Royston Town 3 Thetford Town 1
by Derek Bish at Garden Walk
THETFORD Town manager Mark Scott pinpointed the sending off of top scorer Matt Dixon as his side’s downfall in their FA Vase second round defeat at Royston Town on Saturday.
The Brecklanders – who boast a 100 per cent record in the Ridgeons League First Division – gave the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division’s runaway leaders a fright, despite plying their trade a level lower than their hosts.
Dixon had fired Thetford into the lead and although Tom Malins levelled soon after, the visitors were very much in the game until the Norfolk side’s goalscorer had picked up two quick-fire bookings.
Manager Mark Scott said: “We gave it everything we had and when we took an early lead through Dicko’s penalty we thought it might be our day.
“Eleven v 11 was going to be difficult enough against Royston, but once we got reduced to 10 men with Dicko’s second yellow card – which to me looked a little bit innocuous – we were always going to struggle.”
Stephen Davies and Arron Joseph replaced creative influence Bruno Tavares (suspension) and skipper Sean O’Donnell (work commitments) for the clash and Thetford struck first when Matt Howard – pushed forward into midfield in place of O’Donnell – was upended by a combination of home stopper Will Norris and centre-half Jason Beck.
Dixon sent Norris the wrong way from the resultant spot-kick in the 17th minute, but that advantage lasted just nine minutes as Royston’s flowing counter-attacking finally paid off when Jack Bradshaw’s raking pass was controlled behind the defence by Malins and lifted over Ian Fancett.
In response, Matt Blake stung the hands of Norris before Dixon received his marching orders from referee Brian Williams.
The official had initially waved play-on following Dixon’s lunge on Beck, but changed his mind when his assistant – who was further from the action and at a worse angle – flagged for a foul.
Royston took that as their cue to up their pacey attacking play, but Kaan Fehmi, Malins and Carl Edwards all missed wonderful opportunities before the break.
However, just 90 seconds after half-time, the Crows went in front as Ricky Young picked up Martin Standen’s cross-field pass and delivered the ball into Matt Standen, who coolly finished.
Fancett kept the Brecklanders in the game with a string of fine saves, but was beaten from the spot by Fehmi after Martin Carter’s clumsy challenge on Edwards.
Young also hit the post and Mat Standen blazed the rebound over from four yards with the goal gaping before Fancett made the best of his stops in the final minute, reacting superbly to twist in the opposite direction after Malins’ thunderous shot took a wicked deflection.
“It’s only a third defeat of the season in all competitions and it’s now about how we react to that and bounce back,” added boss Scott. “Our priority is still the league and any cup run is a bonus.”
Free Press man of the match: Ian Fancett.
Thetford: Fancett, Joseph (Richards 63), Bailey, Carter, Morphew, Howard, Bolton, Cusack, Blake (Bowers 88), Dixon, Davies (Rocha 46). Subs not used: Mann, Coomber-Willis.
n Thetford will be hoping to go one better than their run to the semi-final of last season’s Norfolk Senior Cup and they should overcome their third round encounter with Anglian Combination outfit Holt at Mundford Road tomorrow (3pm).