The FA Cup is a figment of Kingstonian’s imagination
When things aren't going your way, this is probably the kind of afternoon you expect. Despite looking a class above their opponents for much of the encounter and creating plentiful chances, Kingstonian crashed out of the FA Cup to Bostik League South East Division side Hastings United at Pilot Field.
Injury and suspension left Ks boss Leigh Dynan with just 12 senior players at his disposal for the Second Qualifying Round clash, with rookie keeper Josh Kyte drafted in to form a two-man bench alongside Shaun Lucien.
Despite missing the likes of Louie Theophanous and Shaun McAuley, our line-up was still strong, with Crystal Palace loanee James Daly joining Muhammadu Faal and Elliott Buchanan in a dynamic front three.
It was Daly who looked the most dangerous in the early stages, his trickery on the right giving Hastings cause for panic on a couple of occasions. Frustratingly, former-K Daniel Ajakaiye soon fired the Arrows ahead, nimbly turning Francis and slotting the ball past Rob Tolfrey for his tenth goal of the season. Suddenly Kingstonian had a battle on their hands.
The visitors didn't have to wait long for an equaliser, however. Barely three minutes after his side had fallen behind, Mano Gogonas surged forward to blast home his first competitive goal for the club from the edge of the box after Greg Cundle's shot was blocked.
It felt for all the world like this was to be one of those bafflingly open FA Cup ties (akin to that bonkers 5-3 win over Romford in 2014), and that Ks' superior fire-power would eventually tell, but as the game wore on it became clear that optimism was misplaced.
More defensive confusion - this time the failure to adequately clear a Hastings corner - allowed Sinn'kaye Christie to put the hosts back in front, and for all Ks' huffing and puffing, a second equaliser proved elusive.
In a frantic second half, with Dynan roaring encouragement from the technical area, Kingstonian created the better openings, but were only able to find the net (twice) after the linesman had raised his flag for offside.
Faal was denied by on-rushing Hastings keeper Charlie Horlock when through one-on-one, while Buchanan bent a low shot wide minutes later.
Cundle could only strain to head straight at Horlock from six yards, before Aaron Lamont - playing in a deeper role than the one he usually occupied during his first spell with Ks - saw a lofted effort sail agonising wide of the far post, with the hosts' keeper in no man's land. It just wasn't to be.
A metaphorical arrow in the eye for Ks', who now face just one match in the next 20 days - a perfect chance to knuckle down and prepare for a push up the league table, we hope.
Match report by James Maw.