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Kingstonian 1-0 Forest Green Rovers

May 15th - That's the date that we've all been talking about. "it'll be us walking up those steps," and " walking down Wembley Way" etc. etc. But when the actual event occurred it all seemed rather surreal. The culmination of the first season in the national league was to be a Wembley final against another of the newcomers to the league. The stark contrast between taking 20 or so fans to away games to the mass of 12,000 Kingstonian supporters descending on Wembley was an amazing thing to behold.

The festivities commenced on the journey to North London. Perhaps due to the fact that once at Wembley one can't really sing about going there, perhaps it was to tell any innocent train passengers where we were going... Whatever it was, everyone knew who K's were, and where they were going. The sea of red and white from Surbiton through Waterloo and to Brent was a first, and there were similar situations with the coaches from many a pub, the supporters club, and the football club. The 12,000 or so K's fans were almost matched in number by their Gloucestershire counterparts - a substantial feat considering the distance and the size of Nailsworth.

Inside the stadium, well, truly something. The 20,000 fans all congregated on one side of the pitch. A family atmosphere - unfortunately that seems to go with the territory - and many groups from work, school, anywhere really. And so at 14.51 (according to the programme) the teams entered the arena and the flags were put through their paces. The noise was amazing and it was a joy to see the players' faces. Even though some of them have been through it before it was a new thing for the likes of Colin Luckett and Eddie Akuamoah and it must have been wonderful for them. As it was for us in the seats.

K's named their full strength team, although Kevin Rattray was starting with two cracked ribs. Interestingly though the programme got the substitute players' names mixed up, though we believe it to have been a ploy to try and get Wayne Brown on the bench too, through sheer confusion. It nearly worked, as all the subs were wearing full kit as they were led onto the hallowed turf by Big Fat Geoff, sporting a gorgeous red rose in his lapel. The only player missing from Forest Green's eleven was Paul Hunt, meaning that K's almost faced their first choice team, after two previous encounters with their reserves.

As the commentators and most pundits, no doubt including Jimmy Greaves, would have you know, settling in to Wembley is no mean feat. And so it was that both teams took a little while to settle. Indeed, in the first ten minutes, the only notable play was when Eddie Akuamoah won a corner. However things started to look up in the tenth minute. Stalwart Colin Luckett played a precision ball inside the left hand side channel (so said Brian Marwood) to Geoff Pitcher. He floated a cross towards Gary Patterson, earlier awarded his England semi-pro caps, yet the ball went just out of play for a goal kick.

This seemed to awaken the West-Country team. Sykes was looking dangerous and hooked a shot wide, and only two minutes later he also failed to convert a half-chance as he turned and shot from just inside the area. Then, in the seventeenth minute, McGregor had the chance of a lifetime. Mehew played him through on the left, but with Crossley in attendance there were few worries amongst the K's ranks. However the regular K's fans would know that, when the ball is on the floor, the double-Trophy winner has trouble. Crossley attempted to clear, but only succeeded in kicking it against the striker's feet. McGregor got the rub of the green and raced through to a one-on-one with Steve Farrelly. While K's players could only watch in hope, Farrelly did his best impression of Peter Schmeichel, presenting a huge frame for McGregor to beat. With Wembley holding its breath he shot inside the near post, but Farrelly did superbly to reach down to his right to turn the shot away for a corner.

And so the game was truly in full swing and the tackles began to fly. McGregor was unlucky to receive a booking for a foul on Colin Luckett, but Patterson fully deserved his customary yellow card for a later foul on the hapless forward. One of K's best chances of the first forty-five was again set up by Geoff Pitcher. His cross from the left could only be palmed away by Shuttlewood and fell towards Tarkan Mustafa. He couldn't react in time but his time was to come. Meanwhile, Rovers almost broke the deadlock at the tunnel end. Good build up play saw McGregor distribute to Sykes. He put the ball into the mixer and Rattray's attempt to head clear saw the ball go in just the opposite direction, whilst Crossley and Harris lay strewn on the edge of the box. The header was only inches over the bar and allowed Ratters to breath a sigh of relief before blaming everyone else in sight.

With only five minutes to go in the half, there was still a real opportunity for either side to score. The K's chance occurred when wise-man Dave Leworthy played the ball square into Pitcher's path, just in front of the 'D'. He admits that he leant back a bit far and could only watch as the ball sailed away. Forest Green's chance fell to Mehew after Drysdale played him through. With Chopper, Chopper Harris tugging at him Farrelly ran out and the only option left to the striker was to attempt the lob. He did this but it was too high. The half finished with K's attacking, but the score was nil-nil.

With the teams now attacking the ends occupied by their respective supporters the chance was available for somebody to make themselves an 'ero. Sykes had two such chances but Rattray managed to block both attempts, one with either cracked rib. Just afterwards Leworthy laid the ball back to Mark Harris. He punted and lofted the ball into the area, aimed at the penalty spot. Patterson went in for the kill (with his elbows down) against Shuttlewood and this was enough to force the keeper to "do a Book" by allowing the ball to drop to a K's player. Patterson's contribution was important in presenting Mustafa with the opportunity to write the headlines. Instead he composed himself rather than the article and side footed the ball past the ailing defenders. Instead of celebrating with the players or fans he ran behind the goal to spend some time on the edge of the Wembley sandpit.

