Sleepwalking Into The Abyss
Plenty for Rupert Cane to lament at the Kingsmeadow.
The end is nigh.
’10 places you must visit before you die! 100 films you must watch before you’re old and senile! 20 things you must do at Kingsmeadow before we’re booted out!’
Taking my place in the Main Stand for what, I had decided, would be the last time, hungover and sad and conflicted and tired after what, I had decided, would be my final bike ride to KT1, a sense of foreboding permeated the ground.
A planned protest at the decision to groundshare with Leatherhead next season took its form in the placing of two indecipherable banner-bedsheets in the far corner of the blue-seated Kingston Road End. Positioned next to it was a proud 'Jack Army' flag that has been to Cheltenham and Doncaster and Wembley and Southend and Wembley again, and now frowns down on a team sleepwalking into the abyss.
In the Main Stand, talk of the 465 bus and the exact length of the M25 prompted more reaction than Ryan Moss's two early goals, both unflashily placed into the bottom left corner of the goal. A group of student journalists in the press box tapped away frantically; nobody else seemed that bothered about events unfolding before them. It's going to be alright. Right?
Slumped in the back row of the Main Stand, wondering why the singers weren't singing or barracking the lino or anything, a non-league thought learned over 16 years of spectating resprung to mind. Football at this level is best observed from behind the goal, ideally a few rows back for some perspective but, crucially, not too much.
This way, you get the gist of the defensive horrors unfolding down the other end without having to live them out in gory HD. The Main Stand offers no such reprieve.
When K's quite spectacularly failed to clear a Harrow corner sent over in time added on at the end of the half, a slapstick series of slips and miskicks ensued. Alan Inns fell somewhere near the ball and then handled it.
The penalty was converted by Kurtis Cumberbatch, in truth the least the visitors deserved for plenty of enterprise and creating some decent chances. K's had offered almost nothing from the 15th minute onwards.
Returning to the comforts of the Athletics End (would the potential new Athletics Stadium many fans are calling to be investigated have a ‘Football Ground End’, I wondered), it was soon apparent whatever Tommy Williams said at half-time made no difference. The tide was set, and it was coming in fast towards Rob Tolfrey. Sahr Kabba blew a couple of sitters before Francis Babalola eventually fired past our unprotected keeper on the hour.
At this point Williams shuffled his pack and one substitute, debutant Keir Dickson, drew a fine stop from the Harrow keeper with our only proper effort on goal in the second half. The visitors swarmed forwards once more, hit a post, forced the overworked Tolfs into a couple of cracking saves, and then headed a back-post winner with three minutes remaining, Lewis Driver the man twisting the knife deeper into sinking red-and-white hearts.
My first game at this wonderful old new ground was in late 2001. Since then, K’s have never been involved in a relegation fight – the writing was on 2004/05’s wall from extremely early on – but here, somewhat suddenly, a realisation dawned among those behind the goal. It’s on. We’re six points off the bottom four, winless in six, formless more or less all season, shapeless, hopeless.
Even on death row, it seems Kingsmeadow might have one last trick up its sleeve.
Kingstonian: Rob Tolfrey, Aaron Goode, George Wells, Lee O'Leary, Sam Page, Alan Inns, Youssef Bamba, Shaun McAuley, Ryan Moss, Pelayo Pico Gomez, Joe Turner.
Subs: Keir Dickson (for Youssef Bamba, 68m), Tom Derry (for Pelayo Pico Gomez, 72m), Peter Dean, Jake Kempton, Nash Doukoure.
Harrow Borough: Luke Williams, Josh Webb, Andrew Lomas, Shaun Preddie, Michael Peacock, George Nicholas, Kurtis Cumberbatch, Francis Babalola, Lewis Driver, Sahr Kabba, Harry Newman.
Subs: Joshua Webb (for George Nicholas, 72m), Michael Bryan (for Harry Newman, 68m), Lewis Ochoa, Marc Charles-Smith (for Sahr Kabba, 72m).
Goalscorers: Ryan Moss (10m, 1-0), Ryan Moss (13m, 2-0), Kurtis Cumberbatch (45+1m pen, 2-1), Francis Babalola (62m, 2-2), Lewis Driver (87m, 2-3).