12:30PM, Friday 26 November 2021
Having produced one of their best displays of the season in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Spelthorne Sports, manager Mark Cooper is looking for the Royalists to sustain the form that has lifted them to sixth in the Combined Counties Premier Division North table.
Just a few weeks ago Cooper was complaining that the Royalists would struggle to move up the standings until they could get a more settled back four on the pitch, but, thankfully, that has now happened and the results are starting to reflect this.
Saturday's performance against Spelthorne was not only dominant, but also disciplined and organised, words Cooper admits haven't been associated with the side much this season.
For the majority of the campaign, the’ve been easy on the eye and a threat going forward, but far too open defensively. However, in their recent victories over Wokingham & Emmbrook and Spelthorne they’ve been a much tougher nut to crack and Cooper is hopeful that bodes well for the remainder of the campaign.
Whether they can catch up to the likes of Hanworth Villa or Southall at the top of the table remains to be seen, but they are now within striking distance of the top for ahead of Saturday's home game with Egham Town.
“It was one of our best performances of the season”, said Cooper.
“To make up for when we went over there, which was one of our worst performances of the season.
“We seem to have been moving in the right direction in the past few weeks and have been getting better and better.
“It was a pleasing first half performance, except that they equalised just before the break from a set piece, but it was a very organised and disciplined performance first half.
“Second half we moved from disciplined and organised and controlled, to a very accomplished all-around display and we dominated more and more as the game went on.
“Our fitness levels and our work rate right to the end was outstanding and we showed some real quality going forward.”
Danny Horscroft fired the Royalists ahead at Stag Meadow on Saturday before Spelthorne stole in for an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. The hosts brushed off the setback and produced an even better second half display, scoring through David Hoar and Lindell Stewart to take the match away from the visitors.
With the return of players to fitness Cooper has a much stronger squad to choose from and they've been able to cut down dramatically on the number of goals they're conceding. Instead of two goals a game on average they’re now conceding just one, but they still don’t have that elusive clean sheet in the league.
“We’re improving slowly but surely and have gone from conceding two goals a game to one goal a game,” he said. “Obviously, we still haven’t managed to keep the clean sheet we’re desperately looking for, but we’re improving in that area, and it’s been improved by the return of a couple of players who’ve been missing all season.
“It’s been anything but disciplined and organised this season but we're now talking about moments in games when we have lapses. A handful of incidents that we can really focus on and try and improve on.
“The structure of the team is good, the fitness levels are high and we’ve got some real flair going forward.
“It was very controlled on Saturday; we were very organised and difficult to break down and that’s something we haven’t been of late.
“We know we’re going to score goals; we’ve been one of the highest scoring teams this season. But the teams at the top of the table have the better defensive records. Hanworth have conceded eight goals all season.”
On Saturday one of their rivals for a top four spot, Egham Town, are the visitors to Stag Meadow and Cooper is looking to cap off the week with another victory.
There was a set back in the Cherry Reds Records Premier Challenge Cup on Tuesday evening as the Royalists were beaten on penalties by Hilltop after the game finished 2-2. Cooper felt a cup run would have been good for the squad, but added that the league is the club's 'bread and butter this season'.
“We’re certainly in a lot better place than we were six weeks ago and we’re seeing the progress week on week with the way the boys are playing.
“Also, aware that we now need to sustain those levels. We’ve only just reached a position where we’re giving good performances and now, we need to really kick on and keep getting results.
“The league is the bread and butter and is hugely important. But having a cup run is good for the club and the players to get involved in.
“We’re in a good position right now but we’ve got all the work to do.”