Grier's Guide to the 2014-15 Season
Simon Grier continues his look at recent seasons with 2014-15, as Ks looked to move into a new era after the departure of Alan Dowson.
Alan Dowson's resignation after the playoff agony at the end of the previous season was a shock to some but the board acted quickly to install former player Tommy Williams as manager. He kept most of the previous season's squad, although big-spending Margate poached Ryan Moss while Dee Okojie, Daniel Pappoe and Bruce Hogg also departed. The most significant signings were those of imposing centre-back Alan Inns and experienced striker Elvis Hammond.
The season started ominously when Ks went 1-0 down at Enfield and had Matt Drage sent off for a late tackle. It would prove to be a remarkable, and uplifting, day though when Ks recovered to win 5-2. Hammond scored twice, the ever-reliable Andre McCollin once, with Tyrone Berry and an own goal also registering for a Ks side who looked a constant menace going forward, even with ten men.
Tommy Kavanagh struck a late equaliser at home to Dulwich to briefly send Ks top and then bagged the only goal of the game for a small measure of revenge against Hornchurch, who had beaten Ks in the previous season’s playoffs. Nathaniel Pinney's late penalty saw off Leatherhead and Ks would ultimately go unbeaten in their first eight to mark themselves firmly out as promotion contenders.
Like the previous season though, the fine start came to an end on Maidstone's 3G pitch, Ks outclassed in a 4-1 defeat to the team who would eventually win the league. A 2-1 win at newly promoted Peacehaven and Telscombe kept the campaign on course though and progress also came in the FA Cup.
Magic of the Cup
Horsham, a club really struggling at the time, were brushed aside 4-0 thanks to two apiece from Hammond and McCollin but getting past Ryman One North Romford was altogether trickier. After the Essex side injured Rob Tolfrey and Aaron Goode in the opening minutes, Ks battled gamely for a 0-0 draw despite subsequent injuries to Steve Laidler and McCollin, the latter unable to be substituted. Tolfrey had been replaced by veteran goalkeeping coach Matt Lovett, who did well to keep a clean sheet having not played at this level for years.
For the replay at Kingsmeadow, Mark Anderson paid for student Ben Dudzinski to return from his freshers week in Durham to replace the injured Tolfrey. Ks fell behind three times but each time got back on level terms before eventually over-running their tired opponents to win 5-3 after extra time. The run eventually ended against Conference South Eastbourne Borough, who sunk Ks with a last-minute winner despite a Hammond brace wiping out a two goal lead in a great cup tie.
Sliding down the table
After a fine start though, Ks' league form was disappearing up in smoke, especially at home. In October and November Leiston, Enfield, Harrow and VCD Athletic all won 1-0 at Kinsgmeadow, the latter two despite being bottom of the league at the time of their respective games. Cynical play-acting to get Kavanagh sent off helped Billericay rescue a point from two down with defeats also coming away to Margate and, in a horrendous FA Trophy exit, lowly Ryman One North Barkingside. The only respite in the period were wins at Witham Town, where new signing Pico Gomez bagged a brace, and at home to Met Police.
Many fans were becoming increasingly exasperated with Ks' form and frustration grew when a decent performance in front of over 1,000 fans at Dulwich was all for nought when the hosts grabbed an 87th minute winner. A Surrey Cup exit to Combined Counties outfit Badshot Lea did little to lighten the mood as Williams began to find himself under pressure.
Much of the bad run of form was caused by the loss of McCollin to Conference National Aldershot and for the rest of the season Ks struggled to replace his goalscoring prowess. They did toughen up at the back though to start a run of just one defeat in 12 games.
Back into contention
They paired some impressive wins - such as at Wingate and Canvey, with Gomez getting five goals in the two games - with frustrating draws at home to Dowson's struggling Hampton and Richmond and at VCD, who benefited from a deflection on New Year's Day.
A brutal Hammond strike couldn't prevent a 3-1 defeat at Grays but fine away wins at Leiston and East Thurrock kept the season on track and an injury time winner for on-loan striker Charlie Penny secured a vital win over Wingate & Finchley.
Controversy struck at home to Bognor Regis Town, a post-game fracas between Tolfrey and a visiting fan eventually leading to a seven match ban for the goalkeeper (the last two games of this season and the first five of the next). A fine 3-3 draw with Margate was followed by a 1-0 loss at Lewes as Ks stumbled, but they got back into the playoff hunt with wins against Witham, Peacehaven and Billericay.
Season fizzling out
The latter was a particularly fine performance, and gave Ks hope that with a good run-in they could overhaul the gaggle of teams with whom they were competing for the last playoff spot. It was not to be though, as Canvey squirmed a free kick past Tolfrey from 30 yards to pinch a point at Kinsgmeadow, and Ks seemed to lose heart.
Even after an Easter Monday defeat to Hampton promotion wasn't out of the question but a poor draw at home to East Thurrock was followed by defeat to Harrow as Ks stumbled to an 11th place finish.