Kingstonian crashed 3-0 at home to Maidstone United on Saturday, but it was not without controversy, writes Taimour Lay.
It was winner-goes-top at Kingsmeadow on Saturday and with the game still goalless on the hour, Ks striker Andre McCollin was racing forward and poised to shoot on the edge of the area when brought down by Maidstone’s last defender Jack Parkinson.
Instead of a penalty and red card, the referee awarded a free-kick and waved a yellow and the rest is history.
Just three minutes later, Maidstone had the lead after Kaiyne Wooley’s near-post strike evaded Rob Tolfrey, who was celebrating his 250th appearance for Ks.
Zac Atwood then scored twice in the last 10 minutes, his second a penalty after a frustrated McCollin fouled Jack Harris in the box.
A 3-0 home defeat does not suggest fine margins at work, but Ks regrets will extend to their failure to capitalise on an impressive start.
Playing with a compact five in midfield, a purposeful opening 20-minute spell suggested they could roll the Stones over.
McCollin and Ryan Moss repeatedly hared forward in promising breaks without finding the final finish.
The pacy pair were aided by the high line initially played by Maidstone’s defence, a tactical error the away team rectified in the second half. K’s struggled to adopt a Plan B once the Stones reorganised.
After conceding, K’s manager Alan Dowson took off captain Sam Page and moved Josh Casey to left-back as K’s switched to 4-4-2.
But they immediately missed Casey’s bite in midfield and looked stretched at the back, with Sean Ray struggling to cope with Maidstone’s movement on the break.
The Stones, who brought at least 300 of the 687-strong crowd, find themselves at the Ryman Premier summit, but it may count for nothing.
The 3G surface at the new Gallagher Stadium may bring in thousands of pounds a year in recreation revenue, but the Conference voted last week to maintain a ban on artificial pitches at steps one and two of the non-League pyramid.
K’s, whose play-off position is now under pressure from the chasing pack, next travel to Leiston.