris’ reach. Both sides looked for a winner, Chris Henry (on for Jones) doing well to chase a ball that sailed over him before squaring to Brendan Matthew, but Egham’s top scorer was denied by a defensive boot. Down the slope Scott Bridges dragged Thomas’s pass wide of the left post, and with time running out Henry missed an opportunity to find Matthew unmarked in the box after getting to the byline. Pashaj had two shots in quick succession charged down as Egham, recording their first away draw all season, ended well but now it is all down to the play-offs.
Egham will be entertaining St Ives Town on Tuesday 29 April, kick off 19:45, in their first ever play-off game. Royston Town will, at the same time, be playing at home to AFC Rushden & Diamonds. The final will be on Bank Holiday Monday.
EGHAM TOWN: Jamie Norris, Ryan Parson, Mitchell Gutteridge, Reece Yorke, Luke Neville (Captain), Kurtney Brooks, Ollie Jones, Elliott Carey, Chris Moore, Brendan Matthew, Bajram Pashaj. Substitutes: Ryan Phillips (Gutteridge, HT), Callum Webb (Moore, 77), Chris Henry (Jones, 55), Goldy Capela, James Reading.