It’s true. I should know by now to trust this set of Kingstonian players. But I never saw us beating Woking in a million years. Yet here we are, in the midst of yet another mega cup run, having deservedly beaten a really good team from two divisions above who no doubt given their glittering history in the FA Trophy would have been wanting another trip to Wembley Stadium.
I’m typing this as I’m essentially waiting for our trip to Leatherhead to be postponed. However, at the time of tapping, it seems that the Fetcham Grove pitch is holding up and we’re still good to go. I am torn between wanting the game to go ahead as we can give ourselves a chance to get three precious league points or wanting the game postponed as I’m so tired that I think I’d have a chance of going asleep during a Metallica concert.
This blog was last written just after the defeat by AFC Fylde in the FA Cup, a loss that wasn’t too disappointing as we managed to have our day in the proverbial sun. Although I didn’t make the journey down to the coast, I thought that a draw at Folkestone Invicta was actually a fine result.
The win over Merstham at King George’s Field was a bit of a strange one, as the result was both deservedly comprehensive as well as a little flattering. Whilst we finished the match very quickly and dominated the second half, the first half felt far more even, and it was a case of K’s taking their opportunities and Merstham blowing theirs. On more than one occasion, the Moatsiders got themselves into a very good position to score and couldn’t get the job done, whilst we were guilty of the same – apart from, that is, the two goals we did get. With the half time whistle blowing and K’s leading 2-0, I felt that it was comfortable for us in the second half.
Last Wednesday we met Merstham again at King George’s Field, and whilst you could argue that we made too many changes and paid the price for it, this would unfairly take the credit away from a determined Merstham team, who this time took their chances when they were presented to them. The first half saw both number tens score a brace of goals, Calum Davies doesn’t do tap-ins, and both his goals were from the spectacular side of the scale, but unfortunately they were the highlight of what was a poor performance from the K’s, who were outplayed by their opponents. Yes, we did rotate the squad a little bit with the Woking game partly in mind, but I thought that we still had a team capable of winning the game. Not the first time I’ve been mistaken.
I wasn’t up for the Woking game on Sunday morning, for some reason there was not much motivation. I think part of it is because of this tiredness that I’ve got at the moment, a decent night’s sleep is something that other people seem to get these days. Part of it was also due to the fact that I didn’t think we had much of a chance of winning the game. It felt similar to the Brackley Town FA Cup game from our Fetcham Grove season, it was obvious that we didn’t even have the smallest chance to beat the team that did eventually win the FA Trophy, and we played that way, losing only by three goals because Brackley couldn’t be bothered to get out of first gear.
I should have learned, really.
There wasn’t too much of an inkling in the first few minutes that something extraordinary was actually happening. Woking, managed of course by our former guru, the most excellent Alan Dowson, looked like they controlled much of the game at the pace that suited them, any attacks from us were on the counter and safely dealt with by the Cards’ defence. And then something strange happened. Louie Theophanous was fouled outside the area (that’s not the strange thing, maybe the strange thing was that the referee gave the foul for a change), and Fabio Saraiva stepped up to hit it. And hit it he did, taking a mean deflection off a defender, wrong footing the goalkeeper and, quite unexpectedly, Kingstonian led 1-0.
The pace of the game didn’t change too much, after all it was a matter of time before Woking got back into the game and completely turned it around, but we approached half time and I felt really quite satisfied that our guys had done really a rather good job and what a positive it was to lead Woking at the break. The referee ruined that when he gave the Cards a spot kick, penalising Ollie Cook for winning the ball after a well timed tackle. Max Kretzschmar scored the resulting penalty, there was much fuming around me and rightly so. One of the biggest games of our season and we get one of the worst decisions. Oh well, crap happens.
Woking came out quickly at the start of the second half, now surely they would stamp their authority on their lesser opponents from two divisions below. Dave Tarpey produced a shot that pinged off the bar, but only did the pinging because of a wonderful reflex save by Rob Tolfrey. I remember from the 1986 FA Cup Final, with the score at 1-1 and Everton pressing hard to take the lead, Bruce Grobbelaar produced an amazing save (it would have been an own goal, I think I remember) to push the ball over the bar. The game changed, Liverpool went down the other end and scored, eventually winning 3-1. Something very similar happened here, Rob’s save started to make me think that we had some kind of chance.
It turned out to be more than that – Dan Hector was sent on another of his runs down the left, his cross was put in by Dan Bennett and suddenly K’s led again! I will admit to not finding out until afterwards that Bennett was the scorer, I announced at the time on the microphone that Louie had scored, just proves that under pressure and under the floodlights my eyesight is not good…
There was no such difficulty with the third goal, Dan Bennett’s placement of his free kick, given when Reece Hall was upended just outside the box, was exquisite. Sweeter than anything that Mr Tate and Mr Lyle have ever concocted, the Woking goalkeeper just stood there, unable to do anything about Dan’s wizardry.
Woking were thoroughly stunned by this, they weren’t the only ones. I sat there suddenly realising that we had a chance to do something astonishing and my stress went back to similar levels in the closing minutes of the Dartford game. But something different was happening, it just didn’t click with me at the time – we were outplaying Woking, we were actually outplaying Woking! A fourth goal for us was becoming infinitely more probable than a second for them, and we were playing beautifully. Hardly anything got past the defence, the midfield worked overtime, the forward line ran like maniacs, but none of the players got over excited at any stage, they knew their jobs, they stuck to them, ultimately they had more desire than the Cards, which if you think about it is a stunning thought given who their manager is.
And so now we are at home to either AFC Telford United or Leamington. I have never seen either team play, so I am going to look forward to that when the time comes. In the meantime, we have Leatherhead tonight (it’s still on as I type this line!), and that’s going to be one heck of a test, not only for our stamina but the fact is that Leatherhead have a decent team who are on good form at the moment. Our record in matches that are in the midweek after huge cup games isn’t bad so far – a win at Blackfield and Langley just days after beating Macclesfield, and a draw at Folkestone just after the Fylde game, maybe we can get a good result again tonight. It won’t be for the want of trying.
But, mental note – I must start trusting our players more!