Grier's Guide to the 2010-11 Season
Simon Grier continues his review of past seasons with a look at the 2010-11 season - the second in a row with a heartbreaking end.
After the playoff injustice at Boreham Wood, Ks were determined to bounce back and push for promotion again in 2010/11. Alan Dowson knew he needed to shore up the defence and started the season with a whole new back four - Dean Hamlin and Tom Bird at full-back, with Tobi Jinadu and Gary MacDonald in the middle.
And on a sunny opening day of the season at Bury Town, he set up unusually cautiously. An unfit Bobby Traynor was left on the bench while the three-man midfield of Jean-Sylvain Dossou, Max Hustwick and Adam Thompson offered far more solidity than creativity. Despite the best endeavours of Matt Gray and Dean Lodge, Carl Wilson-Denis was lonely up front and a goalless draw was the unsurprising result.
A promising start
Ks soon hit form though and won their next four games to once again show they would be challenging at the right end of the table. Traynor blasted a hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Billericay and Ks ground out a tight 2-1 win over Hornchurch through Lodge and Wilson-Denis strikes, though a dislocated shoulder for Simon Huckle marred the win.
Ks began riding their luck though, needing a last minute MacDonald header to win 3-2 at Horsham thanks to an error from Hornets goalkeeper Mark Zawadski, and then having Rob Tolfrey save their bacon multiple times in a 1-0 win at home to Margate.
Meanwhile progress in the FA Cup came in bizarre circumstances - Ks had been drawn to play Croydon Athletic but received a bye when that club collapsed in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal surrounding the England-Pakistan test cricket series.
Ks' unbeaten run had to come to an end soon - they simply weren't playing well enough for it to continue - and it duly did with a poor defeat at Folkestone Invicta followed by another at home to Maidstone, both by a single goal to nil. Ks did however record a 3-2 win at Hendon though thanks to a late Lodge winner and scraped past Margate on penalties in the FA Cup thanks to three Tolfrey saves in the shootout.
At the start of October Sutton United visited. The Us were top of the league and showed why, as they came to Kingsmeadow and dominated the game. What they didn't do though, was score, and just like the previous season Ks mugged them with a late goal. This time the scorer was Bashiru Alimi, breaking behind a hesitant defence to beat goalkeeper Kevin Scriven in front of the old KRE.
A tough winter
The next weekend Ks visited Conference South St Albans in the Cup and secured an impressive goalless draw, mainly having the better of their higher-ranked opponents. When the draw was made the following Monday the winners were set for the tantalising prospect of a visit to Luton Town but Ks came up short in the replay, losing 2-1 at home with both St Albans goals scored by future Ks player Pelayo Pico Gomez, then a teenager on loan to The Saints from Brentford.
With exits soon following in the Trophy (5-3 at home to Wealdstone having first despatched Faversham Town) and the midweek cups, by mid-December Ks were left to concentrate on their promotion campaign. Their form stuttered though, with Sutton eventually making their quality tell with a 2-0 win at Gander Green Lane and Ks suffering poor home defeats to Harrow Borough and Horsham.
Lodge departed again, as did Wilson-Denis, and a Ks side looking short of creativity had another poor winter. Antonio Gonnella showed flashes of class but Dowson rarely started him, Joe Dolan wasn't able to plug a leaky defence and a debut goal for Allan Tait at Billericay would prove to be his only one of the season.
The nadir of the run was a dismal 3-0 home defeat to Concord Rangers but eventually Dowson brought back some attacking potency with the signing of combative striker Paul Vines, shortly followed by the return of Lodge for his fifth spell at the club.
New blood and a late charge
A continually leaky defence meant that despite Vines scoring in five consecutive games, only two of those resulted in wins. Eventually five wins in six games propelled Ks back into playoff contention though. The run started with a 2-0 win over Lowestoft before a late Traynor penalty secured a crucial 2-1 win away to Hastings.
A blip followed in a 1-0 loss at Harrow but wins came over Carshalton, Cray and Folkestone followed by a hard-fought draw at Hornchurch. With a fine performance from Lodge and a Vines brace, Ks won an incredibly open game at home to Tooting 4-2 and they seemed to be purring again going into the last day of the season.
The maths was quite simple. Ks sat just outside the playoffs in sixth and needed to win at midtable Margate, while hoping that just one of the four sides above them - Tonbridge, Bury, Lowestoft or Harrow - would slip up. Sutton by this point were well clear at the top as champions elect.
And when Ks raced into a 3-0 lead at Hartsdown Park thanks to a Traynor brace and one from Vines, the fans' attention quickly turned to their phones to check how the four playoff rivals were getting on. But almost unbelievably, Ks threw the three goal lead away.
They conceded a goal before half-time and came out after the break a nervous shadow of their former selves, inviting pressure and defending calamitously. Margate came back to draw 3-3 and in truth should have won. For a while it looked academic as the four teams above Ks all led but a late equaliser for Cray at Harrow eventually made the capitulation all the more galling; a Ks win would have seen them into the playoffs. Dowson was fuming and heavily criticised his players' desire; the fans were just speechless.