Saturday sees one of the biggest days in Kingstonian’s recent history, as the K’s nip across to Northern Kent to face National League South team Dartford in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.
It’s the furthest that K’s have got in this competition since the 2000-01 season, albeit the club were exempt to this stage due to their Football Conference membership, so therefore it’s the first time since the 1998-99 season that the club has reached this stage thanks to winning a Third Qualifying Round tie.
The excitement is not yet brewing in my ever-confused mind as we have the small matter of a game with Knaphill tonight in the Surrey Senior Cup at King George’s Field. Arguably this is just as big a game as the trip to Dartford, given that it’s unlikely that Kingstonian will win the FA Cup – on the flipside the county cup is eminently winnable if you play well enough. Hayden Bird has a brilliant recent record in this competition and has often stated his desire to have a long run once again now that he’s Kingstonian manager. This is music to my ears. For some reason that I’ve never totally worked out, the Surrey Senior Cup means a lot to me, and it always disappoints me how teams in county cups and league cups copy their big brother counterparts in the Premier League and Football League and regard them as a nuisance rather than an opportunity.
Knaphill will not be an easy task. We played them last season, won an epic penalty shoot-out, but deserved to lose to what was a better team on the night. If we make the same mistake again then we could be in for a difficult evening, but I get the feeling that our attitude will be spot on, just like it was when the banana skins that were March Town United came to town.
It’s been a while since we’ve been to Dartford, we visited Princes Park in 2009 just after we got promoted from Division One South. The Darts were heavy favourites for the title that year (they didn’t disappoint in that regard), and to say that the 5-0 scoreline didn’t do Dartford any favours is an understatement, as I think they let us off with that score on the night. Alan Dowson got sent off for dissent near the end of the game, I was sat not too far away from the incident and I’m still convinced that either he was sent off for being Northern or it was someone else doing the dissenting and Dowse took the punishment because there was no way that the dissenter could possibly do this type of dissenting, so the Northerner got the boot instead. The result was the catalyst for the famous Dowson Day, in which oodles of new players were signed in the aftermath of a third consecutive stomping to begin the season and then went on to handily defeat Hendon and most of the rest of the season went very, very well afterwards.
We will go into that game with absolutely no fear at all, and we will give it absolutely everything. Apart from one or two games, mostly notably Worthing away, our players have done that in every game this season, and Saturday (and tonight) will be no exception. If it means that we still lose to our opponents, then good luck to Dartford in the next round, but at least we will have given it our best. However, the game is winnable for us, and I am more than hopeful that the game will be much closer than our last visit ten years ago!
Something must be changing at Kingstonian, and it’s for the better. Two things happened on Saturday at the away game against Carshalton Athletic that I have not noticed for a long time. The first one came when we went 2-0 up when Louie Theophanous, Dan Bennett and Reece Hall combined for one of the best team goals I have seen in many a moon; when the ball smacked the back of the net, I remembered how to celebrate. The low, off-key, roar of a celebrating Wooldridge hasn’t been heard at a Kingstonian game for a couple of years; usually it’s either been a case of “did that actually go in? Oh yes, it went in…we actually scored. Yay.” or a consolation goal at the end of the latest thrashing. Usually the roar has been reserved for Liverpool goals, especially ones from Divock Origi against Everton at Anfield (best header from one inch away – ever) and then Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. Both arms shot up in the air, pain immediately in the right shoulder. This is the sign of a very much celebrated goal. The pain in the shoulder thing started about twenty years ago in the dim and distant past when Lancashire used to win Lord’s cricket finals, I think we managed to finally win one when Aravinda da Silva holed out on the boundary’s edge and guaranteed a Red Rose victory, catch made, arms in the air…believe me, the shoulder pain is worth it.
The second thing that happened was that I left the ground after not having won, for the Robins came back to draw 2-2, I felt pleased to have watched a bloody good game of football. Normally, I’d be furious at letting the 2-0 lead go, but this time, whilst it was a pain in the behind, I felt that I had seen a contest where two good teams had beaten the crap out of each other, both tried desperately to win the game but had to settle for a draw. We gave it our best on the day, yes we fell asleep for ten minutes during the second half, a period in which Carshalton scored both their goals, but we did ok. If we carry on in the trajectory that we currently seem to be operating in, I think we’re going to have more good days than bad ones.
It’s been belting down with rain here in Croydon for most of the morning, hopefully King George’s Field will be fine and we can get some football tonight.