Grier's Guide to the 2009-10 Season
Simon Grier continues his reviews of seasons past by looking at the 2009-10 season, Ks' first back in the Ryman Premier.
Escape from Ryman One South had been hard-fought for Ks, and most fans would have been satisfied with a boring but solid season to consolidate their new-found status. They got anything but.
Alan Dowson largely kept faith with the side that won promotion the previous term. Nick Rundell had left for America so Ryan Lake came in at left-back, while Steve Tyson and Lewis Cook added depth to the midfield. By and large though, no-one thought that the squad which came up from the division below could not be more than competitive in the Premier.
A 3-1 defeat at Ashford Town (Middlesex) on the opening day was disappointing, but Ks played reasonably well and it didn't hint at the trauma to come. The following Monday though Harrow Borough recorded an extraordinary 5-3 win at Kingsmeadow, against a Ks side featuring ten survivors from the previous season. Ks had been 3-2 down in just the fourteenth minute.
Dowson changed his defence around but it performed even more chaotically the next week, Ks suffering a barely believable 6-1 home defeat to Aveley, also newly-promoted. It was followed by a 5-0 defeat at Dartford where if anything the scoreline flattered Ks, and Tommy Williams was sent off for dissent towards the linesman. Dartford were an excellent side playing in a plush new stadium and would go on to win the league by 18 points; but nonetheless Ks' dismal performance demanded a serious response.
And a serious response it got. Friday 28 August 2009 will forever go down in Ks folklore as Dowson Day, with the manager announcing no fewer than seven new signings, most notably midfielders Matt Gray and Mo Harkin and utility player Lee Hall. Four were shipped out including Jamie Beer, NJ Lampton, Jon Coke and backup 'keeper Josh Willis. Meanwhile Williams and Liam Collins went on a succession of loan spells and barely featured again.
It was a drastic measure but it brought an immediate dividend. Five of the seven newcomers went straight into the team away to Hendon and Ks recorded a remarkable 3-0 win with a sixth debutant, Karl Beckford, coming off the bench to grab one of the goals.
Bobby Traynor also found his shooting boots, netting twice in a win at Carshalton and then seeing off Bognor in the FA Cup with a hat-trick in a 4-1 win. Victories followed against Canvey Island and Horsham and although a late penalty saw a disappointing 2-1 cup exit at Hendon, Ks' form was about to get even better in the league. A Dean Lodge hat-trick inspired them to blow Cray away 4-1 and three days later they ran out 5-1 winners at Billericay.
Despite setbacks against Hastings and Tonbridge Ks remained on form, with the talented but raw winger Christian Jolley, plucked from Sunday football but eventually sold for a tidy sum to AFC Wimbledon, netting four in three games.
By mid-November Ks had climbed to third in the league when a controversial penalty saw them win 1-0 at Boreham Wood - a league position that seemed scarcely believable after the horrific first four games.
The FA Trophy saw two good wins over Met Police and Hendon before a disappointing exit, 2-0 at home to Southern League Chippenham. That would be Luke Garrard's last game for the club with Dowson replacing him in goal with Rob Tolfrey, signed from an irate Horsham. Tolfrey has been at Ks ever since and is now closing in on becoming the club’s all-time leading appearance maker.
The game everyone was waiting for was the chance to renew hostilities with Sutton United, the rivals having been kept apart for five years by their disparity in league status. Played in front of a partisan crowd with a proper derby atmosphere it was the kind of game Ks fans had craved during their years in the Ryman One South wilderness. And they were in ecstasy when Simon Huckle beat Kevin Scriven from 35 yards to give Ks the lead although a late equaliser meant the points were eventually shared.
Traynor was ever-reliable and Ks were solid through the winter, finding themselves second in the league as spring approached. Lodge inspired a dramatic late turnaround to win 4-3 at Aveley from 3-1 down, a flick of his heel directing a Traynor strike home in the last minute (Aveley's first goal that day was scored by future Ks player Steve Butterworth).
The following week a late goal made Ks fans even happier, as it came in the return fixture against Sutton. 946 fans came to Kingsmeadow with both sides chasing promotion and Us captain Jason Goodliffe gave Ks the lead by chesting home an unfortunate own goal. Sutton equalised but Traynor broke through in injury time to slot the ball through Scriven’s legs in front of the KRE and send Kingsmeadow delirious.
Ks were second in the league and heading for home advantage in the playoffs but unfortunately took their foot off the gas in the last five games, none of which yielded wins. Ks slipped to fifth, and only avoided missing out altogether because Wealdstone suffered a 4-1 mauling at Carshalton when a win would seen them advance in Ks' place. Amongst that run a 6-2 home defeat to Dartford, which saw the visitors secure the league title, did little for the confidence.
A night of glory
Finishing fifth rather than second meant that to win promotion Ks would face two away playoffs rather than two at Kingsmeadow. The semi-final paired them again with Sutton and it was a night that no Ks fan in attendance will ever forget. Jolley gave Ks a scrappy early lead but the Us got themselves 2-1 up by the interval in front of a raucous crowd of 1,401.
What followed was surely the best 45 minutes of the post-Conference era at Ks. Adam Thompson slammed home an equaliser from the edge of the box and then Traynor scored a wondrous acrobatic volley from just inside, incredible at any time let alone given the importance of the circumstances. Scriven had no chance and when Lodge added another to make it 4-2, the celebrations were sure to go long into the night.
And a day of despair
It was only half a job done though and despite now brimming with confidence again Ks would still have to win away to a tough Boreham Wood side. When Ks visited in the league a desolate crowd of just 165 was in attendance but a visit to Boreham Wood in a big game can be a different encounter entirely. And duly a crowd of 1,102 showed up, with Ks facing an intimidating atmosphere.
Little happened in the first half but shortly after the break a goalmouth scramble led to a Boreham Wood fan leaping the barrier and punching Ks captain Francis Duku in the face. Ks were unsettled and a few minutes later the home side took the lead, adding a late second on the counter-attack to ensure promotion at Ks' expense.
It was a heartbreaking end to a turbulent season. Ks appealed but the FA simply gave Boreham Wood some 'operational advice', which Dowson branded, “A shambles and just pathetic”. It was a cruel dagger to the heart after the emotional turmoil of the season, although Dowson and Ks could justifiably be proud of their achievements, especially given the dismal start. But ten years on Ks remain in the Isthmian League, looking up at Conference South but not quite being able to touch.