1. It really is a long way to Leiston, especially midweek, but this was a big game: a K’s win, and the playoffs would have been ours to throw away. Sadly, it wasn’t to be against a spirited, determined and altogether decent Leiston side who thoroughly merited their point. K’s started the game well, passing the ball fluently through midfield (well, as fluently as possible on the bobbly pitch) and creating several decent shooting opportunities – the only problem being that either the players in good positions didn’t shoot, or when they did, they failed to shoot on target. But as the half wore on, Leiston started to look more and more dangerous by hitting long passes into the channels and getting behind K’s makeshift back 3. In truth, K’s were lucky not to concede: two were cleared off the line, Rob Tolfrey made a good save, and the Leiston centre forward missed when it looked easier to score. This is how K’s lined up for the first 50 minutes, a sensible solution to Matt Drage being injured, but one which left Pappoe and Hogg exposed:
2. Half-time discussion centred largely on where to stand for the second half. There were three options, none of them good: the open wilderness behind the goal (the traditional option); right on the touchline along the side (where at least we could see something); or along the touchline at the back, under cover (noise potential, but a dreadful view). As the argument was raging on, and the seven intrepid behind-the-goal lunatics were arranged in an unusual 3-3-1 formation in the three different areas, Andre McCollin was put clean through on goal – and then taken out. With the linesman right in front of us, vocal pressure was applied, but this linesman wasn’t for turning – he was adamant (correctly) that the tackle had taken place just outside of the box. The next fear, after the Maidstone game, was that the referee would bottle the clear sending off, but much to our relief he reached into his top pocket for the red card, and Leiston were deservedly down to ten. The fact it was a blatant sending off didn’t stop the locals from unfairly barracking the referee for the rest of the game. On the whole, they were quite an unpleasant bunch, actually, a number of them stopping to tell loyal fans who’d made a six-hour return journey that they were “shit” because they “couldn’t even beat ten men”. Thanks fellas! But I’d probably be angry too if I lived next to a nuclear power plant in a bleak village in the middle of nowhere, so perhaps it’s understandable.
3. Anyway, this was our big chance: 40 minutes to play against 10 men. Dowse was decisive and immediately switched to 4-4-2 to prevent our spare man being a centre-half:
But there were two big problems with this on the night:
a) The wide men in that formation aren’t the most creative, and certainly aren’t natural wingers. As a result, they consistently drifted inside, leaving the middle of the pitch far too congested. Dowse brought Dee Okojie on to try to counter this, but he also played far too narrow. It seemed like a night for Charlie Knight to unpick their resolute back four.
b) Our much-lauded centre forwards had poor games, as individuals and as a partnership. Andre McCollin had one of those night where he just didn’t *seem* interested, even though he obviously cares a great deal, and Ryan Moss had probably his worst game of the season, including responding to the manager’s shouts from the touchline by telling him to “f**k off”. We’ll need the pair of the back at their best on Saturday.
4. Having picked on some negatives, it’s only fair to look at the positives as well. The most obvious plus point was the performance of Steve Laidler, who is now beginning to look like the player we thought we’d signed. He patrolled in front of the back four, breaking up play and then passing it calmly to a teammate, either wide, or forwards. He isn’t one of these holding midfielders who only passes sideways rot backwards, yet on top form (like last night) he doesn’t lose the ball either. If Laidler can perform like this during the final four games of the regular season, we’ll have a good shout. The other reason to be optimistic is another clean sheet, the fourth in five games. Without Matt Drage, it was all the more impressive, as Dan Pappoe doesn’t really convince as a natural centre half, but it shows the resolve of the lads not to concede. Rob Tolfrey, once again, was immense.
5. So where does this result leave us? At the very least, the travelling fans though, leaving the ground, we’ll have gained a point on Lowestoft, who’ve surely been beaten by Wealdstone. The news of that 0-0 made an frustrating night downright annoying. It changed nothing. We need a win on Saturday. So tell your friends, tell anyone who’s ever taken any interest in K’s, and drag people down to Kingsmeadow if necessary. A massive game, only a fiver in. Let’s raise the roof and get those three points. COYK.