Grier's Guide to the 2007-08 season
Originally printed in the programme five years ago, Simon Grier looks back to the 2007-08 season – when Ks were much improved but still fell just short of promotion from Ryman One South.
Taking over in January 2007, Alan Dowson had successfully stabilised what seemed to be a sinking ship. His challenge this season though was to push on; a third term in Ryman One South was beginning to make Ks fans antsy and with the troubles of the Khosla era feeling more distant, promotion was very much on the agenda.
It was never likely to be easy though as there were still some strong teams in the division. Local rivals such as Tooting and Dulwich, the well-funded Cray and Met Police, and particularly the sleeping giant Dover Athletic all stood in Ks' way.
Dowson had rebuilt well the previous season and added to his squad over the summer. James Rose returned for a third spell at the club, vying with Saheed Sankoh to play alongside the prolific Bobby Traynor; and Gavin Cartwright arrived to bolster what had at times been an alarmingly leaky defence.
Challenging at the top
On a bright summer's day at Ashford Town, the season started well - 'old school songs' day behind the goal, and Traynor and Sankoh both capitalising on defensive errors to give Ks a 2-0 win. Ks won their next two games as well, first beating Corinthian-Casuals and then Horsham YMCA, the latter game featuring an incredible solo goal when NJ Lampton dribbled from the half-way line through a shocked visiting side.
Tougher opposition was to come though and Ks went down to Tooting before crashing out of the FA Cup in a poor defeat at Eastbourne Town. Nonetheless Ks won their next four league games to go second behind Tooting, the highlight being four goals for Traynor in a 5-1 demolition of Sittingbourne.
Ks' form didn't remain so good though. The budget wasn't helped by an FA Trophy defeat at Chatham - meaning Ks failed to win a single tie in either FA competition - while the same opponent then beat them in the league, as did Whyteleafe.
After good starts to the season Sankoh and Traynor both hit dry spells in front of goal, but Dean Lodge chipped in and Ks were solid at the back, which kept them well in the promotion hunt as Christmas approached. Highlights included a fine free kick from Nick Rundell in a 3-2 win at Whitstable, and youngster Danny Summers scoring the only goal of the game in a deluge at home to Met Police.
In what would become something of a recurring theme under Dowson though, Ks slumped over Christmas. A home defeat to Ashford was the first of five without a win, a run which saw Ks fall out of the playoff spots for the first time all year. The nadir was an emphatic 3-0 loss at home to Tooting, including the embarrassment of visiting goalkeeper Dave King scoring from his own half. There was quite a gap between Ks and the best teams in the league.
Ks broke the run by brushing Chipstead aside 4-0 but any optimism was quickly snuffed out the following week at Dover's Crabble Athletic Ground, where Ks were badly outplayed and were flattered by losing a mere three goals to nil.
Even bottom club Molesey held Ks to a 2-2 draw and although the attack began firing again, partly inspired by the signing of future manager Tommy Williams to add creativity to a workmanlike midfield, the defence was now letting Ks down. They drew 2-2 at Chipstead and 3-3 at Walton and Hersham before going down 3-2 at home to Burgess Hill Town.
Falling frustratingly short
Just as all was looking lost though, Ks responded with four wins in a row to get back in the playoff hunt. The most important came at home to Worthing, who were occupying the final playoff spot. Ks ran out 3-2 winners with Williams scoring a free kick and then setting Simon Huckle up to head home the winner. Horsham YMCA were beaten by the same scoreline thanks to two Traynor penalties, ending a run of eight away games without a win.
Optimism abounded again but the season ultimately ended in disappointment. Lodge equalised to earn a creditable draw away to promotion rivals Cray, but a week later a miserable 3-1 defeat at Chatham - the third of the season against an enigmatic opponent who finished a lowly 18th but clearly had Ks' number - effectively ended any playoff hopes. Dowson was furious at his players' lack of commitment. Meanwhile Ks were denied a Surrey Cup final appearance after fielding an ineligible player in a 4-0 semi-final win at Tooting.
1-0 wins over Croydon Athletic and Whyteleafe kept a mathematical hope of promotion alive, but only a 13-0 success on the last day of the season would have delivered Ks the playoff place they craved. As it was they lost 2-1, to the same Eastbourne side who dashed their FA Cup hopes back in August. They rued the missed opportunities that allowed champions Dover (finally getting it right with 98 points) and play-off winners Tooting to escape the mire of Ryman One South, while they would face it for a fourth consecutive season.