- FA Youth Cup Fourth Round
- Arsenal v Royston Town (2 – 1)
- Wednesday 21 January
Match Report by Andrew Crawshaw
Royston is a small town bordering Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire population 16,000 approx. Their Football team are known as the Crows and play non-league football in the Southern League Division One Central. The club was founded in 1875 and their U18 team had won seven games to meet Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup. They brought something like 250 supporters to the game who did their best to make it seem like a home tie.
They were represented by 1 Ben Watson in goal, 2 Drew Cardines, 3 Callum Wilson, 4 Sam Fletcher, 5 Conor Kilgallon (captain), 6 Gus Morriss, 7 Jay Taylor, 8 Joe Grossi, 9 Ross Maddox, 10 Josh Castiglione and 11 Reece King. On their subs bench were 12 Connor Hemmings, 14 Harry Cruttenden, 15 Danny McGovern, 16 Peri Gentry and 17 Tom Middle.
The Arsenal Team was 1 Ryan Huddart, 2 Chiori Johnson, 3 Tryell Robinson, 4 Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 5 Renny Smith, 6 George Dobson, 7 Kaylen Hinds, 8 Gedion Zelalem, 9 Stephy Mavididi, 10 Daniel Crowley (captain) and 11 Chris Willock. On the subs bench were 12 Harry Donovan, 13 Hugo Keto (GK) 14 Aaron Eyoma, 15 Marc Bola and 16 Ben Sheaf.
The game got off to a lively start with Arsenal pressing the Royston goal and Mavididi hitting the right hand post, the ball eventually went out for a corner. Crowley hit it just too long enabling Royston to clear and after a couple of passes a superb through ball gave our defenders no chance and Joe Grossi was able to run onto the ball and finish adroitly past Huddart. Three minutes played and Arsenal one goal down (shades of the seniors at Wembley last May) – cue wild celebrations from the Royston players, bench and supporters.
For a few minutes the Arsenal team were clearly shell shocked and I hope they all learned a valuable lesson which will serve them well throughout their careers – so called lesser teams can and do bite (normally when you least expect it).
For the next 25 plus minutes it was nearly all Arsenal pressure and Royston had their keeper Ben Watson to thank with three excellent saves to maintain their lead. Mind they were still dangerous on the break and had opportunities to extend their lead which the Arsenal defence did just enough to thwart.
In Minute 37 Stephy Mavididi was too strong for a Royston defender and his shot at last beat Watson to level the scores. Six minutes later Stephy scored a second following good work by Crowley and Arsenal went in two one up at the interval.
The restart had 15 Marc Bola coming on for 11 Chrs Willock allowing 3 Tyrell Robinson to play in a more advanced role. The change seemed to do Arsenal good as they looked far more assured defensively from then on.
The second half was very much controlled by Arsenal who dominated proceedings for the most part without being able to unlock the Royston defence. Royston made two tactical substitutions 14 Crurrenden and McGovern coming on for 7 Taylor and their goalscorer Grossi (who was clearly knackered). Their final substitution was forced when Gus Morris was stretchered off with a leg injury (it initially looked like cramp but was clearly something far more serious), he was replaced by 16 Peri Gentry.
Zelalem’s evening came to an early finish when he was substituted off in Min 76 after a fit of petulance when he lost the ball which ran out of play, he then kicked it away and was rightly booked – a silly thing to do and something that will not endear him to the staff at the club. 16 Ben Sheaf came on to replace him.
Kaylen Hinds was also substituted after he looked to have a slight hamstring pull, he was replaced by 14 Aaron Eyoma
As time ran down the Royston No 4 Sam Fletcher was rightly given a second yellow card for hauling back Mavididi.
Ben Watson in the Royston goal had clearly been struggling for the last ten or so minutes of the game with a groin problem but the rest of the Royston team covered for him manfully preventing any Arsenal attacks getting close to him.
After the first 15 minutes or so Arsenal never really looked to be in trouble and were comfortable winners in the end but well done to Royston Town for being determined to play their own game and for a very well executed goal. You did your coach, club, supporters and town proud.
Highlights of the match can be found on the Arsenal Player.
The Fifth round tie is on Monday 2nd February against Crewe Alexandria kick off 19:00 at Meadow Park Borehamwood. Well worth going to if you can and admittance if free!
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