Merstham match report
match report by James Maw, photos by Simon Roe
Kingstonian finally ground out their first win of the season, as Hayden Bird's side secured a well-deserved three points against his previous club Merstham.
The K's starting XI contained no fewer than seven players who had previously turned out for the Moatsiders last term, and the familiar surrounding perhaps contributed to a confident performance from the visitors.
Yet, the game had started slowly, with both teams struggling to find their rhythm. The closest K's came to an early goal was two long range efforts from Louie Theophanous and Fabio Saraiva, both of which sailed over.
As the first half wore on, the visitors started to take a stranglehold on the match, and began playing some impressive football.
Good work from the ever-improving Gus Sow saw Ks find possession in a dangerous area, but Tommy Kavanagh's powerful effort was comfortably saved by Moatsiders keeper Matt Pierson.
Dan Thompson headed just wide from a superb Sean Clohessy cross from deep, before minutes later Theophanous saw a shot is palmed away. Reece Hall then stung the palms of the keeper with a powerful shot from the resulting corner, before Simon Cooper’s header was saved. By now K's were the dominant force in the match, but the score sheet remained unblemished as the first half drew to a close.
But if Kingstonian's players and fans were concerned it was going to be another one of those days, there was soon cause to be far more positive.
Early in the second half, a powerful run into the box by Theophanous saw the ball break for Tommy Kavanagh in the D. The former Moatsiders skipper drilled a low shot through a packed penalty area and into the bottom corner.
The celebrations among the ex-Merstham contingent on the pitch may have been muted, but for the traveling K's faithful it was the moment they'd been waiting for.
To a soundtrack of superb support from the fans, Kingstonian continued to assert pressure on their hosts. A lung-busting pitch-long run from Gus Sow presented Theophanous with a chance to make it 2-0, but the forward's shot was saved. Our No.9 went close again when darting to the near post to head a corner just wide.
It wasn't just K's that fielded players against their old club. Second half substitute Delano Sam-Yorke joined Chase Jacquart and James Richmond to complete a trio of former K's in the Merstham side.
It was Sam-Yorke who had the hosts best chance of the afternoon - curling into the side netting from the edge of the box.
By the time Dan Bennett replaced Dan Thompson on 78 minutes, our tally of ex-Merstham players on the field rose to eight.
Bennett created K's best chance of making it 2-0, bamboozling the Merstham defence and keeper with a couple of stepovers, before firing straight at Pierson when squaring to Sow would have presented our No.7 with a tap in.
Thankfully, this didn't prove costly, and Bird recording his first win as Kingstonian boss against his previous employers.
"It was the first time I'd played a 4-4-2 since 2009," the gaffer said after the full time whistle. "I thought their confidence had been knocked so we decided to just simplify things for them.
"Louie and Dan Thompson were exceptional. The way they occupied the centre halves and allowed our midfielders to play [the ball] forward were the cornerstones of our performance and gave us control of the game."
Next up for K's is an FA Cup First Qualifying Round tie with Walton Casuals on Sunday.
Merstham: Matte Pierson, Liam Smith, EJ Mensah, Eddie Dines, Sinn'Kaye Christie, James Richmond, Ellis Brown, Bradley Wilson, Omar Folkes, Chace Jacquart, Peter Wedgeworth.
Subs: Neset Bellikli (for EJ Mensah, 64m), Delano Sam-Yorke (for Bradley Wilson, 57m), Christian Madu, Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis (for Eddie Dines, HT), Antonio Simeone.
Subs: Dan Bennett (for Dan Thompson, 78m), Calum Davies, Ben Harrison, Jerry Puemo, Youssef Bamba.
Goal scorer: Tom Kavanagh (48m, 0-1)