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Kingstonian 2-2 Cheltenham Town

For the first time ever, a K's team took the field in the semi-final of the FA Trophy, against the newly appointed league leaders. When you consider the fact the corresponding fixture at this time last season was a home game with Yeading, it is easy to see how far the club has come over recent months. But not satisfied with merely being in the semi-final, the side gave their all to book their place at the Twin Towers next month. The entire K's squad was available, which meant that the starting eleven was never in doubt.

The game started off with the players "getting to know" each other, as people tend to when they are about to spend so much time with an unfamiliar group. Hopefully the teams will be on first name terms come Tuesday and next week. One Cheltenham player who will definitely have been noticed by the K's management team is Steve Book. He has a fine reputation, but did nothing to add to it with a woeful display. After just ten minutes he provided K's with a chance when he spilled a Geoff Pitcher shot after fine work from Eddie. Leworthy was the first to react, and managed to get in another shot, which was turned away for a corner by the goalkeeper.

Neil Grayson had the best early chance for the visitors, but he put a fine chance well wide of Steve Farrelly's left hand post as Cheltenham finally managed to break down the home midfield. Gary Patterson and Geoff Pitcher have (perhaps rightly) taken most of the plaudits this season, but the importance of Kevin Rattray next to them cannot be over-estimated. He showed in this game how valuable he is, both in terms of energy on the pitch, and also as a morale booster when teammates need a lift.

Meanwhile, Leworthy tried a lob, but Book managed to claim it one handed. Then Grayson went close at the other end from a similar angle as his earlier effort, but it was K's who took the lead. First of all, a Colin Luckett cross caused confusion in the box, Eddie headed past Book, but Chris Banks managed to hook the ball out from under the crossbar. The resulting corner sailed towards the far post where Book jumped with a mass of bodies. The goalkeeper looked to be able to easily gather the ball, but only managed to drop it onto (uh-uh) Simon Stewart's toe, and with one stab (uh) the ball went in. After just a quick look at linesman and referee it was clear that the goal would stand, and celebrations could begin.

Cheltenham did have a great chance to snatch an equaliser before the break, but first Dave Norton's shot hit Mark Harris, which fell to Rob Bloomer. His follow up was hit low to Farrelly's right, but the goalkeeper got down very quickly to smother the shot. Norton then shot into orbit before the whistle went for quarter-time. After the break Kingstonian came out to be much the better side at first, but the strangeness of a two-legged match might have affected matters. Urgency never really became a factor, as both sides knew that there was still so much football to be played. And although K's were on top, this was never turned into actual chances.

After 15 minutes a right-wing corner from Lee Howells was met by Freeman's head which resulted in Farrelly's second superb save of the afternoon. His tip over gave Howells a second chance at a corner, and from this one Cheltenham made no mistake. Grayson rose, but not very high at all, as he had so much room that he didn't really need to do a lot more than put his head onto the ball. Farrelly couldn't get near it, and Cheltenham were back in the tie.

Rattray was still giving his all, even if it meant jumping into, and injuring, his own player. He came off pretty badly as well and needed a fair amount of treatment, firstly from the Cheltenham physio, and then from the one who did have hair. The back three for K's were once again performing superbly which meant that Cheltenham were beginning to be frustrated.

The frustration was increased when Kingstonian took the lead for the second time with what was the best goal of the game. The ball was played into David Leworthy's feet towards the edge of the box, who managed to shield it enough to allow Geoff Pitcher room to shoot. From a position out on the left he shot towards the top-right hand corner, but only managed to hit Neil Howarth. The ball came back to him, he re-adjusted his sights, took aim, wiped his brow (probably) and took his second shot. There was the smallest of small spaces for the ball to travel through, but the midfielder used The Force to bend it around Book's outstretched hand and into the net. It was a sweet strike, and one well suited to a semi-final.

Perhaps K's thought that they had done enough. Leading twice against the league leaders is no mean feat, and one that would be most welcome in the return next week. But not enough had been done, as was proved just three minutes later. Brough was played through another tiny gap in the defence, out on the right, and took his shot early. The K's netting proved as good at holding a football as Book's earlier efforts, as the ball went just inside the left-hand upright and burst through into the advertisement hoardings. Most home supporters presumed that the ball had gone wide, and were somewhat peeved when the referee gave the goal.

This proved to be the final nail in the game's coffin, as both teams seemed fairly happy with a draw, although there was still time for one last superb save from Farrelly, after Grayson had headed a Victory cross at goal. The consensus of opinion seemed to be that a draw had been a fair result, but the identity of the Wembley finalists is no nearer being revealed. K's can take comfort from the fact that they did have several good chances, against a goalkeeper who was less than convincing. If Cheltenham can be denied at the other end then there is no reason to believe that K's can't stop the Robins from achieving what would be an impressive double.

Sat 10th Apr 1999
Kingsmeadow Stadium
FA Trophy Semi final 1st leg
Stewart, Pitcher
Cheltenham Town2
1Steve Farrelly
2Tarkan Mustafa
3Colin Luckett
4Matt Crossley
5Simon Stewart
6Mark Harris
7Gary Patterson
8Geoff Pitcher
9Kevin Rattray
10David Leworthy12
11Eddie Akuamoah
12Delton Francis10
13Jerome John
14Kofi Nyamah
15Scott Corbett
16Wayne Brown
Man of the Match
Steve Farrelly
Steve Farrelly
Match Report By
Gary Ekins