Kings Langley’s FA Cup dream was finally brought to an end at the weekend.
Nearly 150 Kings’ supporters travelled over the impressive Queen Elizabeth II bridge into Kent on Saturday to see if their side could overcome the odds to reach the first round proper of the storied cup competition for the first time in their history, writes Roy Mitchard.
Standing in their way was National League South side Maidstone United.
The record books will show that it was beyond them, but for the first 45 minutes, Kings boss Chris Cummins’ side not only held their own against their illustrious rivals, but were the better team.
They created the better chances and even had the ball in the back of the net, only for it to be ruled marginally offside.
With eight minutes on the clock Kings striker Mitchell Weiss won the ball in the box and delivered a shot that looked to have given Kings the lead, but somehow United keeper Jake Cole got a hand to it at the last moment.
A minute later Harry Crawford’s shot from a partially cleared corner was just over the bar.
Maidstone responded with a stinging free-kick which was well held by Kings’ net man Melvin Minter.
The big moment when the story could have taken another direction came mid-half when Kings capped a flowing move with Weiss slotting the ball through to Crawford and the striker finished in style, only to be flagged offside.
It was extremely close, but the assistant had his flag up before the ball entered the net and Maidstone could breathe again.
Minter controlled his box and dealt with every cross the home side threw in, much to the frustration of the home supporters, but there was a moment in the final minute of the first-half when the keeper rushed out of goal and the defence covered the goalbound shot, but the interval arrived with the scores level at 0-0 but Kings ahead on points.
Three minutes into the second period Crawford had another effort, but his chip of the keeper lacked conviction.
Suddenly the tide then turned in dramatic fashion on 53 minutes when a corner from United’s Noah Chesmain was met by a thunderous header by Ryan Johnson to give the hosts the lead.
And within five minutes a cross by Gavin Hoyte from a throw-in gave Saidou Khan the chance to head home number two to put Maidstone in charge.
Kings were stunned to find that the game had so suddenly slipped away from them and although a Weiss inswinging shot came close, they were opened up again soon after when former Hemel Hempstead Town striker Justin Amaluzor should have finished a flowing move.
Bad went to worse when Crawford and Ross Marshall were both shown straight red cards for a foolish confrontation.
And on 76 minutes Chesmain fired a 20-yard free-kick past Minter to make it 3-0 to the hosts.
Kings’ Dean Hitchcock, on as substitute after a six-month injury absence, conceded a soft penalty in the 89th minute which was converted by Jonny Edwards to make it 4-0.
Kings probably felt the six minutes of injury time were torture, but an innocuous clash between Weiss and keeper Cole led to the referee awarding an even softer penalty and Roddy Collins converted the spot-kick for a 95th minute consolation for Kings.
And so the FA Cup journey came to an end.
But the Kings’ fans who made up a mere 10 per cent of the large crowd were magnificent, singing to the end in support of their players who have given everything in this historic cup run, which will be remembered for a long time.
Or at least until next year, when they will aim to go one further.
Kings line-up v Maidstone United: Melvin Minter, Gary Connolly, Kane Farrell, Roddy Collins (captain), Callum Adebiyi, Kyle Connolly, Charlie Pattison (Dean Hitchcock, 61 mins), Josh Coldicott-Stevens (Max Hercules, 77 mins), Mitchell Weiss, Harry Crawford, Bradley Wadkins (Louie Collier, 80 mins). Subs not used: Jake Victor, Matty Campbell-Mhlope, Harry Brady.
This Saturday sees Kings back in cup action again when they visit Isthmian League South East side Phoenix Sports in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy.