K’s Heat Up Promotion Race
On the weekend when world leaders sought to reach an historic agreement on averting environmental catastrophe, it's worth reminding ourselves that squads, budget-planning and tactics at Step Three of the non-league pyramid are all predicated on “getting through the winter”. Teams seeking to “pass the ball” race to to the top of the league during the late summer and early Autumn. Then the weather “turns”, pitches deteriorate and brutish mid-table cloggers from Essex begin their awful ascent.
Every year, as the K's away support bellow out our familiar renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “12 Days of Butterworth”, so our promotion chances plummet along with the temperatures. By the following Spring, nestled in mid-table after 12 weeks of frustrating defeats, every daisy and crocus flower emerging tentatively from the cracked earth is a symbol of our ever-renewable failure.
But on an unseasonably warm December afternoon in Staines, K's discovered that – notwithstanding the admitted negative externalities of rising sea levels [you know, like the disappearance of the Maldives and Leiston] – a warmer world may finally gift us the right playing conditions for a promotion season, a clement nine-month run to the Vanarama South now placed in jeopardy by the Paris commitments.
Just a fortnight ago, Tommy Williams was warning of the need to “get our heads down” and “grind out results”. Instead, this was the display of a team enjoying a balmy afternoon by the Thames, passing confidently on a pristine pitch and creating chances at will. Fans cast aside their jackets and Christmas jumpers to sunbathe beneath grey Surrey skies.
Other rules of the Ryman resist all change. Like aggregated meterological patterns, it was forecast by all K's fans behind the goal that a rampaging Ricky Sappleton would somehow create the opening goal. Following three decent openings, it was pressure on a lost ball which led pink-clad keeper Jack Turner to clear the ball against his own defender, leaving Sapps with a free run into the empty net.
The second period was a concatenation of missed chances, chaotic blocks, blatant handballs on the line and Staines fouling Dan Bennett, eventually leading to a red card for Jeremy Boakye with half-an-hour remaining – a deserved dismissal greeted by Turner with the words “f*****g idiot!”
The second finally came when Dan Bennett squared to substitute Malachi Hudson to stroke the ball high into the net. The teenage Staines Massive at the opposite end of the ground trooped disconsolately to the exit, destined for another Saturday night of suburban alienation.
Petrol-guzzling Top Gear aficionado Ali Kazemi, meanwhile, unwilling as ever to accept conventional wisdom on its own terms, put forward a second-half theory that Wheatsheaf Lane, encircled by mature willows, was in fact generating its own entirely localised “micro-climate”. Whatever the disputed science, with K's joint top of the league and new year approaching, this team is finally making the weather.
Match report by Taimour Lay.