Ajakaiye Treble Sparks K's to Fine Win at Bishop's Stortford
Match report by Rupert Cane
For someone who hadn’t seen a Kingstonian game in over nine months, our 5-2 win at Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday was reassuringly familiar, the most welcoming of returns to the non-league bosom.
There was a thrilling hat-trick from a K’s centre-forward, just as there had been in what proved our final game of 2020/21, when Corie Andrews inspired us to victory over Haringey Borough on a crisp autumn night last November.
There were a couple of comical miskicks in quick succession from the opponent’s goalkeeper and centre-half, earning K’s a cheap corner. There was a busy and vocal away support. There was Rob Tolfrey.
There was a worldie out of nothing. There were some robust challenges in the middle of the park, and there was Kenny Beaney taking corners with both feet.
But despite these soothing norms, much was new: the awesome foursome in attack, Declan Skura at the back and, hang on, what’s this: has Hayden Bird got the sack?
No, he’s just serving the second of his four-match stadium ban left over from the not-yet-expunged 2020/21 campaign. So it is Jamie Howell who is overseeing this new-look K’s side in our first Isthmian Premier Division away fixture since we were beaten 3-2 at Cheshunt in October, incidentally the game that so incited Bird.
The game is open from the off, bouncing from end to end like a basketball match. K’s lack control but my, how they thrill going forward. The opening goal, with 16 minutes played, is a case in point.
In this new K’s quartet it’s Jason Banton who plays the strings. He drops his shoulders and shifts his balance in a way that brings to mind Eden Hazard, or Jack Grealish. One such halfway-line dance opens the pitch up.
He fizzes a pass wide right to Nyren Clunis, who stomps up and down the right wing all day, providing the drumbeat to Banton’s deft violin. Clunis crosses hard, and low, and there is Daniel Ajakaiye, K’s new frontman, to emphatically volley past the helpless Jack Giddens.
Banton twice has efforts blocked as we seek a second, but it’s Bishop’s Stortford who score next. Having already missed two good chances, it is not undeserved, the ginormous Mark Haines glancing in a header from a corner.
K’s start the second half meaning business, and in the blink of an eye, Howell’s happy Hoops are 3-1 up. Ajakaiye calmly lofts the ball over Giddens having raced on to a long kick from Tolfrey, the keeper’s first assist since Macclesfield, and then, with his tail up, Ajakaiye brilliantly finds the bottom left-hand corner from a tight angle. It completes a magnificent hat-trick, and sparks the first proper bundle of the season.
Stortford are stung, but on the hour they score from nothing, Jonathan Giles swirling a 30-yard shot beyond Tolfrey’s reach.
For a while the game becomes a little too frantic for K’s liking again, but the chances don’t dry up. Rhys Murrell-Williamson is the fourth member of our new quartet (although like Ajakaiye once of this parish), and even if his presence is not as keenly felt on this occasion, he remains a slaloming, enigmatic present on the left flank, a bass player who can spark magic or inject energy.
Murrell-Williamson drives into the box, shifts onto his left and thwacks the crossbar from a narrow angle. The loose ball reaches Clunis, who sets up Banton to shoot a fraction wide.
The introduction of Fabio Saraiva in midfield immediately calms proceedings, and then K’s kill the contest off once and for all. Ajakaiye runs the channels, as he has all afternoon, and lays the ball back for Gus Sow, who watches with glee as his strike takes a hefty deflection and skips into the roof of the net.
There is still time for a crescendo. It is supplied by an attacking old-timer, Elliott Buchanan, who beats Bishop’s offside trap and clinically picks out the bottom corner, asking the question of Howell, and the absent Bird, if the new K’s band has enough space for five.
Bishop's Stortford: Jack Giddens, Archie Edwards, Anthony Church, Sam Robbins, Ryan Henshaw, Jonathan Giles, Jake Cass, Frankie Merrifield, Jack Thomas, Mark Haines, Joe Gardner.
Subs: Yassir Nazor, Robert Unwin (for Joe Gardner, 56m), Patrick Sankey, James Baker.