Inns at the Double to Rescue Point
Mathematically, Kingstonian's promotion hopes remain alive, just, but realistically they were finally extinguished by a disappointing draw with East Thurrock. It represented yet another frustrating failure at Kingsmeadow for a team which has taken seven fewer points at home than it has on the road.
In truth, Ks might count themselves fortunate to have got even one point. Twice they fell behind in the game only for Alan Inns to draw them back level, but the visitors had more of the chances as Ks desperately lacked a cutting edge up front.
A glance at the matchday programme showed that of the four shirt numbers usually given to midfielders this term - 4, 7, 8 and 11 - just nine goals have come all season. Far from enough, given that when Ks won promotion from this league each of Dean Lodge, Simon Huckle and Tommy Williams managed at least that many on their own. Meanwhile the goals of Andre McCollin and Ryan Moss have not been replaced up front either, leaving Ks struggling to find the net consistently enough.
East Thurrock's Sam Higgins, on the other hand, has had no trouble with his shooting boots - his brace in this game took him to 30 league goals for the season, the best tally in the division. He also gave Ks an early scare when he rattled the crossbar with a vicious fifth minute shot.
Tolfrey made another great save in the ninth minute - the East Thurrock player whose effort was repelled can blame his side's kit designer for him remaining anonymous, the yellow numbers on a white shirt proving particularly difficult to read in the low sun of the early spring.
Goalkeeper David Hughes stretched well to keep out a curling Pico Gomez longshot but on 29 minutes Ks fell behind. Higgins was played in on goal and despite a tricky angle he made the finish look easy.
Gomez was working hard to fashion something and some great skill allowed him to square for Charlie Penny but Hughes was equal to his flick. Ks looked lost though until, almost on the stroke of half time, they found an unexpected equaliser. Hughes failed to catch a Gomez corner and Inns was on hand to bundle the gift in at the far post.
An East Thurrock player volleyed over just after half time before Hughes saved from Sam Page. The goalkeeper was also in the wars when a clattering from Sweeney left him with a nosebleed, but the Rocks weathered the storm and restored their lead on the hour mark. Mitchell Gilbey was pulled back as he broke into the box, and Higgins blasted the penalty low and hard past Tolfrey. Two minutes later he lobbed onto the bar, agonisingly denying him a hat-trick.
Gomez fired narrowly over and Ks threw more men forward as they searched desperately for an equaliser. The chaos theory worked with eight minutes remaining when after scuffing a good chance, the ball came back into the box for Inns and he turned to beat Hughes and grab an unlikely brace.
With Page and Inns up front Ks took a kamikaze approach to seeking the win, while the Rocks remained disciplined and sought to hit on the counter. Both sides had their chances but both blew them when Sweeney pulled wide after great work by Mark Bitmead, and a ponderous end to an East Thurrock breakaway saw Tolfrey tackle Ellis Brown to avoid leaving him with a tap-in. A Sweeney long shot hammered the post but Ks couldn't fashion a clear chance in the six minutes' injury time and now need to rely on other teams to do them favours, even if they can break out of this mini-slump to win their last two games.
Match report by Simon Grier.