Histon let a two-goal lead and an opening day victory slip from their grasp at the newly promoted Aylestone Park on Saturday in a game which the could have been even further ahead before losing their way in the second half.
Goals from Dan Brown and Ryan Towner inside the opening 20 minutes put The Stutes in a commanding position but the home side overcame their shaky start to take all three points in their first ever game at Step 5. A day of celebration for Aylestone looked to be turning sour as they found their visitors just too hot to handle in the opening stages. After posing for pre-game photographs with their UCL Division One Champions trophy, the home side were brought down to earth with a bump as Histon took advantage of some slack defending and individual errors to take control of the game.
The Stutes showed attacking intent right from the start, taking the game to their hosts and denying them any chance to show the attacking flair that got them promoted with ease in April. For the first quarter of the game, it looked like Histon were the side that scored over 150 league goals last season as they powered forward, causing chaos in the home defence.
The first chance of the game came in the 9th minute and owed everything to the tenacity of Bubba Camara, who robbed and opponent of the ball and advanced to the top of the 18-yard box, only to place his shot wide of the target. But within sixty seconds the home goal was again under severe threat as pressure from Connor Barnes and Dan Brown caused the home keeper to shank his attempted clearance, but the latter failed to get a clean contact on his shot at goal. Soon after, Brown’s pass set up Connor Barnes who got the better of a back-peddling defender but his attempt to steer the ball beyond the keeper from a tight angle went just wide of the post.
But the goal that Histon had been threatening to score finally came with 15 minutes on the clock. A flowing move lef to Danny Gould, operating on the right edge of Histon’s attack, putting in a cross which Barnes nudged into the path of Dan Brown to score from close range. Within 2 minutes the Aylestone Park defence was carved open once again. Barnes was again involved but it was Camara’s pass across the face of goal that left the unmarked Ryan Towner with a simple tap-in. On the balance of play to this point and the frequency with which The Stutes were opening up the home defence, a heavy and embarrassing defeat for the UCL Premier South newboys looked a distinct possibility as they struggled to cope with the Histon onslaught.
The 0-2 scoreline require Aylestone Park to adopt a different approach and the game now entered a more physical stage. Marcus Cole took a sore one in a 50-50 challenge and required lengthy treatment. Guy Motley, making his league debut at right back after joining The Stutes from Cambridge City went down shortly afterwards and also required medical attention. Fortunately, both were fit to continue and the stretched resources on the Histon bench were not yet required.
With 30 minutes on the clock, the home side had yet to register a shot on goal but that was about to change. A shot from distance thumped against the crossbar and rebounded invitingly to the feet of Aylestone’s Marshal Kennan who had the simple job of placing the ball into the unguarded net.
The goal gave the home side some hope of staging a comeback and a measure of confidence emerged in their attacking play. Motley had his hands full at right back and it took a well-timed tackle to prevent his man having a run
on goal after he appeared to have got past the young debutant. But The Stutes went off at half-time looking well worth their one goal advantage courtesy of a dominant first 20 minutes.
Kieran McGinty was a half-time substitute for Danny Gould as the Histon wide man continues his come back from long-term injury. The replacement resulted in a reshuffle in the Histon ranks, but it was Aylestone who started the
second half the stronger.
Histon Manger, Lance Key had moved swiftly to draft in Rushden and Diamonds goalkeeper Regan Saunt in the absence of the unavailable Sam Roach and midweek injury victim Chris Gough. After a relatively untroubled first half, the Diamonds man was soon required to make a fine save to his right, pushing the ball onto the post before gathering it in his arms. But ten minutes into the second half he was beaten when the lack of height offered by Pat Bexfield and Max York in the heart of the Histon defence was exposed. Declan Towers, whose name accurately describes his physique, rose virtually unchallenged to head home the Aylestone Park equaliser.
The home side were now in the ascendancy and ten minutes later another high ball from a corner was only half cleared as far as Aylestone’s Matt Langham, who volleyed the ball superbly through a crowded goalmouth into the far corner of the net. The goal had been looking likely to come as the hosts were now the side in control of the game.
After being on top for most of the first half, Histon were now struggling to mount any kind of pressure on the home goal, despite the introduction of Ollie Foley in place of the fatigued Dan Brown. Saunt was called upon to make two further save as Aylestone looked to extend their lead, firstly diving low to his right and then getting his left foot to a
shot from point-blank range.
With bodies tiring, youth team player Jack Beasley was introduced from the bench, completing a trio of Under 18’s players on the field for the final stages of the game. But one more enforced change was required when Ryan Towner went over on his ankle and was replaced by Lee Smith for the final ten minutes. The captain confirmed after the game that there was swelling on the injured ankle and his fitness for the game against March Town United on Tuesday would be in the balance. The loss of Towner will come as a another blow to a side which was already without experienced players in Sam Roach, Rob Ruddy, Luke Crisp, Ollie Brookes, Ed Rolph and Luke Lindsay for the trip to Aylestone Park
Aylestone Park will take confidence from the result and in managing to overcome their first-day nerves to salvage all three points. But, in reality this game probably gave little indication of how either team will perform over the remaining 37 games of the season given that the Histon side is likely to be very different when the two sides meet again at Bridge Road later in the season.
Histon: Regan Saunt, Guy Motley (Sam Collison 85), Charlie Tunnell, Ryan Towner (Lee Smith 86), Max York, Pat
Bexfield, Danny Gould (Kieran McGinty 46),Bubba Camara, Connor Barnes, Marcus Cole (Jack Beasley 85), Dan Brown (Ollie Foley 64).
Histon subs not used:None.
Histon yellow cards:Pat Bexfield, Max York, Connor Barnes
Histon goal scorers:Dan Brown, Ryan Towner