We’re Not Dancing Any More – Brentwood (H)

1. This was a proper cup tie: goals, a passionate crowd, late drama, all caused by a lower division team raising their game in the time-honoured tradition. Brentwood were excellent: not only were they dogged, well-organised and committed, but their manager had really done his homework, and they came to win rather than put ten men behind the ball. And not only that, but their first goal was one of the best goals seen at Kingsmeadow for many a year; even if it can be argued that Rob Tolfrey was out of position, the level of technique and presence of mind required to put the ball in the net made the lobbed finish astonishing. If Kingstonian do get through, we’ll be hoping for a similarly tenacious and accomplished performance against Dartford.

2. As good as Brentwood were, they were helped by a strange team selection from Alan Dowson. Now, this is a man who is right nine times out of ten, a Geordie tactical genius – as the enormous success of his equally unpredictable half-time substitution on Saturday proved – but it was very hard to understand the thinking behind the line-up and formation chosen. Having selected the fairly slow, right-sided Somner at left back (not a complaint in and of itself, as yours truly is not a Byron Napper fan after what he did at Bury), K’s lined up with the incredibly right-footed Goma Lambu on the left. This meant that the side had absolutely no width down the left at all. Not a problem in and of itself, but there wasn’t a huge amount of width down the right hand side either, with Pattison tending to cut inside and operate centrally. All of this meant that Small and McCollin spent the majority of the first half spinning out wide, leaving nothing through the middle, and very little goal threat as a result. I’m sure Dowse had his reasons, but it’s fair to say the half-time whistle came as somewhat of a relief.

3. The second half was a completely different affair. Credit must largely go to two men for that: Alan Dowson and Craig Mullen. Instead of doing the obvious – bringing on Lodge and/or Clayton and playing wider to stretch Brentwood – Dowse instead brought on the human battering ram that is Mullen for Small and simply overloaded the Essex side through the centre of the pitch. If worked magnificently; K’s were rampant for most of the second half, succumbing only to a quality goal on the counter attack and a scrambled late goal from a set piece. Having made the perfect half-time change, Dowse deserved better luck. Of course, a brilliant substitution in theory was only made brilliant in practice by the performance of Craig Mullen, who tore into Brentwood from kick off in the manner of a man possessed. This was Mullen at his absolute best: a feisty, hugely determined bully of a centre-forward, carrying a goal threat through sheer force of personality. We need to see more of Craig The Beast, and less of the Craig The Nice Young Man of recent weeks.

4. There has to be a word about the Brentwood substitutes’ celebrations – well, the behaviour of at least two or three of them – after their first equaliser. Gesticulating in front of the home support instead of actually celebrating the goal doesn’t just reveal a rather pathetic small-mindedness, it also tends to rile the opposition. So thankyou, Brentwood Number 16 in particular, for providing all of us with one of the best after goal celebrations of the last few seasons when Tom Hutchinson headed in three minutes after you made a fool of yourself. Sadly, K’s couldn’t hold on, unable to get the killer third goal as the Essex side pressed forward late on.

5. So, we go to Brentwood for the replay. I happen to be in total agreement with Dowse when it comes to cup ties, even against opposition perceived to be inferior – “nobody says you have to win the first game”. Brentwood raised their game spectacularly on Saturday, and benefitted from a rare poor outing by the otherwise magnificent Rob Tolfrey; even then, they were fairly lucky to snatch a draw. If the Essex boys manage to perform at that high a level again in the replay, then K’s will have to be at their best to get through. But Brentwood’s confidence ahead of the game could potentially work in Kingstonian’s favour by making the home team attempt to play on the front foot. If they do that, with our immense pace and quality on the break, they’re surely doomed to defeat by counter-attack.

Man of the Match: Tom Hutchinson. Given the chance to replace Kieran Murphy at centre half, Hutch was an immense presence at the back all afternoon. I’ve been quick to criticise the Kingstonian back four this season, and yet again, as a unit they looked less than secure if the ball was played over the top. But as far as individual centre half performances go, they don’t get a lot better than this: three last-ditch tackles to stop counter-attacks, countless interceptions followed up by runs into midfield to get attacks going, and even a goal to cap things off.

Key Moment: A rare Rob Tolfrey error of judgement, which led to the late equaliser for Brentwood. Despite having an off-day on Saturday, there is still nobody at this level that I’d rather have between the sticks.

Away Fans: 2/10. A few old geezers in the main stand. None of the younger geezers with a penchant for fighting who went to the earlier rounds, which was a relief. As an aside on the crowd, our gate of 291 was actually higher than Sutton’s for a very similar home Trophy fixture, against Ramsgate. I’ve long maintained that with no recent spell in the doldrums, that lot up the road have never found out what their hardcore support really is. Turns out it’s no bigger than ours.

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