K’s Score! K’s Score Again! K’s Win!
When a team is coming off consecutive 5-0 and 4-0 defeats then they will take a win - or perhaps even a draw - however ugly it comes. And it doesn't really get any uglier than winning by bundling two goals in four minutes from launching long throws into the box; yet that was exactly how Ks overcame Merstham to get back on track.
Manolis Gogonas was rightly praised for an energetic midfield performance against an opponent who, after making two substitutions, fielded no fewer than six former Ks players. But, despite conceding the first half penalty from which Merstham opened the scoring, it was his throw-ins that were the real difference maker, causing the chaos in the home side's box that led to Ks first equalising and then taking the lead themselves. Not since the days of Wayne Finnie and Richard Taylor has the long throw been a serious threat in the Ks arsenal.
The first half was far from an encouraging one for Ks. A mere 12 minutes in they picked up a pair of injuries, Craig Edwards forced to replace Aaron Goode and Ricky Sappleton with Alec Fiddes and Tom Derry. Goode's injury, a groin strain, appears to be the more serious of the two and is expected to keep him out for a few weeks.
And then, despite having marginally the better of a quiet half, the work was undone by another defensive error. Ex-K Dan Bennett worked his way into the box where Gogonas lunged and brought him down; Ryan Hall converted the penalty.
Given that Ks were now without a goal, or indeed a great many shots on target, in five and a half hours of football the fans were hardly optimistic about the second half. The side produced a much-improved performance though and on 52 minutes Chris Haigh had to make an impressive double save to deny Ben Ward-Cochrane after he cut in from the left.
The equaliser arrived on 62 minutes in remarkably simple fashion: Gagonis hurled it into the box, Sam Page flicked on and Derry reacted fastest to bundle past Haigh. After a prolific pre-season he'll have been glad to open his competitive account.
And then just four minutes later Ks were ahead. Again Gagonis' throw-in caused trouble for Merstham and after they were unable to clear their lines substitute Sinn'Kaye Christie handled in the box. Lewis Taylor stepped up to send Haigh the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Merstham certainly had the better of the remaining 24 minutes but Rob Tolfrey and his defence held firm, including imposing new centre-half Claudiu Vilcu. Merstham had their chances - Alex Addai fired over after a typically dangerous run and Tolfrey did well to keep out a powerful Nathan Gordon 20-yarder and a Jake Hutchings header.
Mostly though, a succession of corners and free kicks for the home side were repelled by a Ks side showing far more ability to defend set pieces than they had in their two previous games. On a baking hot August bank holiday, Ks' conditioning through their second game in three days might also have been helped by the pre-season trip to Gibraltar. They might remain far from convincing, particularly in attack, but for now an impressively ugly win has hopefully restored some confidence ahead of FA Cup week.
Match report by Simon Grier.