Grier's Guide to the 2011-12 Season
Simon Grier continues his look at recent seasons with a frustrating 2011-12 campaign.
After heartbreak at Margate on the last day of the previous season Alan Dowson promised major changes to his squad over the summer. They mainly manifested themselves in midfield with new summer signings including Dwayne Clarke, Jerome Maledon, Michael Gordon and Ian Selley. Paul Olima promised to add a physical presence up front.
If Dowson hoped the revamp would revitalise Ks though, he would be quickly disappointed. The season opened with a 0-0 draw at Aveley, which given the driving rain and the early dismissal of Tom Bird at least showed grit, if not much in the way of quality.
Failing to click
Two days later though any hope of improvement was blown apart, Horsham emerging from Kingsmeadow as 4-3 winners after a chaotic game. It would prove to be one of just three wins all season for the visitors, eventually relegated with just 14 points. When Canvey Island also took all three points from Kingsmeadow the following weekend, it was clear Ks were in major trouble.
A glimmer of hope was offered when Ks battered Tooting 4-1, including a fantastic strike from Allan Tait. Tooting were almost as bad as Horsham that season though and the next four games gave Ks a stark reality check. It was men against boys stuff as eventual champions Billericay crushed them 6-0, Wealdstone won 3-0 at Kingsmeadow and such was the loss of confidence that an unlucky 1-0 defeat at Hastings felt like more of a relief than a disappointment – at least the performance was better.
The improvement at Hastings was quickly put into context though further along the south coast by Poole Town, who thoroughly outplayed Dowson's men in the FA Cup to win 3-0.
Out of the cup and mired in the relegation zone, Dowson needed a response and it came in the form of ripping up his faltering midfield. Romone McCrae, Mo Harkin and Ali Chaaban all made their full debuts in a 1-0 win at home to Hendon before Lewes were despatched by the same scoreline. Bobby Traynor scored both goals and a 4-2 win followed in a typically open game against Cray.
It hauled Ks out of the relegation zone but once again proved a false dawn, with Ks losing 3-0 at Hornchurch and then suffering a pitiful Trophy exit at home to Godalming Town. The next five league games saw Ks win just once and concede at least two each time.
Meanwhile the unfortunate Dowson was suffering from an illness and eventually took time out to recover. Mark Hams took over the temporary reins but Ks proved fitfully inconsistent - fine results such as a 1-0 win at East Thurrock secured by a Sam Clayton 20-yarder were too frequently followed by poor ones; in this case a 3-0 home reverse to Leatherhead.
A flicker of hope
Things did eventually improve though. A cautious setup with Traynor often the sole striker and a midfield anchored by the on-loan Ian Gayle made itself hard to beat, Ks enjoying an unusually good winter by losing just once in nine games. The arrivals of Aaron Goode, Matt Pattison and Ryan Woods all improved the team.
Goode scored a fine goal to help Ks to a 1-0 win at Carshalton, Louis-Rae Beadle rescued a point against Bury and a Traynor brace saw off Aveley. With a month of the season remaining a comfortable 2-0 win on Canvey Island even gave Ks fans brief hope that a playoff charge wasn't out of reach.
Hope was quickly extinguished though. After recovering from 2-0 down at Lowestoft to be level at 2-2, Ks failed to capitalise on the hosts going down to ten men and conceded a sucker-punch winner as what had been a fine passing display degenerated into hitting long balls at Tait. Defeats to Billericay and Wealdstone followed and that was that, the season petering out into mid-table obscurity.
There remained time for two pieces of excitement though. A home game against Met Police was to be the final swansong of the beloved Kingston Road End terrace and a late winner for Tait gave it the send-off it deserved, triggering one final bundle behind the goal in celebration.
Ks were also, despite everything, in a cup final. Victories over teams of varying strength from Welling, Dulwich and Cray (the latter by a bombastic 5-2 scoreline in the semis) had seen them to the final of the London Senior Cup.
Hendon were the opponents and, predictably, Met Police's Imber Court was the venue. Despite only a handful of league places separating the sides though there was a vast gulf in class on the day. The Dons passed Ks off the park, running out 2-0 winners and showing just how off the pace Ks remained.
The season fizzled out with a 5-2 home defeat to East Thurrock, a Traynor brace ultimately signing off his Ks career with an incredible 154 goals. Only 19 of them had come in this season though, well down on the previous seasons' counts. Meanwhile Dowson reflected on his most disappointing season as Ks manager and looked to rebuild again in the summer.