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Kingstonian 2-2 Cray Wanderers

Kingstonian and Cray Wanderers have certainly had an intimate season. Most of the players lining up for this weekends league fixture had probably seen some of the opposition more times than they'd seen their own grandmother this season. With the two teams meeting five times in a season, vitriol between the sides was inevitably immense.

The first clash of the sides had been a disgraceful match with 7 red cards, but it was Cray who took the victory 4-1. However, just like a slightly more famous five match series last summer, a big win in the first game was a false promise, and it was Kingstonian who rode out winners in the long run. Just as England had, Kingstonian went into the final match with a 2-1 lead, and a draw was enough to see them through.

Of course, this wasn't really the end of a five match series, but an important league match in a very close fight for the play-offs. As such, Ian McDonald selected a stronger starting eleven than he had midweek in the Surrey Cup. Julian Sills was brought in to shore things up at the back, with Martyn Lee and Tommy Moorhouse starting in midfield, and James Rose preferred over Tony Reid up front. New signing Charley Side made his debut from the bench.

With the unusual sight of K's playing towards the Kingston Road End in the first half, the game kicked off. The first real chance didn't come for ten minutes, but was a massive let off for K's when it did. Cray striker Leigh Bremner made a good run down the left hand side, breaking through the defence. Confusion between Paul Wetherall and Alan Hughes allowed Bremner to roll the ball across the face of the open ball, which was remarkably missed by no less than three Cray players running in before eventually going out for a goal kick.

Cray continued to have the best of the opening exchanges and in the 17th minute they took a deserved lead with a very special goal from Leigh Bremner. A good cross pitch ball found Bremner out on the wing. He turned across the edge of the box, passing two K's defenders before belting the ball into the top left corner with a strike that would have beaten a few premiership goalkeepers.

Loyal fans will remember a time not long ago when an early goal would have put Kingstonian to bed, but true to recent form, their heads did not drop. Just two minutes later K's were awarded a free kick on the right wing. Mazin Ahmad looped the ball into the box where an unmarked Rose opted for a diving header, but the ball was too low and the shot glanced wide.

Chances came at both ends through the remainder of the first half. Bremner almost mimicked his goal but this time the ball flew over the bar. Ahmad had an effort from a free kick which just drifted wide. The closest chance for another goal came at the Athletics End. A well-delivered corner from Ross Lover was headed toward goal by veteran Gary Abbott. A second for Cray seemed inevitable until Julian Sills got a last touch to clear off the line (below). Abbott thought Sills' intervention too late to stop the goal, and got himself booked for dissent.

Sills clears off the line
Photo: Tom Dulat

In the last two matches of the series, K's were 1-0 down at half time, and 3-1 at full time. K's fans were hoping this could be achieved again but despite a promising start it was not to be. Within two minutes of the kick off, a short corner from Lee was picked up by Ahmad, who dribbled across the edge of the goal before driving the ball into the bottom left corner.

But the relief was short lived as within minutes Hughes had conceded a penalty and picked up a yellow. Despite diving the right way, Hughes was beaten and Cray were ahead again.

K's produced a brief spell of pressure but it was broken nastily when Lee was shown a straight red. It was a clumsy challenge and there was little malice in it, but Lee raised an arm and there was little option for the ref. Buoyed from the extra man, Cray sought to put the match to bed, but there best chance was scuppered when Abbott struck wide of an open goal.

The game was level again half way through the second half when Ojukwa was fouled in the box. Ahmad stepped up and delivered a clean penalty past spot kick specialist Steve Northwood.

Good thing they practised penalties midweek

Most teams playing with ten men would be happy with the equaliser and sit back on that, but not this Kingstonian side, who went for the win they wanted so badly. Ahmad continued to provide problems for the Cray defence with his mazy runs. He won several free kicks which produced efforts from Rose and Sills but Northwood covered them well.

A slightly surreal chance came from an indirect free kick. Northwood went to throw the ball after collecting a cross, but it slipped out of his hands and flew a few yards through the air before he caught it again. The ref ruled backpass but the resultant kick was knocked to Ahmad who blasted at the wall.

K's luck wasn't quite enough on the day, and a final minute effort from Bahiru Alimi across goal not only bounced out off the inside of the post, but fell awkwardly for James Rose who was running in. One last chance was created from a one-two between Ahmad and Paul Wetherall to play a ball to Alimi in the box. Again the bounce was unlucky and the ball was cleared.

On the face of it, 2-1 down with 10 men should have meant the point was a welcome relief for fans and players alike, but after a blistering last 20 minutes, many felt that justice would have involved K's taking all three. K's were unlucky in the last stretch of the match, but once again at home, the team produced a first half below what they know they can. If they could only play like they can in the second half for 90 minutes, then the playoffs would be almost guaranteed. As it is, Kingstonian are in a tight battle, but the 6th place spot is by no means unattainable.

Sat 25th Feb 2006
Kingsmeadow Stadium
Isthmian League Division One
Ahmad (2, 1 pen)
Cray Wanderers2
1Alan HughesCautioned
2Steve Potterill12
3Paul Wetherall
4Tommy Moorhouse14
5Julian SillsCautioned
6Richard Taylor
7Mazin Ahmad
8Bashiru Alimi
9James Rose
10Kenny OjukwaCautioned16
11Martyn LeeSent Off
12Jon Coke2
14Scott Corbett4
15Tony Reid
16Charles Side10
17Paul Brady
Match Report By
Kevin O'Connor