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Kingstonian 2-3 Grays Athletic

The programme

After the joys of Tuesday night's convincing win over Billericay, hopes were high amongst the K's support that another high flying team could be dispatched on the route back to the upper echelons of the Ryman League table. And for half an hour everything looked in place for sixth placed Grays to be overturned by a team looking nothing like that which scored just six goals from their first nine outings. Yet when the ninety minutes were up, brows were once again furrowed as K's had proved incapable of holding on to a deserved two goal lead.

The day hadn't started in the best way for K's with news that Phil Wingfield wasn't allowed to take his proposed place on the bench due to an "administrative error" (somebody had forgotten to get him to sign Ryman League forms) - he instead stood and watched alongside the injured Steve Brown. This all meant that the team was almost the same as Tuesday's, with David Sadler stepping up from the bench in place of Brown to play alongside hat-trick hero Greg Ball, and being replaced by James Pinnock.

As it was it took just three minutes for the new confidence within the team to be proved. Liam Collins crossed from the right, Sadler headed back towards the edge of the area, and Simon Stewart sent in a crashing left-footed volley. Goalkeeper Mel Capleton did well to get his right hand to the ball but could only divert it into the top corner of the net and K's led.

The Grays' keeper did slightly better with the next effort though - Colin Luckett was given time and space on the left, so he cut inside and sent in a powerful right-footed shot which was well turned over by Capleton.

A good candidate for a 'Spot the ball' competition

Grays had threatened on a couple of occasions, most notably when David Rainford beat Collins and shot from the left side of the area. The shot became more of a cross though, and Peter Barnsby did well to clear. The defender was less happy just afterwards though, when he went down in the middle of the field with nobody near him. He looked to have turned his ankle slightly and so was replaced by Steve McKimm, with Mark Beard reverting to his more accustomed right-back role.

Rainford was certainly the liveliest opponent that the K's defence had to face, and he came close to clawing back the lead twice. A good break following a K's corner allowed Mervin Abraham to cross to the striker, but his effort from twelve yards was well saved by Lance Key. Yet the goalkeeper was thankful for the intervention of his crossbar just afterwards when another fine shot from Rainford - from fully twenty-five yards - crashed against the woodwork with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.

Another wasted opportunity

Yet all the time that the Grays attack was showing their prowess, the K's attack was doing likewise. There may have been a lack of clear-cut chances, but the passing was better than of late, and the visiting defence was finding it difficult to contain the lively Sadler. And it was little surprise when the lead was doubled.

Lance Key kicked long from his area, the defence somehow allowed 5-foot-nothing Greg Ball to flick the ball on with his head, David Sadler took one touch to steady the ball and a second to score his second goal in the hoops. It really was a simple goal and certainly not against the run of play. The lead almost became three just afterwards when Mark Jones connected with a right-wing Beard cross, but saw his volley well saved by Capleton.

Yet with five minutes to go to the break it all went wrong. Abraham was denied a chance from in front of goal by a great tackle by Stewart, but the corner which resulted saw the lead halved. Key half punched clear, Steve Robinson headed back in from outside the area and everyone stood and watched the ball sail goalwards. The ball was clearly going in, but Abraham made sure by stabbing home from a yard out and Grays were back in the game.

If the plan was then to hold out until the break to re-organise then nobody told Colin Luckett. Sam Cooper received the ball on the right-hand side of the area, touched it past the K's left-back, who then took his legs from beneath him. The referee, Mr D Deadman - who had been especially pernickety throughout the half - had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Andy Douglas had no hesitation in sending the ball past Lance Key for the equaliser

Andy Douglas equalises from the penalty spot

© The Non-League Paper/Colin Edwards/PhotopressIt was fairly clear that for K's to have any hope of re-claiming the lead in this match then they had to keep the ball in the opposition's half of the field as much as was possible, and they made a good start in the second period. Within just a few seconds of the re-start Greg Ball - who had been having a quiet game after his Tuesday night exploits - cut in from the right and saw his shot well saved by Capleton.

Yet the goalkeeper could do nothing about the next chance. A long ball from Stewart found Sadler in space on the right, he did superbly to find Mark Jones in the middle, and everybody waited for him to turn the ball in from three yards out. Yet somehow he managed to send his left-footed volley from the left-hand side of goal onto the opposite post (see below). The ball bounced out whilst just Jones' face smashed into the net. Mark Beard followed up but saw his effort miss the far post by a few yards.

Mark Jones misses from three yards

This seemed to be the point at which the home side accepted that this was one game they would not win. From this point on it was simply a matter of time until they surrendered the lead. That time came on 62 minutes when Abraham beat Luckett on the right and crossed for Cooper. Key did well to save the first effort but couldn't hold on, and the same player turned the ball into the empty net from some three yards out. Hopefully Mark Jones was watching and saw how it should be done.

The remaining minutes of the game strangely saw few clear-cut chances. Substitute Steve McKimm headed a Beard cross over and later shot over from the edge of the box, whilst Grays' substitute Richard Halle shot marginally wide for the visitors, but that was really all of the chances worthy of note.

And so Grays stretched their unbeaten run to ten games, whilst the new hope within the K's squad will now have dissipated. There are really two ways to look at this game - either K's did appallingly badly to let slip a two goal lead, or Grays' undoubted quality shone through in the end. There can be no real complains from the K's camp about the final result, but one can't help but feel that just one more goal in the opening half an hour may have meant that this match was put out of the reach of the visitors.

Sat 22nd Sep 2001
Kingsmeadow Stadium
Isthmian League Premier
Stewart, Sadler
Grays Athletic3
1Lance Key
2Max Hustwick
3Colin Luckett
4Peter Barnsby15
5Simon Stewart
6Bashiru Alimi
7Liam Collins14
8Mark Beard
9Greg Ball
10David Sadler
11Mark Jones
12James Pinnock
14Ronnie Green7
15Steve McKimm4
Man of the Match
Mark Jones
Mark Jones
Match Report By
Gary Ekins