A late Elliott Buchanan header sealed a hard-earned and much-deserved win for Kingstonian against in-form Lewes to make it five straight league wins at King George’s Field.
Lewes started the game sat in third place, on a run of five straight wins in all competitions, and with five away league wins already under their belts, but even they were unable to halt our fantastic home form.
Despite the visitors’ understandable confidence, it was K’s who started much the stronger. First, David Fitzpatrick headed a James Daly cross over the bar, before Rooks keeper Lewis Carey denied the hosts with a couple of reaction saves in a textbook Isthmian goalmouth scramble.
Lewes couldn’t keep Leigh Dynan’s men at bay for much longer, and on 14 minutes, Daly reacted quickest to slot the ball home after Carey had parried Louis Theophanous’ low drive. It was his third goal for the club since arriving on loan from Crystal Palace in August, and his first in the league.
It could and perhaps should have been 2-0 when Fitzpatrick neatly pulled back a cross to Buchanan at the near post, but the striker saw his sweetly-struck effort rise just over the bar.
K’s were cruising, but as is often the case in life (and in poorly-written television dramas) - it’s when everything looks hunky-dory that life throws you a curveball. Two minutes after being booked for kicking the ball away, Tommy Brewer was shown a second yellow for a robust challenge. Many in the home crowd, not to mention the visiting goalkeeper, were of the impression this was a bit harsh on our versatile defender/midfielder, but regardless, we faced an uphill battle with our one-man disadvantage.
Dynan immediately threw Connor Dymond into the mix, and the former Palace man briefly deputised well at the back, before stepping up into midfield at the interval, with Sean Francis sent on to add a little more experience to the defensive ranks.
Francis barely had chance to roll up his socks before Lewes had drawn level. Rooks winger Ronnie Conlon beat Mano Gogonas, before crossing for Bermuda international Jonte Smith to fire past Rob Tolfey.
This was the moment when lesser teams would’ve crumbled.
The opposition’s man advantage, the shift in momentum, combined with the lingering angst at our own unfortunate FA Trophy exit days before, could have overwhelmed both the crowd and the players. But the team dug deep, and the fans responded.
To the soundtrack of raucous backing from three sides of the ground, K’s rolled up their collective sleeves and managed to reassert themselves on the game.
Kingstonian continued to plug away and create chances, with Theophanous denied by a dramatic defensive block, and Sean Francis dragging a shot just wide after an uncharacteristically mazy run. K’s tails were up.
When Lewes failed to fully clear their lines after a late K’s corner, second-half substitute Alfie Doughty pounced, darting across from the left flank to collect the ball in the centre of the pitch, then continuing his run out on the right wing. From there he swung in a dangerous cross towards Buchanan, who checked his run momentarily to ensure the perfect contact. As he powered his header home from close range, the ground erupted with the heady mix of overwhelming relief and baffled euphoria only a dramatic late winner against the odds (or the end of an hour’s vomiting) can elicit.
Without wanting to get ahead of ourselves, this felt like one of the moments you point to at the end of a successful season and say ‘this was where it really began’.
Next up for K’s at fortress KGF are league leaders Tonbridge Angels, before a trip to Burgess Hill on Saturday. Could this be the start of something special?
Kingstonian: Rob Tolfrey, Manolis Gogonas, Tyler Brown, Aaron Lamont, Tommy Brewer, Jay Gasson, David Fitzpatrick, Shaun McAuley, Elliott Buchanan, Louie Theophanous, James Daly.
Subs: Connor Dymond (for David Fitzpatrick, 38m), Alfie Doughty (for James Daly, 56m), Greg Cundle, Muhammadu Faal, Sean Francis (for Shaun McAuley, HT)
Lewes: Lewis Carey, Thomas Day, Henri Wilder, Michael Dome-Bemwin, Frankie Chappell, Stacey Freeman, Dan Darbyshire, Omarr Lawson, Jonte Smith, Ronnie Conlon, James Hammond.
Subs: Kieran Pamment (for Dan Darbyshire, 57m), Luke Blewden, Marcus Elliott (for Thomas Day, 85m), Declan Appau, Harry Reed.
Red card: Tommy Brewer (37m, second caution)
Goalscorers: James Daly (14m, 1-0), Jonte Smith (46m, 1-1), Elliott Buchanan (84m, 2-1)
Updated 21:41 - 5 Nov 2018 by Kingstonian FC