It’s nearly October and I have no idea what we’ve got at Kingstonian. I know that the mantra is for patience, but as I’ve said in previous blogs there is such desperation in my mind to win, win and win again that I do find it difficult to be patient.
The last few games have continued Kingstonian’s season in the same vein as the early stages, just when you think you’re getting something good going, you find yourself mistaken and suddenly your faith in the team dips again. Walton Casuals game – yay; Bowers and Pitsea game – boo; March Town United game – yay; Worthing game – ouch and boo.
After the Walton Casuals game got our FA Cup run going, good things were expected out of the Bowers and Pitsea game, but none really arrived, apart from Rob Tolfrey keeping a clean sheet on his 500th appearance for the K’s. This was a strange game, quite open in the first half, both teams had a few chances to break the deadlock but came up against goalkeepers on top form. The second half, though, Bowers and Pitsea parked the bus. I didn’t get it. Our forward line was misfiring again, the visitors looked capable of scoring in the first half, why did they feel unable to score in the second half? As it was, they were very disciplined in defence and barely gave us a sniff. It was an afternoon in which we lacked imagination, created few chances and didn’t deserve to win. We would have to play better when Grays Athletic visit for the FA Cup.
Thanks in part to all my contributors successfully doing their stuff early as asked, the programme was finished on the Wednesday night – Thursday night was a night out with Rosey, and a wonderful rendition of Mel Brooks’ The Producers at the newly-opened Fairfield Halls. But I was warned on Thursday that something was going on.
The basics were that Grays Athletic had been found to have fielded an ineligible player in their Preliminary Round tie against Heybridge Swifts. And so, as a result we would be at home to the team Grays beat in the First Qualifying Round, March Town United. In itself, this feels wrong as the alleged “dirty deed” took place against Heybridge, surely the fair thing is to reinstate both Heybridge and March Town United, have them play in a re-arranged game and the winners then visit us. But this, of course, is too obvious, so Heybridge Swifts get cast aside and we got to face the Hares.
The “dirty deed” turned out to be that one of the Grays players did not have international clearance, as he had played either high school or college soccer in the United States, I forget which. But where this gets to be dreadfully unfair, is that this player turned out for two other clubs last season, after his return from the United States. If I read this right, neither of those two clubs got international clearance for him either. Even though there is, in theory, a zero tolerance for fielding ineligible players (though you watch when Liverpool get let off for a similar thing in the EFL Cup), quite how Grays could be blamed for this is beyond me.
Quite why it took the FA over one year to realise that a player did not have international clearance is a breathtaking thought. There has been talk of a national FA database of players being set up, and at a meeting that I attended a few years ago there was an employee at the FA who was desperately battling blazers to try and get this done. It’s a simple thing to do, it’s an obvious thing to do, and it’s astounding that quite clearly this has still not come to pass. I understand fully that rules are rules and Grays Athletic had to be disqualified, but if the FA organises themselves properly and made things easier on club secretaries to make quick checks on players’ eligibility, or for the FA database to have the ability for flag things up before the player sets foot on the field, then this gets caught two or three clubs and over twelve months ago and nobody gets harmed in the making of this programme. Grays Athletic had in my mind every right to believe that their player was eligible; the player also had every right to believe that he was eligible. OK, let every secretary do a bit more homework about player eligibility, but give them the tools to do it. Sympathy is something Grays Athletic don’t need right now, but they certainly have mine.
And so we played a brand new opponent for the second game in a row as we had never played Bowers and Pitsea before. March Town United had reached the FA Cup First Round once before in the late 1970s when they visited Swindon Town, and their recent results suggested that we had a battle on our hands. The suggestions were proven to be correct, and the scoreline didn’t do the Hares any favours. Our visitors had the ball in the net first, and there was a major sigh of relief when the offside flag went up, this would have been the perfect recipe for a cup upset and, even though we played a team three levels below us, I think we might have struggled to get back into the game. Thankfully, Dan Bennett scored two very good goals and Youssef Bamba got another in second half injury time, but our opponents were a credit to the Eastern Counties League and I hope they do well from now on.
So, it was with some confidence that we went off to Worthing, we were four games unbeaten, four consecutive clean sheets, the defence (and Tolfs) were playing very well. After the Worthing game, I shall still say that defensively we’re doing ok. Midfield and up front, though, were shocking. And Worthing weren’t much better, I think they won the game mainly due to making less catastrophic mistakes than we did and they looked more like a team than we did. The Rebels’ first goal came after a sustained amount of pressure right from the kick-off in which we barely kicked a ball and got what we deserved when we couldn’t clear it for the thousandth time; their second goal was directly from a pass in midfield that went straight to a Worthing player, he had a pop from distance and Rob was given no chance. We got one back soon after their second goal, but we very rarely troubled their keeper after that as the game got progressively worse quality-wise. It’s always good to visit Woodside Road for a match, the views are good, the food is very good, the seats unusually comfortable for a non-league ground, but it’s always good to leave Woodside Road after a game, as usually we’ve played badly, got stuffed by the home team and the urge to race towards the exit at the end is usually too great to bear; Saturday was sadly no different.
We need, we must, we have to be 300-400% better on Saturday in our Third Qualifying Round tie in the FA Cup, otherwise Weston-super-Mare will blow us away. Same for tonight’s game against Haringey Borough (a game I won’t be at as my loathing of travelling through London is too much for me to think about once again). There are still question marks for me over certain players, other players do not have the consistency at the moment, we are being carried by not enough players.
I’ve not been in the most magnificent of moods recently, I never knew that a person could get gout in an elbow. I never knew until last Wednesday when I rushed myself to the doctor after a very painful and almost sleep-free Tuesday night after my right arm slowly and eventually comprehensively seized up. Apparently, you can get gout in any joint – and, like me, you don’t have to be a heavy drinker…I’m merely heavy… Anyway, what made this all the more frustrating is that this is my good elbow – I seem to have got some tennis elbow in my left arm, which only flares up when I’m typing on my laptop at home because of the really rather daft slouching position I take when I’m tapping away. The good elbow is getting better, the bad elbow is doing ok for now, just waiting for the next bit to fail. I think I’d be in trouble if I went to a vet…