Grier's Guide to the 2018-19 Season
Simon Grier reaches 2018-19 in his look back at past seasons – and one where the club descended into a state of chaos that it thankfully came through the following year.
Towards the end of the previous season Leigh Dynan and the Ks board had begun to drop hints about ‘going for it’ in 2018-19. And by May it was clear what they meant; the month was filled with news of the signings of player after player with fine CVs at our level and above, accompanied by bullish quotes from Dynan and the board.
Never in recent times had Ks made such impressive signings so early into pre-season and despite the inevitable claims to the contrary, it was clear that the playing budget was healthy. Elliott Buchanan and Louie Theophanous made for a particularly exciting front line and along with a move back into the borough at Corinthian-Casuals, it meant expectations for the season were higher than they’d been for years.
A slow start
The bookies hadn’t cottoned on to Ks’ transfer activity though and on a baking hot day in July, issued their Isthmian Premier book with Ks at 33/1 for the league title. Fans couldn’t wait to get their money on Ks, who were swiftly backed in to 11/1, but even by that evening it seemed like it was the bookies who were right after Dynan’s side were humiliated 4-0 at Westfield, the nadir of an underwhelming pre-season.
The hope was that once the season proper started it would be alright on the night but those hopes too were quickly dashed. Ks lost a chaotic opener 3-2 at home to Brightlingsea and went down to nine men with both new defender Ugo Udoji and Buchanan sent off.
It was followed up with an abysmal 3-0 defeat to Potters Bar Town and already Dynan was looking to make changes to his squad; Udoji and Matt Saunders started the first game of the season but were now gone from the club. There was a small improvement in a draw at Carshalton but Ks then crashed out of the Velocity Trophy at Bracknell Town and lost at home to Dorking Wanderers. A start of five games without a win was not what fans had been expecting from this squad.
The run was broken with a late winner in a poor derby against Corinthian-Casuals, a late goalkeeping error presenting Buchanan with an open goal for a lucky 1-0 win, but defeats followed to Bognor and, in the FA Cup, to Hastings. Injuries meant that for the latter game Dynan only had one outfield substitute available, although he raised many eyebrows by declining to bolster his bench with youth team players.
Finally though, better performances were around the corner. The first half against Bishops Stortford was easily Ks’ best of the season and they led 2-0. Stortford pulled it back to 2-2 but a late winner for Tommy Brewer saved the three points.
Ks begin to click
Ks really hit form a few weeks later though with the arrival of Charlton loanee Alfie Doughty. With him on the left and David Fitzpatrick on the right Ks began to scare teams with high-quality wing play. Crystal Palace loanee James Daly was coming into his own as well, most often from an inside right position, and Ks were finally playing the sort of football the fans expected.
Harlow Town bore the brunt of it, losing 7-0 on Doughty’s debut as Ks secured their biggest win for over 20 years. Wins over Lewes, Burgess Hill, Margate and Wingate saw Ks move up the table, although a frustrating FA Trophy exit to Bedford meant they were now out of three cup competitions to teams from lower divisions.
A 1-0 win at Enfield thanks to a fine goal from Daly got Ks right into playoff contention. Ks were now playing great football and confidence was high again at the club. A 4-0 defeat to Haringey was an aberration that Ks quickly bounced back from, going unbeaten in their next five league games. The last of those was an excellent 3-0 win at Bishop's Stortford that saw Ks go second in the league.
The Stortford game was the high watermark of the season though. Daly had been injured in the previous game and after the next, a 3-2 defeat to Tonbridge, Doughty was recalled to Charlton.
Without those two players Ks simply weren’t the same side and lost their next four league games as well. Suddenly, Dynan went from enjoying a side second in the league and playing great football to being back under pressure; he switched to a wing-back formation for the trip to league leading Dorking but Ks lost 7-1, a result that dropped them to 12th. Shortly after the full-time whistle his time at the club came to an end.
A new era, and then another
Dean Brennan swiftly got the job of taking over the reigns but if Ks fans thought Dynan’s departure might lead to more stability in the playing staff, they were soon proven wrong. Brennan opened with a creditable 1-1 draw against Carshalton with the team he inherited from Dynan but the following Saturday he gave five players debuts for the trip to Brightlingsea.
It didn’t seem to help though. Theophanous missed a penalty and Brightlingsea won 2-0 before three more defeats followed on the bounce, all to teams from the lower end of the table. Brennan had called for a ‘younger, hungrier’ team in his programme notes but the new signings failed to make the impact he’d hoped. He left the club after just five games.
For the second time in two years Kim Harris took over as caretaker manager, this time until the end of the season. But by this point confidence was shot and the team was a sinking ship – Harris opened with a 3-0 defeat at Lewes and things didn’t really get much better from there.
Ks lost seven of their last eight league games – for an almost unbelievably bad record of four points from their last 19 under three managers – and went out of the Surrey Cup to boot, losing 5-3 at Met Police. Only a 2-1 win at home to Enfield gave some respite and just about made Ks safe from relegation; they eventually just finished four points above the drop, barely believable considering they had been second in January. Things really could only get better the following season under Hayden Bird; thankfully, they did.