K’s Denied by Late, Late Winner
On a day where a number of FA Cup clichés came into play, cruelty was the one that won out in the end. Thanks to a last minute goal, Ks once again fell in the third qualifying round, a stage they have not surpassed since the heroics that took them within seconds of the last 16 in the glory days of Geoff Chapple.
They gave Conference South Eastbourne Borough a tremendous scare, wiping out a 2-0 deficit and threatening to eliminate their higher-ranked opponents. Once again though, their weakness on the counter-attack was to prove costly, being responsible for both Eastbourne's first goal and then, more crucially, their last.
Ks didn't settle particularly quickly but Rob Tolfrey, thankfully recovered from the frightening head injury sustained in the previous round, held firm early on. Within the first 13 minutes he saved headers from Dean Sinclair and Richard Pacquette, was relieved to see Gavin McCallum miss with a header of his own, and did well to hold a fizzing longshot. Ks' only threat in the period came from an Alex Addai effort, which may or may not have been intended as a cross, but Lewis Carey was able to tip over the bar.
Ks settled though, with Steve Laidler exemplary in protecting his back four and providing the defence with a passing option. Although Tolfrey had to save an angled Pacquette effort, Ks had a burst of momentum as the half neared its end. Alan Inns headed over, Carey kept out an Andre McCollin chip and then Ks came close to taking a 43rd minute lead.
It came after excellent work from the lively Addai, who beat Sam Beale and teed McCollin up with a low cross from the byline. His close-range shot was blocked though and when Elvis Hammond failed to connect with the rebound Borough punished Ks' profligacy ruthlessly. A swift break found Simon Johnson in plenty of space and although Tolfrey kept his first effort out he was powerless to stop the visiting striker tapping home his own rebound.
Tommy Williams would have wanted a quick reaction after the break but he got anything but. His side were let off when Tolfrey almost immediately saved from Johnson but the lead was doubled on 49 minutes when substitute Lloyd Foot capitalised on a Sam Page foul to curl a free kick past Tolfrey.
Going two down to a side a division above them was no cause to make Ks give up though. The introduction of Nathaniel Pinney and Daniel Sweeney seemed to turn the game in their favour and drew a quick dividend just after the hour mark. An impressive break of their own culminated in Pinney unselfishly teeing up Hammond to beat Carey from close range and give Ks hope.
They pressured hard for an equaliser, although they initially met frustration. Pinney again teed up Hammond but this time the outrushing Carey was equal to his effort. Next Pinney volleyed wide and then Carey tipped a Matt Drage free kick over before Inns headed wide from the resultant corner.
Tolfrey had to keep Elliott Charles out from close range but Ks' pressure eventually told when Hammond wrongfooted Carey, powerfully heading a Tyrone Berry cross into the top corner to level the scores.
Ks had the momentum and chances came to win the game outright. Pinney came closest with a brutal 20-yarder, an effort for which the referee awarded a corner on the assumption that Carey had saved it; it was in fact the outside of the post that it brushed with the goalkeeper beaten.
In injury time Inns headed a free kick across the visitors' box but Page was unable to keep his balance and failed to make a decent contact with the ball. When Pinney tried to pick up the pieces he did so from an offside position.
Ks had seen a win there for the taking but in going for it they overexposed themselves. Substitute Darren Lok was the man who benefited from the space left down Ks' left flank and deep into stoppage time he beat Tolfrey with a fine low finish into the bottom corner. Ks had no time left for a riposte and will now look to resurrect their stuttering league form to get a promising, yet thus far frustrating, season back on track.
Match report by Simon Grier.