Normally when there’s a Kingstonian game reasonably far from home, there’s one of two plans. One, especially if it’s a midweek game, is not go. Two, usually on a Saturday, is to drive either all of the way or most of the way there on the Friday night, not have to worry too much about time limits on game day and drive home on Sunday. More accurately, it’s Rosey that does the driving and quite often I do the snoring in the passenger seat.
January 2018 was the last time this involved a Kingstonian victory, so there became the latest argument for me being a curse to the football club. There were ten occasions that this tactic was used last season, two of them in pre-season, and this brought a yield of two draws (in pre-season at Hastings and then in the league at Whitehawk) and nine defeats. This season it’s happened twice and we’ve been beaten by Hornchurch and then Worthing. So twelve occasions in a row. Thankfully, I didn’t realise this when we set off for a two night stay in Colchester so that we would not be too far away for the game away to Brightlingsea Regent.
The previous visit to Brightlingsea last season also included a stay in a hotel in Colchester, but the weekend was thoroughly ruined when we decided to visit Colchester Zoo during half-term. Way too many small humans flying about the place, not much room to fart (and then blame it on the giraffes), I had one of my thankfully infrequent anxiety attacks and we had to cut the visit short. No problems this time as it wasn’t holiday time and anyway we didn’t plan to re-visit the zoo.
It turned out to be an absolute privilege to visit the Taydal Stadium, for all those K’s fans who were able to make the trek to the Essex coast were rewarded with a proficient, professional and supremely efficient performance from an excellent Kingstonian squad.
The K’s these days are absolutely a watchable team, when the day is going well they are fun to watch, when the day isn’t going so good or not completely to plan then their determination to dig in and battle is in itself a delight.
Conditions in Brightlingsea weren’t optimum – Hayden has since mentioned the state of the pitch, that’s not something I can comment on as, unless it is genuinely a ploughed field, I usually can’t tell and don’t appreciate. The weather, though, was not fun for the players of either team. The wind howled, the clouds chucked the rain down at all manner of angles, I even managed to use the word “murmuration” in my quick match review to describe how the rain looked when it flashed past the floodlights at the end of the game. Little things please little minds.
It certainly wasn’t a day for flowing football, yet the Kingstonian lads adapted superbly. Both goals had some fortune to them – a Tom Kavanagh shot bounced massively off Dan Bennett into the net shortly before half time; then the Brightlingsea keeper failed to deal with a high ball under pressure from Reece Hall and Dan brilliantly lobbed the ball into an empty net – but the men in yellow absolutely deserved the victory. And, thanks to a marvellous save from Rob Tolfrey in the last minute, who, now he has a good defence in front of him, is back to his inspired and inspiring best, the clean sheet was very much deserved.
I’m pleased that the worst of the rain didn’t strike before kick-off as we might have had a problem later on; certainly visibility wasn’t wonderful in the last ten minutes as the volume of rain ensured that the far side of the pitch was a blur almost of the type that happens when I take my glasses off (short-sighted as I am). So, in its way, this was a huge win for Kingstonian – we’ve always moaned that we don’t play well when it’s wet / cold / bumpy pitch / too hot / Saturn is aligned in retrograde with both Pluto and Tattooine / there’s a “y” in the day; this was a ballsy, gutsy, thou-shalt-not-pass type performance and I loved it.
Next up, of course, it’s FA Cup time again and we visit Macclesfield Town for a 12.45pm kick-off on Sunday. Now that it’s the next game, I can start looking forward to it, and yes, I can say that I am looking forward to it. This will be the first time that I’ve seen Kingstonian play League opposition in the FA Cup and is a fulfillment of an ambition. I’ve seen us play some games in pre-season against league opposition which I don’t particularly enjoy anyway (they’re usually a nightmare for me as microphone man when the usual raft of substitutions start happening without the use of the subs board, overbright as it is), I’ve seen us play Crystal Palace’s reserves or youth team in at least two Surrey Senior Cup games, I’ve seen us beat Oxford United in the FA Youth Cup, but Sunday will be a first.
The whole thing has been utterly surreal. From the announcing of our name in the draw on BBC2 to the confirmation of the game taking place on a Sunday lunchtime for televisual purposes, it’s all just felt weird. I’ve waited nineteen seasons for this and I’m not ready…! Well, I may not be ready and I doubt I ever will be but I’m determined not to let this weekend become a blur.
Let’s face it, we are not supposed to get a positive result out of this. For me, it’s mission accomplished in the FA Cup, we did it, we got to the First Round, a wonderful feeling, anything else will be a bonus. That’s not to say that I’m going there without any hope, because at the very worst we can give our opponents a fright. Macclesfield Town will have to worry about Kingstonian just as much as we will worry about them, to use the old cliché, at the beginning of the game it’s eleven against eleven; I know that our guys will give all that they’ve got in this game and they will not be afraid. If it’s not good enough on the day and it means that we bow out at this stage then good luck to Macclesfield, they will have earned their place in Round Two. But whilst the ambition of reaching the First Round has now been achieved, there is this sense of greed and new ambitions are beginning to surface, we’re not going up there just to make up the numbers, at the very least we want to test ourselves and compete and I think we can do that.
I have barely looked at the fixture list, to be honest – we’re supposed to be at home to Cheshunt on Wednesday, but it’s likely to be off as we will probably have to visit either Truro City or Blackfield & Langley in the FA Trophy instead, whether that’s Tuesday (unfair) or Wednesday (fairer but still massively tough), I don’t know. Our prospective opponents are making their third attempt to play their First Qualifying Round tie tonight, I think panic will ensue if there’s either another postponement or a draw. It’s a panic that could have been avoided, to have the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy on the same weekend as the First Round of the FA Cup is just bananas and far more short-sighted than me. Usually it doesn’t affect us as we’ve done our bit and gone out of either or both competition, this time it’s our turn, in a way I think it’s a thoroughly brilliant problem to have, but it’s one that the competitions people at the Football Association could easily have not created with a small amount of forethought. Whatever day the game is on, I know that I can’t get the time off work at such short notice to get down to either Cornwall or the New Forest and that is a disappointment.
Oh well, that’s it for another blog, I wonder what state I will be in on Sunday evening after an afternoon watching Kingstonian at Moss Rose. Frazzled, probably.