Grier's Guide to the 2005-06 Season
Originally written for the programme in 2015 to mark ten years since the end of the Khosla era at Ks, Simon Grier took a trip down memory lane to review the seasons from 2005-06 to 2014-15. With no football to watch for the foreseeable future, we’ll repost these over the coming weeks.
Ks fans looked forward to the 2005/06 season with mixed emotions. Following relegation the previous year the team lined up in Division One of the Ryman League, which after non-league restructuring was (and still is) the lowest level of the pyramid the club have ever played at. But at least it heralded the start of a new, post-Khosla era where fans could get back to enjoying the football away from its politics.
Some of the few bright sparks from the miserable relegation of 2004/05 remained, including skipper Bashiru Alimi, creative midfielder Martyn Lee, striker Kenny Ojukwa and the ever-dangerous Mazin Ahmad. They were joined by new signings including returnees Julian Sills and Scott Corbett, attacking full-backs Scott Bennetts and Brahim Eloumani, strikers Tony Reid and Damian Panter, and goalkeeper Chuck Martini.
Ryman One was a tougher affair than its current regional equivalents though, with strong clubs like Dover, Tonbridge, Tooting and Horsham vying for promotion alongside the well-funded Croydon Athletic, eventual champions Ramsgate, and Met Police. Bouncing straight back was never going to be easy.
The start to the season was inauspicious, a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Leatherhead followed up with a poor 1-0 home defeat to Newport Isle of Wight and an extremely fortunate 2-1 win over Sussex League Ringmer in the FA Cup, thanks to a late Sills winner.
Things improved somewhat with wins over Whyteleafe and Molesey but after a 4-1 thumping at Cray in the FA Cup, featuring three red cards apiece, it was clear something wasn’t right. After further defeats to Ashford Town and Horsham manager Ian McDonald took action, releasing Bennetts, Eloumani and Panter as he looked to tweak his squad.
Form remained patchy until November when combative striker James Rose returned to the club, notching a brace in a dramatic 3-3 draw at high-flying Ramsgate. The other was a fourth in five games for his striker partner Tony Reid, hitting form after a slow start to his Ks career.
An excellent winter
It was the start of a long unbeaten run for Ks in the league and meanwhile they were putting together a nice FA Trophy run as well. An Ojukwa wonderstrike saw Aveley off in a replay after a 2-2 draw at Kingsmeadow, Ahmad grabbing the equaliser direct from a corner. Fleet Town and Cray Wanderers were also overcome before Ks eventually went down in the first round proper 4-1 to Conference side Canvey Island, a game most remembered for midfielder Tommy Moorhouse using the referee’s pencil to stop opponent Lee Boylan from swallowing his tongue after a nasty collision.
The unbeaten league run lasted 13 games, taking Ks from lower-midtable to playoff hopefuls. Ahmad sunk Walton Casuals with a fine strike on Boxing Day and Sills trigged a classic KRE bundle by saving a point with a dramatic late header at home to Tooting. The defence remained leaky, despite brilliant goalkeeper Richard Martin arriving on loan from Brighton, but the side’s newfound attacking verve swept aside teams including Cray, Newport and Whyteleafe.
Ks were good, with Reid, Ojukwa and Rose all contributing goals, Ahmad in top form on the wing, Lee pulling strings, new singing Steve Symes getting forward from left-back and Martin bailing the defence out with some outrageous saves.
The run also featured an incredibly fractious 3-2 win at Molesey, where tempers flared throughout and the hosts were denied a late winner by a confused referee.
The team as it was may have been good enough to go up but it was not to last, perhaps due to the loss of three crucial players. Martin’s loan spell expired leaving a succession of ‘keepers to struggle to plug the gap; Ahmad joined Conference side Aldershot (though not before scoring a second corner of the season at Banstead and a panenka in a Surrey Cup penalty shootout); and Moorhouse joined Leatherhead.
Falling just short
It all led to Ks’ previously excellent form starting to stutter. The unbeaten run came to an end with a 4-2 home loss to struggling Ashford and further defeats followed to Fleet, Bashley and Tonbridge.
That wasn’t to say it was all gloom though; in consecutive weeks Ks grabbed 1-0 wins in South London, James Rose securing a win at Tooting and a late thunderbolt from Lee seeing off Dulwich, despite him suffering with illness. Club legend Geoff Pitcher made a brief return but his legs weren’t there anymore and consistency remained a struggle for Ks.
It left Ks needing, realistically, to win their last three games to make the playoffs. Walton Casuals (with a hat-trick from recent signing Charley Side) and Lymington & New Milton were swept aside 4-0 and 5-0 respectively at Kingsmeadow, but it all went wrong on the last day of the season at mid-table Hastings United. Despite taking an early 1-0 lead through Corbett, Ks eventually fell behind and were lucky in the end to scramble a 3-3 draw through a twice-retaken Rose penalty. Meanwhile Tooting got the result they needed to poach the last playoff spot – a cruel end to the league campaign, although seventh was a respectable finish in a season where Ks had dipped as low as 19th.
There was, however, still the small matter of a Surrey Senior Cup final against AFC Wimbledon to be played. Ks had progressed through the competition by thrashing Chessington and Hook United 4-0, scraping past Westfield and Leatherhead on penalties, and beating Conference South Carshalton 2-0 at home in the semi-finals.
There was controversy over when and where the game would be played. At first it was to be at undersized Imber Court during the promotion playoffs, rendering the game a likely farce as Ks and the Dons were both in playoff contention and would have had to have played their reserves. But an online petition saw it switched to Woking’s Kingfield at the end of the season, creating the big set-piece final the fans craved; 4,000 packed the ground, mainly in the Wombles’ yellow and blue.
Wimbledon, a Ryman Premier team at this point in their rise through the pyramid and very much taking the game seriously, had the better of the match but Ks won it 1-0. Lee (pictured) struck the only goal with a free kick just before half-time, enraging the Dons fans with an air-punching celebration in front of them, and youngster Alan Hughes held firm in goal to protect the lead to the end. It was a fine end to an entertaining season, with stand-in skipper Mick Brady, a veteran defender who was backup to Sills and Richard Taylor for most of the season, collecting the cup.