Feast or famine for the Crows?

A murder is the collective noun for a grouping of crows – and there will definitely be a victim following Saturday’s Buildbase FA Trophy, with the tie to conclude on the day due to this round’s no-replay ruling.

And Royston Town’s Crows have an appetite for cup upsets that shows little sign of abating as they come to the Kuflink Stadium hoping to make the last eight of the Buildbase FA Trophy.

The BetVictor Southern Premier Central promotion hopefuls – one step down from the National League South – went further than ever before in their history to reach the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup this season. But they haven’t stopped there.

The Trophy has seen them sweep aside all who stand in their way. After a 7-0 thumping of Haywards Heath, they have proceeded to see off National South leaders Wealdstone, then our division’s form team in Boreham Wood and finally National North high-flyers Chester came unstuck to the tune of 3-0.

It’s an impressive array of scalps and the Crows will need no second invitation to pick the flesh from Fleet bones if given half a chance.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Kevin Watson said. “The one word I’ve banned from the training ground and from anyone I speak to is ‘distraction’. It’s not a distraction from the league. If I’ve got one player who doesn’t want the opportunity to play at Wembley, then they can come and see me and go. I would love to lead this club out at Wembley.

“At our level, it’s not Man City who play there every year, it’s Ebbsfleet and you should want to be the best you can, play at the best places and that is the pinnacle for any player. They need to want to play there.

“But if we’re not at our best, we’ll come unstuck against Royston, so we will be doing our very best to make sure we are at our best.”

The Fleet will have to aim for their first quarter-final in five years without the cup-tied Adam Mekki, suspended Josh Payne and continued unavailability of Michael Timlin, while with Myles Weston heading for the exit door in midweek, it leaves the manager with decisions to make in midfield.

He does have Andre Blackman to call on as well as John Goddard, plus skipper Jack King who sat in a deep-lying role in front of the defence at Torquay.

It’s a defence that has shown a great deal of resilience in recent weeks and, despite the lower-division status of the visitors, one which should expect a tough ride on Saturday.

Royston have scored 17 goals in five record-breaking Trophy matches for them this season while in the league they sit fourth, five points off the top but with a game in hand. League leaders Tamworth are the only side to have beaten Royston in the last 16 matches while aside from that defeat, the Crows have won the other 10 of their last 11 matches.

Led by former St Albans boss Steve Castle since 2013, the Hertfordshire side have swelled their ambitions and their following since promotion from the Spartan South Midlands League at the beginning of the last decade.

Four coachloads of fans will be making the trip to North Kent this weekend as a club whose average crowd used to be measured in two digits now commands a regular following of almost 300.

There are a couple of familiar faces in the Royston ranks, with one-time Fleet goalkeeper Joe Welch amongst their number as well as two-times National South promotion winner Ben Martin, once of Welling United and Boreham Wood.

Elsewhere, there’s a blend of homegrown youth in the form of the highly rated goalscoring midfielder Josh Castiglione and Gus Scott-Morriss; experience with Adam Murray, Scott Bridge and Adam Watkins; while striker Matt Bateman has already performed cup-tie heroics this season.

The Crows also last week re-signed striker Josh Oyinsan, who scored 17 goals last season for Cambridge City and earned a move to Welling United as a result in the summer. Like numerous Royston players, he is one to have re-signed following an earlier spell at the club, illustrating something of a deep bond amongst Steve Castle’s squad that has seen them improve year on year.

Castle issued his rallying call ahead of the match, saying: “I can tell you now that all of our boys are right up for it! The scenario is that we are a team that is used to winning. It doesn’t matter that it is at two levels lower than our opponents. They are used to contesting games and hopeful of gaining a point which to be fair to them they have achieved recently.

“I do feel that in most football matches, regardless of the level it is the mindset that is crucial. Go about it and be positive that is our message. We have nothing to lose! As the lower league club, we are expected to lose and I’m sure that the bookies will be putting us as outsiders but bet on us to lose at your peril!”

The match is not segregated and Royston fans may use the club bar by the turnstiles. The Sponsors Lounge in the Main Stand is also open to all (this will close at 2.45pm to allow fans to gain admission via the turnstiles).

Car-parking is available at Ebbsfleet International Station Car Park C for £3. This is the best option for parking near the stadium. Please respect local businesses by not blocking private property. Drivers are also warned that parking on the Thames Way clearway near the roundabout runs the risk of being ticketed.

Normal admission charges apply as this is an all-pay game and no season tickets are valid in the Buildbase FA Trophy. Extra-time and penalties will follow if the scores are level after 90/120 minutes.


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