Ugly scenes as Ks draw Ryman Premier League opener
There was a moment of real brilliance on Saturday, then a moment of ugly gamesmanship and finally a moment of refereeing madness that sent the travelling fans into righteous rage.
The 1-1 scoreline cannot begin to tell the story of a furious match of three red cards, four disallowed goals and a whistle greeted by protest and confrontation.
If you prefer the more wholesome spirit of Olympic sport, please look away now.
First, the moment of brilliance, from Kingstonian’s Dean Lodge. ‘It’s good to be home,’ the winger said afterwards, obviously delighted to be back in red and white.
He was away a year at cash-rich, discontented Carshalton, the Manchester City of the Ryman League. Here’s what Ks fans had been missing: tricks and pace and full-backs retreating in fear.
In the 35th minute, he dummied in midfield to allow the ball through to Sam Clayton, whose instant touch set Lodge free.
Bursting into the box, he cut back inside the full-back and curled a fierce shot into the top corner that hit both bar and post before crossing the line and bouncing out. After a moment's hesitation, the goal was given.
It should have been more than 1-0 by half-time, striker Andre McCollin missing two one-on-ones in quick succession, both times failing to place the ball decisively.
Then, three minutes into the second half, his headed goal was disallowed by a referee fast losing control of events.
McCollin’s afternoon was only going to get worse. So was the referee’s.
East Thurrock grew into the game and after they too had a goal mysteriously disallowed just before the break, the home side finally drew level on the hour, Kyle Ruel bundling home after poor defending.
Now for the ugly gamesmanship. Thurrock centre-back Steve Sheehan, a 6ft 4in destroyer seemingly intent on fouling Lodge out of the match, and who had blown bitter kisses to the Ks fans at half-time, continued in the same vein as the game wore on.
Then, with 10 minutes remaining, he suddenly fell to the turf clutching his face. The referee issued a red card to a bemused McCollin – a headbutt, said the referee, though no one else saw it - before handing a second yellow to Sheehan who, miraculously recovered from his injury, trotted from the field with a series of choice words.
Time for the moment of madness from the referee. Wade Small had come on upfront to good effect and, having been put clean through, managed to touch the ball past the on-rushing Thurrock keeper who promptly clattered into the Ks striker on the edge of the box.
As the players celebrated the ball sailing into the net for a late winner, the referee had another idea. He whistled for a free-kick outside the box and sent off the goalkeeper, even though playing just one second of advantage would have meant a Kingstonian goal.
Ks manager Alan Dowson called it the single worst refereeing decision he’d ever seen.
"You can’t go clean through, chip the keeper who takes you out and then not let play go on. It’s a goal,” said Dowson.
“And I think the referee knows [he’s made a mistake]. But we’ve just got to get on with it. There were a few off performances from us today to tell you the truth. That’s an awful decision at the end, but we’ve got to be better.”
Incredibly there was even time for Small to put the ball into the net again before the end, but the linesman flagged for a bizarre offside, not the first of the afternoon.
Kingstonian play Harrow Borough tonight (Monday) at Kingsmeadow before hosting Margate next Saturday. It looks set to be a lively season.