K's immediately went in search of a second with a fine move between Eddie and Pitcher. But Sykes outsyked (sic) them and came away with the ball. He ran almost the length of Wembley, played a one-two with Mehew, only for Matt Crossley to intercept. A little later a right wing corner was contested by Hedges and Rattray, the ball falling to McGregor out on the left. His cross was perfect for the on rushing Mehew six yards from goal. (Un)fortunately Steve Farrelly managed to get there just before the striker.

Forest Green continued to search for the equaliser. Mehew beat the offside trap running down the left he fired in a powerful cross but Farrelly gobbled it up. Sykes then played Winter into a good position but he slipped when shooting from just outside of the box. The K's reply was brought about by a stern challenge from Rattray, who gave the ball to Colin Luckett who distributed to Patto who, in turn, chipped the ball towards Pitcher. He showed great chest control and the ball to the line and fired a good cross/shot which was just beyond the oncoming Leworthy. To prove this was a team performance Eddie Akuamoah won a tackle from this Colin Luckett stole the ball off him, but only temporarily and passed short to Pitcher who crossed. The ball was headed out and set up nicely for - Guess who? - Tarkan Mustafa. His composure was admirable, the shot wasn't.

Eddie and Patto contrived to create a chance for Rattray. Unluckily, the midfielder was no more accurate when shooting at the Forest Green goal than he had been when he earlier almost beat Farrelly. Moments later, the K's physio achieved his life's ambition when he was required to enter the Wembley pitch to treat Colin Luckett. He had just been felled by Mike Kilgour, who entered referee Alan Wilkie's notebook for the very late challenge. Luckett was stretchered off in seeming agony, but managed to recover quickly. The physical challenges were flying in thick and fast. Amazingly, Eddie was the one to start the goings on with a seemingly innocuous challenge. The whistle had gone, but Rattray clearly hadn't heard, as he launched a two footed "tackle". Both players were booked.

A Mehew pass set McGregor free on the left, but his cross was cut out by Farrelly before a substitute could finish. The goalkeeper again denied Rovers when he stopped Sykes from scoring. But with time running out things were getting desperate. Rattray cleared, but the ball fell to McGregor. His shot was deflected wide for a corner, which Farrelly tipped away. With most of their team attacking, Delton Francis had the chance to break out and head for goal. But his pass to Pitcher was just delayed too long and the midfielder was flagged offside. From then on it was simply a case of keep-ball, and K's did fairly well to deny anymore chances. Patterson played the ball through towards the Forest Green area, the whistle went and the season was over.

Colin Luckett fell to his knees, Rattray looked to the sky, Chapple had another stick of chewing gum and we all got excited, whilst the PA man told us that K's had won, to aid those family day-outers who had got confused. Once the players had been re-convened, Matt Crossley climbed the steps to be kissed by the entire K's board, and to then meet Jimmy Greaves. But on the plus side, there was a Trophy waiting for him adorned with red and white ribbons. It was raised into the air, and half of the Wembley roof followed.

What followed were scenes of joy which had only been seen by Kingston folk back in the days of Saxon Kings. The celebrations continued back at the club with supporters, players and their families (from Pitcher's son to Stewart's Gran) in attendance. David Leworthy stayed late as it was the culmination of his career, Geoff Pitcher stayed because he had played brilliantly and Scott Corbett was there as he had nowhere else to go. The Trophy took pride of place amongst the pride of the Kingston breed. But it needs a bit of a polish after Brendan Frawley got his grubby hands on it.

Celebrations continued on the Sunday when most of the players took to an open topped bus tour of the Kingston one-way system. If anybody thought that this was a farce on a par with last year's celebrations (when six people turned out) they were proved wholly wrong when the bus turned the corner leading to the Guildhall. Many of those in attendance at Wembley the day before were lying in wait for their heroes with red and white everywhere. The players were clearly proud that so many people had bothered to come out and see them and they all managed to make appearances on the balcony to give speeches to those gathered below. If anybody missed the speeches, they almost all contained the following words: "cheers" and "see you next year". But it was all good to see and it might finally prove to the people of Kingston that they have a football team to be proud of.

And they certainly do. In the two years since Chapple arrived the team has surpassed every expectation. K's have won the second most important competition in non-league football, and who knows, at this time next year they may well have superceded even that.

Sat 15th May 1999
Kingsmeadow Stadium
FA Trophy Final
Forest Green Rovers0
1Steve Farrelly
2Tarkan Mustafa
3Colin Luckett
4Matt Crossley
5Simon Stewart
6Mark Harris
7Gary PattersonCautioned
8Geoff Pitcher
9Kevin RattrayCautioned
10David Leworthy12
11Eddie AkuamoahCautioned
12Delton Francis10
13Jerome John
14Scott Corbett
15Danny Smith
16Carl Tranter
Man of the Match
Geoff Pitcher
Geoff Pitcher
Match Report By
Gary Ekins
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