1. The first word has to go to Rob Tolfrey. If I was suddenly in a situation where my name was all over the national – and even international – media for the best part of a week, I’d be a mental wreck. But Tolfs fronted up to the unwanted attention, started in goal, and put in arguably his best performance in a Kingstonian jersey – and given the number of times he’s won the club points on his own, that really is saying something. One save, when he dived full stretch to his left, then mid-way through the dive somehow found time to slightly change the angle of his arm to counter the effect of a small deflection, was genuinely breathtaking. Regular readers will know I’m prone to hyperbole, but honestly: there will have been no better save made in England at the weekend. A world-class stop in a Ryman League game is not something you see every day. I don’t think it would be possible to praise the bloke enough for his reaction to the events after the Bognor game. (As for what happened that night – I wasn’t there and I’m certainly not going to add to the debate.)
2. What a game this was. When it was eleven vs eleven, Kingstonian were undoubtedly the better side in open play. Charlie Penny hit Nikki Bull (and wow! he’s aged, by the way) in the Margate goal from four yards out even before Sam Page put K’s ahead, and the game was nearly all played in Margate’s half. Alex Addai looked dangerous, and was delivering end product, and Dan Sweeney continued his imperious form in central midfield. At the other end, Page and Inns dealt well with the big-money strikeforce of ex-K Moss and ex-Womble Moore, limiting ‘Gate to half-chances and long-range Lewis Taylor (another overpaid ex-K) strikes, and set-pieces. The problem was that K’s managed to let Margate score from two of their set pieces, something that really shouldn’t have happened given the average size of the K’s side: Inns, Page, Doyle, Sweeney – and even lads such as Gomez and Goode – shouldn’t be allowing free headers from eight yards out twice in one half.
3. The other much bigger problem was the referee, who was, to put it bluntly, completely incompetent. Before I go any further, just to avoid any doubt about my motives for calling him incompetent: he was equally useless to both sides. Let’s go through just the major decisions he got totally wrong first. He:
– sent off Steve Laidler for two soft fouls, the second just a shoulder-to-shoulder, when Ladler had only committed two fouls in the game;
– awarded K’s a penalty when he was the only one in the ground who saw an offence;
– not only refused to give Margate a penalty mid-way through the second half, but actually booked the Margate player who was obviously hacked down for diving;
– also didn’t award ‘Gate another clear penalty late on.
But, as I’ve argued on this blog before, I can forgive a referee individual mistakes – even if they are colossal mistakes that make you wonder whether the ref forgot to put his contact lenses in, or has temporarily lost his mind. Referees at this level make mistakes all the time, and you have to accept that, because the players make mistakes all the time too. But what is unforgivable is a referee who turns up and makes a fair, hard game (i.e. not a dirty, cynical game) all about him. A referee who wants to blow his whistle as much as possible so everyone’s looking at him. A referee who is thinking about his assessment mark, who deliberately evens things up when he realises he’s made a mistake. A referee who won’t talk to players politely asking the reason for a decision, because there was no reason for the decision, who then books anyone who speaks to him (however politely) for dissent. The ref on Saturday was all of those things. He’s a disgrace and I really hope he doesn’t referee again.
4. And so a great, open game became a footballing version of the Alamo. Margate threw everything but the bank safe at K’s in the second half, and only managed one goal for their efforts. I’m sure ‘Gate finished the game frustrated they didn’t win it – but actually, a draw was very much a fair result. K’s fought like lions, throwing bodies at the ball and heading and kicking away anything that came near them. But not just that: with the score still 3-2, K’s hit the woodwork twice, once via a flicked header from a set piece, and then via a fierce Josh Casey shot which looked in all the way. If either of those had gone in, K’s may even have held on for all three points, let alone one.
5. Finally, I have to say: I hope Margate get promoted this season if we don’t. The money they’ve thrown at the league this season is nothing short of ludicrous, and I really wouldn’t fancy having to compete against it again next year. If Maidstone were to join them, next year’s Ryman could be the first played out on a level financial playing field since I can remember. That is, of course, if we don’t continue our good form and spoil the party…
Player Ratings: Tolfrey 10; Goode 7, Inns 9, Page 8, Doyle 7; Addai 8, Sweeney 8, Laidler n/a, Casey 9; Gomez 9 Penny 8