Exiles still in danger after Royston defeat

Royston 4 St Albans Exiles 2

HOCKEY: EXILES travelled to Bassingbourn Barracks to take on Royston in a game which they needed a win to be safe from relegation.

On an uneven and bumpy pitch the Exiles knew that their fast paced, first time passing game would be required to avoid being caught in possession.

From the opening whistle it was Royston who made the better start, buoyed by a crowd of around 30 supporters. Every time the Exiles lost the ball Royston attacked in numbers and it required ‘keeper, Jerry Fretter to be on top form.

With 10 minutes gone, and against the run of play, the Exiles took the lead as they attacked down the left wing. The ball was crossed into the D’for Simon White who calmly feigned to shoot, leaving the ball for the on-rushing Chris Ellins who made no mistake.

Despite leading, the Exiles continued to give the ball away cheaply, but were rather lucky that Royston were unable to take advantage.

At half time Captain Mark Lister re-emphasised the need to play two touch hockey, whilst at the same time retaining width. Within minutes of the restart Exiles lost the ball on the edge of Royston’s D and the home side made a swift break which saw Oswin and Winter out numbered. The extra striker made no mistake from short range.

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Exiles were awarded a penalty stroke when a Royston foot stopped a shot on the goal line. Mark Lister made no mistake from the spot and Exiles led 2-1.

Royston thought they had drawn level when they had the ball in the net from a penalty corner, but although the goal was initially given, it was clear the strike was too high. Following consultation between the umpires, the goal was chalked off. Just three minutes later Royston were again awarded another penalty corner. The first shot was high and was hitting the ‘keeper in the chest. Just before it did, a Royston stick deflected down and into the goal. It was clear that the ball was too high and should have been disallowed again but despite the protests the goal was allowed to stand.

The goal seemed to deflate the Exiles who lost top scorer White who was barged in the back and thrown into the pitch surrounds. Neither umpire saw this offence, but White could not return due to injury. Everything was now conspiring against the Exiles as the game became rather scrappy.

Royston took the lead when another lost ball saw the defence split open again and the ball was slid under the ‘keeper. With seconds remaining the lead was doubled when a strike was smartly saved from close range, only for the ball to bounce back to the striker who lifted high into the net.

Royston won 4-2 and the three points saw them safe from relegation. As it turned out, a draw would have been enough for the Exiles, but results again went in their favour and they remain out of the relegation zone. Although Exiles have two very difficult games, they will survive in Division 3SW unless Berkhamstead win both of their remaining games.