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Merstham 3
Saraiva (21'), Henriqees (89'), Penny (90')
1 Kingstonian
Nicbols (90')

That End of Season Feeling

Bright sunshine, a sparse crowd and little interest in the result. If it wasn’t so cold then it would have felt every inch like a pre-season friendly, as a Kingstonian side with nothing to play for closed their season off with another tame defeat, a fourth on the bounce.

Ks fans seemed to be paying as much attention to score updates on their phones as the action on the pitch. But tense battles for the league title and playoff berths at Hampton, Bognor and Needham Market seemed a world away from this low-key, laboured performance.

As it happened, Dulwich lost at Needham Market and just 82 points would have been enough to secure a playoff place. But Ks had long since fallen out of contention to capitalise.

Ks had a good chance in the very first minute when Andre McCollin slotted past the Merstham goalkeeper, only for a defender to rush back and clear off the line. But Ks created little more and then fell behind on 21 minutes, Fabio Saraiva capitalising when Rob Tolfrey was unable to claim a cross.

Merstham nearly doubled their advantage when Tommy Kavanagh, one of a number of ex-Ks in the home lineup, chipped Tolfrey from distance only to hit the post. Another ex-K, Arron Hopkinson, headed a McCollin effort off the line.

The half-time withdrawal of McCollin did little to inspire hope that Ks would make a comeback, although they had slightly the better of a generally lacklustre second half until a late flurry of action at the end. The goalkeeper did well to keep out a deflected Joe Turner shot and Dan Bennett headed home a Mitch Pinnock free kick but from an offside position.

Merstham got a penalty three minutes from time; we couldn’t really see why, and neither their goalkeeper who shrugged bemusedly when asked what it was given for. Charlie Penny stepped up, Tolfrey saved, but two minutes later it was 2-0 anyway when Tutu Henriques had a ridiculously free header from a corner.

Ks pulled one back somewhat shambolically when Turner broke free in the box, was dispossessed but it ran free and was then poked home with the goalkeeper stranded. Reece Beckles was contesting it but it actually looked like the last touch came from a defender.

At almost the precise moment that Twitter confirmed Alan Dowson’s Hampton had won the league, Ks conceded a third to Penny. It made little difference to Ks, although the win did secure Merstham a top half finish in the league. Ks are good at securing top half finishes, we’ve managed it seven times out of seven since promotion back to the Ryman Premier. But the magic formula to reach Conference South still seems no closer.

Match report by Simon Grier.

Published Wednesday 12th September 2018