Harding's heroics go unrewarded as Bateman hits late winner
Matt Batemen’s late penalty denied the Puritans a BetVictor Southern League point. United lost 1-0 in Saturday’s Premier Central clash at Royston Town where the game was overshadowed by claims of racist abuse against Ravi Shamsi.
Royston should have had the points in the bag in the first half. The fact that they didn’t was down to a determined defensive display by United, spearheaded by captain Ricky Johnson in front of Jack Harding, who had one of his best performances between the posts to deny the Crows, time and time again.
The home side should have done better with an indirect free-kick which Luke Warner-Eley blasted wide. It was almost one-way traffic as Royston pushed forward and United never had one attempt on goal.
But Harding was unbeatable with Brandon Adams being denied by a spectacular one-handed save and Josh Castiglione thwarted by the advancing keeper.
The second half was barely seven minutes old when Connor Roberts had to leave the field injured which severely hampered United’s defensive structure.
Even so, Jenson Wright’s speculative shot hit the bar before bouncing to safety. Still the home side pushed forward, urged on by ex-Puritan Scott Bridges, who was at his usual impressive best.
Harding made unbelievable saves from Bridges, Castiglione and two headers from Bateman. Against the run of play United should have gone ahead when substitute Craig Fasanmade latched on to a long clearance and raced clear, he beat the advancing Harry Smart but his shot went just wide of the post.
With two minutes left, the referee adjudged Bridges had been fouled in the area and Bateman slotted home the ensuing spot-kick home.