The emotional roller coaster of the past ten days finally told as Kings Langley fell 4-1 on Saturday to a Stourbridge team who look more than capable of gaining automatic promotion.
The past week-and-a-half at the club has seen the exit of boss Dean Barker after nine games and coach Ryan Jackett installed as interim boss.
Kings, playing their fourth game in 12 days, were forced to shuffle the pack on Saturday due to the absence of their top striker Mitchell Weiss.
The first-half at Kings’ Orbital Fasteners Stadium was somewhat dour with few chances as both sides felt each other out.
A header over the bar by visiting Chay Tilt was the exception, while in the 25th minute Kings’ Harry Crawford had the ball in the net with a forceful header only to see it ruled out for offside.
The game sprang into life with five minutes of the half remaining when Tom Tonks raced into the area, cut across the accompanying Kyle Connolly and fell to ground. It was difficult to see how Connolly could avoid the clash of feet, but the referee thought otherwise and Tom Turton dispatched the penalty.
Atonement was waiting as almost immediately Crawford’s diagonal pass was headed back across goal by Charlie Pattison and a jubilant Connolly swept the ball home.
The drama wasn’t over yet, as Kings were then undone by a Tonks’ long throw that was headed back across the box and Jordan Williams volleyed home from five yards in the 44th minute.
Kings started well after the break with Gary Connolly setting Pattison away on the right and Stourbridge keeper Charlie Price was relieved to parry the shot on the run.
The hosts remained in the game for the next 25 minutes, but without fashioning many chances. The visitors were hardly prolific either.
A touch of good fortune put Stourbridge in control as the lively Tilt cut inside from a surging left-wing run and elected to shoot. The ball cannoned of a defensive block and fell perfectly back to him and Tilt’s superb shot from the edge of the box gave Kings stopper Melvin Minter no chance.
Stourbridge substitute Andre Landrell felled Kane Farrell with a clumsy challenge but avoided a red card and then went on to make it 4-1 in the 79th minute.
It was a harsh scoreline.
Late on Kings’ Josh Coldicott-Stevens had a shot deflected just past the post and Callum Adebiyi headed over as Kings failed to grab any late consolation.
The defeat leaves them in 12th spot in the Southern League Premier Central table.
In midweek Kings beat bottom-but-one side Hitchin Town 3-1 at home.
Crawford was keen to show Kings what they had been missing during his bench-warming start to the season, as Kings dominated a tetchy Hertfordshire derby that left Hitchin still seeking their first league victory this term.
Max Hercules opened the scoring for Kings in the 17th minute when a Weiss feint over the ball left Hercules well-placed to drive a ground-hugging shot into the net.
Eight minutes into the second half it was 2-0 after a Hercules corner was chipped back into the box by Adebiyi to the ubiquitous Crawford, who hit a fine shot through the crowd and into the far corner.
Hitchin got one back on the hour when keeper Minter was unable to gather a header and Joe Guage stabbed home.
But Kings stayed composed and extended the two-goal advantage in the 68th minute when a flowing move saw Roddy Collins set Kane Farrell away on the left and he played a neat one-two with Hercules before delivering the perfect cross for Pattison’s glancing header to make it 3-1.
Kings were due to be back in action again last night (Tuesday) as the Gazette was going to press when AFC Dunstable were the visitors in the Southern League Cup.
This Saturday they then host Isthmian League Premier side Corinthian Casuals in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup, which is the furthest the club has ever reached in the stories competition.