Kings Langley Football Club have startd a new chapter in their 128-year history as, after six years of heartbreaking near misses, they finally gained promotion to the Spartan South Midlands Premier League.
This is the highest level of the Football League pyramid that they have ever reached, and came courtesy of a nailbiting draw with promotion rivals Bedford on the last day of the season.
Both sides were locked on identical points in second place but, with Kings having both the best goalscoring record and the best defensive record in the whole division, a draw was good enough to give them the prize.
Stacked against that was the fact that they entered the defining fixture having had to play four games in the last week and a punishing and unbelievable schedule of 21 games in the last 56 days.
They were also without regulars Jack Johnson, Craig Preston and Dean Hitchcock, and the management team of Paul Hughes ad Ritchie Hanlon had to make a paper-thin selection decision between two superbly in form goalkeepers, Ant Ladyman and Steve Bourke.
Callum Adebiyi, meanwhile, scraped past a fitness test, but was subsequently immense throughout the whole afternoon.
Alex Campana opened proceedings with a shot that Aaron Bodger dropped, but was able to smother, but Bedford took a leaf from Kings’ book with an early onslaught that had the home team on the ropes.
Mitchell Griffiths’ shot was blocked, Luke Knight put a shot just wide and they then hit the bar with the offside flag raised.
The referee had caused early concerns with a booking for each side within the first ten minutes, but seemed to feel he had made his point to press on and control the game exceptionally well.
As Bedford continued to batter the home side, Bourke pulled off two outstanding saves to keep Kings in the game.
The first, from Ashley Kersey was good, but the second, a minute later, bordered on the unbelievable. Wrong footed, he tipped the ball onto and over the bar.
Kings recovered, shook themselves down, and came so close when Gary Connelly’s lob was just wide with the keeper beaten and then Nick Jackson’s snap shot was tipped round for a corner.
Callum Adebiyi was felled on the actual line of the penalty area for a mere free-kick, Bodger pulled off a good save from an Alex Campana set piece and Connor Toomey was just wide as Kings finished the half with their star in the ascendancy.
The hosts did have an anxious moment when Bourke was called on yet again for a break resulting from a poor offside call.
A first half that seemed to have lasted for at least an hour, finally finished and Kings were forced to substitute an unwell Toomey as the war of nerves continued.
Bedford’s early onslaught appeared to have taken its toll and as the contest moved to midfield and chances became fewer, and Kings seized the season’s defining moment in the 66th minute.
Summing up an unpredictable and dramatic campaign, it fell to the experienced defender Jonny Munday who was born within a stone’s throw of the ground, was recalled to the squad this week, and was making only his third appearance of the season as a replacement for Preston.
Tom Carter, surely in contention for the most improved player of the season, took a ball on the left flank and teased the defender with at least six changes of direction before releasing the perfect cross for Munday to deliver a powerful header past Bodger to the delight of the home support.
Surely this was it, the dream had been realised, but no, Kings delight in doing things the hard way and a quick corner saw Luke Knight rock them with a snap shot equalizer with 12 minutes to go after their attack seemed to have shot its bolt.
The work-rate of Jack Pattison, Lee Burgoyne and Danny Hutchins was outstanding and, as the long afternoon ground to a tumultuous conclusion, it would be reflected that Kings probably had the most dangerous moments and dealt fairly comfortably with Bedford’s attacks for the last minutes.
At the time, it was a precipice waiting to be fallen over and after an interminable five extra minutes, the final whistle sounded, signalling scenes of celebration for a promotion that was thoroughly deserved.