Frantic Finish Ensures Replay
Kingstonian came from behind twice to earn a replay against perennial Cupsetters Heybridge Swifts. The Bostik North side had already beaten a number of Step 2 and Step 3 outfits this season, and for a while looked like they might run away with this one at Fetcham Grove.
As K’s struggled to get to grips with their new 3-5-2 formation early on, Juan Luque was denied by Rob Tolfrey low to his left, and from the rebound former K’s cult hero Ricky Sappleton watched on as Claudiu Vilcu dramatically appeared from nowhere to clear his goalbound shot off the line.
Heybridge sensed blood - and space down the flanks - and it was from a right-wing cross that the unmarked Luque carefully guided his header back across goal, over Tolfrey and into the net.
K’s simply had to improve and after a scrappy 20 minutes or so, managed to gain a foothold in the tie as half-time approached. The irrepressible Vilcu stormed down the left, cut inside and forced a diving save from visiting keeper Danny Sambridge. Reece Grant flashed the rebound agonisingly along the goal-line.
Earlier in the contest, Alec Fiddes had narrowly missed out with a deft shot-cross that floated wide, and it was he who almost created the equaliser on the stroke of half-time, but Grant couldn’t quite bundle it in from close range.
K’s passing improved when play restarted as Heybridge, surely exhausted by their fixture schedule which has already included a run to the FA Cup First Round, sat deeper and invited pressure. A ball over the top set Grant away and he calmly lobbed Sambridge to level proceedings with the side he regularly notched for last season.
The Swifts were not done, though, and retook the lead with eight minutes to go when Joe Gardner stabbed home after a corner caused chaos in the K’s box.
It looked like Leigh Dynan’s side would be the latest higher-ranked club to suffer at the hands of Swifts, but a moment of brilliance from Taylor Miles forced a replay. The midfielder fed Grant on the edge of the box, who laid it square back into Miles’s path. He showed some real National League quality, bending a powerful first-time shot into the top corner that left Sambridge flapping at thin air.
Another evenly-matched game can be expected when the teams go again on Wednesday night in Essex, with a visit to Hampton and Richmond awaiting the winners.
Match report by Rupert Cane.