Bennett’s Too Good For You – K’s v Canvey Island

1. After a disconcerting week where every thought and conversation I’d had about Kingstonian Football Club had nothing to do with football, this was an excellent reminder of how much fun coming down to Kingsmeadow and watching K’s can be. Sunday was pretty much the perfect home non-league game: the sun shone, the stewards were absent, funny songs were sung, the home team won (and played some really entertaining football in the process), and several of the away team’s players embarrassed themselves. I left the ground with a smile on my face and the satisfaction of several hours well-spent. It would be a terrible shame to lose afternoons like this.

2. The first mention has to go to Dan Bennett, a brilliant lighthouse in a dark sea of mediocrity, a man seemingly playing a different game with different rules to his teammates. He was a joy to watch. Three times he did something so outrageous that the only proper reaction was to gawp disbelievingly, and ask the fan next to you whether you were imagining things. If he learns to shoot – and if he could shoot he’d have had a hat-trick – he won’t be playing for K’s much longer, because this kind of skill belongs at a higher level.

3. Despite Bennett’s genius, we wouldn’t have won this game without another towering performance from Alan Inns at the back. It was good – for my heart rate if nothing else – to see Sam Page restored to the starting line-up along side him, but despite K’s looking generally more solid there were still a number of occasions that Canvey’s rapid, tricky forward players got in behind our defence. Every single time, apart from for Tuohy’s goal, Inns was there to block the cross of head it away, not by accident or some mythical English centre half skill of “wanting it more”, but because he read the game well enough to anticipate the likely cross and positioned himself perfectly as a result. He’s in great form and long may it continue.

4. Having said all of that about the excellence of Inns, Bennett and the Canvey forwards, the key event in the match was a dreadful challenge by the Canvey left-back on Dan Bennett. K’s had started slowly and weren’t really in the game, when mid-way through the first half, frustrated by Bennett’s reliable first touch and bewildered by his skill, the Canvey 3 reacted in the only way that Essex defenders know: by seeking to kick the superior opponent out of the game. The tackle happened right in front of where I was standing, and the remarkable thing about this challenge wasn’t that it was so late – that happens all the time in non-league – but that it was so malicious. The intent was so obvious that you could almost see the cartoon speech bubble above him as he prepared to lunge in, thinking “I’m going to break that skilful bloke’s legs before he mugs me off again”. To be fair, the challenge was brilliantly executed: above the ball, from behind, at massive velocity, landing on Bennett’s ankle. Fortunately Bennett got up from it, gingerly at first. Then, inexplicably, the ref only awarded the Canvey 3 a yellow card. But this so enraged K’s that as a team we woke up from our initial Sunday slumber and started playing at tempo, snapping at Canvey’s heels and pressing much higher up the pitch. This directly led to the opening goal, made possible by Dylan Casey chasing a lost cause, winning the ball back, and crossing for Pico Gomez to finish calmly – as he always does. K’s never really looked back.

5. To be fair to the referee, he was certainly consistent, being from the “it’s a man’s game” school of officiating rather than a disciple of the Spanish “no contact” philosophy. Dan Sweeney got revenge for the challenge on Bennett with a textbook reducer, also worthy of a red card, but was also given just a yellow. Soon afterwards, there was a clear yellow card tackle that yielded only a free-kick. As a result, this was a game that had a fair bit of niggle by the time the clock was winding down in the second half. And as a result of that, Canvey reacted in the way any Essex team would: by getting more and more mouthy, with predictably funny results: Canvey’s number 3 had wound himself up to such an extent that he managed to tackle himself…with the corner flag; Canvey’s 8 had spent the best part of 30 seconds berating his teammates to “keep the facking ball, for fack’s sake you facking mugs” before booting the ball aimlessly 50 yards the next time he received it; the fat centre half had lost it completely and got subbed; meanwhile, the keeper and right-back (a certain Mr Sheehan) were more interested in arguing with our fans behind the goal than playing football. And, of course, the coup de grace: their number 4 got sent off for kicking out at one of our players. Here’s to many, many more years of us watching talented Essex teams self-destruct at Kingsmeadow.

Player Ratings: Tolfrey 7; Goode 7, Inns 9, Page 7, Wells 6; *Bennett 10*, Sweeney 7, Smith 6, Casey 7; Kempton 7, Gomez 7

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