A high-flying team relishing a return to home territory and toasting happy days again are the next guests at Longmead.
Second-placed Kingstonian might have hopes of being crowned champions at the end of the current campaign, after a feast of points before and after the festivities.
Comfortable victories in three out of four matches around the Christmas and New Year period have brought the feel-good factor back to leafy Surrey.
The Angels’ next opponents clinched a brilliant win at Bishop’s Stortford last Saturday (January 5th), with the 3-0 success coming hot-on-the-heels of other morale-boosting results. The others were a derby success over landlords Corinthian Casuals (2-1 on December 22nd) and an impressive 4-1 at home to Bognor a week earlier (December 15th).
The only dropped points in the past four outings occurred in a 0-0 stalemate against county rivals Merstham on New Year’s Day.
Supporters travelling to Tonbridge at the weekend are likely to arrive in good spirits and those on the terraces 20 years ago might recall memories resembling a roller-coaster ride.
The visitors have experienced extreme ups and downs, including the enjoyment of playing in the non-league top flight and, at the time, in a brand new stadium. Competing in the Conference National started in 1998/99, following an Isthmian title triumph, and lasted for three seasons. The purple patch also included the excitement of twice winning the FA Trophy, in consecutive campaigns (1998/99 and 1999/2000).
But, sadly, in football, as frequently happens in life, the party can be followed by a hangover - then a period of gloom. The aftermath included serious financial problems and the club lost ownership of the-then fairly new home, Kingsmeadow. Fortunes on the field involved a plunge down the divisions.
Another high was savoured in 2013/14, when the team clinched runners-up spot in the Isthmian Premier, but swiftly suffered the low of losing in the play-offs. The manager at the time, Alan Dowson, soon made an exit also (May 2014), later taking over at Hampton & Richmond (September 2014). The Geordie subsequently guided his new squad into the National South, as champions in 2015/16.
For the former employers, during the past few years, the off-field distraction of potential homelessness has been looming in the background. The club had to leave Kingston last term but returned to the Royal borough for the current campaign. Corinthian Casuals, based at Tolworth, are providing a venue for the long-term after a spell of uncertainty and away from the home-town.
The Surrey side started to ground-share at Leatherhead for 2017/18, following a deal between AFC Wimbledon and Chelsea FC. Kingsmeadow used to be the K’s stadium until a cash crisis and ownership issues in the early noughties led to the new Dons taking on the lease.
At the time, it seemed the AFC fan-launched outfit, stitched-up themselves when new owners moved lock, stock and barrel to Milton Keynes, had altruistic motives. The agreement allowed Kingstonian to remain, as tenants. That arrangement terminated from the end of the previous season, following the transaction between Wimbledon and Chelsea – the latter keen to provide a venue for fringe teams.
There was also change involving the management for 2017/18. The vastly-experienced Craig Edwards started the season in charge, but he resigned during the October.
The former Billericay boss worked wonders during the closing stages of the previous campaign. The 2016/17 season proved difficult, as the club flirted dangerously with relegation owing to a dreadful run following Christmas. With six games left and “hopes almost lost”, Tommy Williams was replaced by Edwards. He turned things around immediately and K’s moved up to 16th after a five-match unbeaten run to the end of term.
Kingstonian’s search for a successor, after the autumn departure, unearthed the up and coming Leigh Dynan. He had served an apprenticeship of sorts, initially as boss of Cobham (in 2010), then roles at Farnborough in charge of the reserves (2011) and subsequently as assistant manager (from 2012). The K’s boss was previously at the helm of Whyteleafe (from 2016).
The new man, appointed in October 2017, soon became busy in the transfer market, including some head-hunting of talent at his ex-employers, plus extremely experienced recruits from elsewhere. His charges eventually finished 13th out of 24.
Please see Matt Davison’s article in the matchday programme for details of the current squad and other information.
Home fans might be looking at the league table in the publication with some envy. There could be some head-scratching when noticing the once number 1 slot next to Tonbridge has been replaced by 11, (subject to any matters arising midweek, of course). The once top dogs and pace-setters, a few months ago, now occupy a mid-table berth, while the Kingstonians seem to be rising again.
The Angels faced Brightlingsea Regent, in West Kent, last Saturday (January 5th) in their latest league encounter. The contest concluded 2-2, courtesy of two late goals preventing another defeat. (Match report and other news can be found on the website.)
The crucial Bostik Premier clash between Tonbridge and Kingstonian, at Longmead Stadium, on Saturday January 12th, is a 3pm kick-off.
Updated 17:45 - 12 Jan 2019 by Jim Rowe