That was my initial reaction when the final whistle blew at Merstham. Finally, finally, finally, I have seen Kingstonian win away, but it’s been so darn long that I genuinely didn’t know how to react.
So, basically, I didn’t.
Relief was the main feeling, not only for the final destruction of this darn jinx, but also for the first win of the new season. There was a case of “what happens now” or “what do I do next” as I sat there in the back of the prawn sandwich section at the Moatside trying hard to comprehend what had just transpired. The walk back to the car was in heavy rain, but that felt good as, when we reached the car not far from the ground, I just stood there and allowed myself to be rained on. Considering the over-warm temperatures of the previous weekend, this rain was really rather cold but it was welcome (The Who’s “Love, Reign o’er Me” is a most acceptable earworm as I type this…).
As for the game, I wasn’t looking forward to it. The previous two were so very disappointing and despondency-inducing, and here we were having to visit Merstham, which for obvious reasons was a bigger game that it normally is. I think we got a very solid performance, and we deserved to win by more than the single goal that Tom Kavanagh provided for us four minutes into the second half. The game started slowly, neither side really threatened in the first half, and then after Tom’s shot from just outside the area, we took control. Or as much control as you can get if you’re leading by just a single goal. That meant the Kingstonian tradition of waiting for the mistake was still there, a full expectation that a cock-up was coming and we would blow the lead despite plenty of good work and possession. The mistake at the back never came, and the match billed as Merstham Present at home to Merstham Past ended 1-0 to the old guys.
There was definite a change in tactics for the K’s, as we played with two up front – I’m never really a fan of one up front, I think it’s a difficult task for the poor sole forward who runs himself into the ground usually to no avail, so it was pleasing to see Louie get someone alongside him at the Moatside, and I think on this occasion the change worked, there was more service for Louie Theophanous and Dan Thompson, we had enough very clear-cut chances to score another two or three goals. A concern is that often is feels like we have to miss a shed-load of clear opportunities before we can take one, but with a bit more confidence I’m sure this ratio can be improved upon. Whether it was the change to two up front, whether it was the vast improvement in performance of the defence and midfield or, most probably, a combination of everything, I don’t know, but the guys finally began to show something nearer to what I think they are capable.
It’s FA Cup time this Sunday, to steal the type of phrase that Arthur Dent might use, I can never get the hang of Sundays. But anyhoo, it’s a big game for us on Sunday as we look set to face several former K’s who now ply their trade with Walton Casuals. (Thinking about it…we face at least one former player in the vast majority of games, don’t we? Not hard considering we have had more players in the last few years than some countries have population…) The Stags have not won yet this season, which, given the style that in which they clobbered us this pre-season, is a bit of a surprise. Still, let’s grab Ye Olde Booke of Clichés, and say that league form counts for nothing in games like this, the cup’s a leveller, etc., etc., but to use the Liverpool FC version of Ye Olde Booke, and to scribble something I scribble a lot, if we play to the best of our ability then we stand a good chance. With the squad the K’s have got at the moment, I do believe that’s the case; if we don’t then the Stags will be in the hat and not us.
A busy time is going to be had as it will be two visits to King George’s Field in consecutive days as Monday evening sees our under 18s play at Corinthian-Casuals in the FA Youth Cup Preliminary Round. The team got off to a wonderful start of the 2019-20 season with a 5-0 win over Tooting and Mitcham United, and hopes are high for us to consolidate on what was an excellent jump in form last year. The FA Youth Cup is a very important competition to me; not only are Liverpool the holders, but I have a few excellent memories of Kingstonian’s exploits, such as beating Oxford United one year, and also squeaky narrow defeats at Yeovil Town and Aldershot Town over the campaigns, so I always look forward to our cracks at the FAYC. Hopefully our match with Walton Casuals will not require a replay, because, as it will take place on Tuesday, I’m not sure I’ve got the stamina for three matches in three days…needs must, though.
So, the jinx is over, I can watch away wins for Kingstonian. That’s target number one done and dusted. Target number two is probably to work out what target number three is, but whatever it is, we must take heart from the performance at the Moatside and have the confidence that we can string a few of these good performances together. Let’s take it one game at a time (oops, Ye Olde Booke in action again), we can’t look any further than Walton Casuals (Ye Olde Booke again) on Sunday… I’ll be working on the programme tonight, thanks to my excellent contributors, most of it will be done by the evening’s end, with just some league tables to worry about on either Wednesday night or Thursday.