The last four years just about everything has happened. Giants killed, keepers felled, insects dying, replays behind closed doors

FAN'S EYE VIEW; No 126 Kingstonian
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The Independent Online
Between 1933 and 1991, the FA Cup competition proper happened elsewhere - teams like Peacehaven and Telscombe having their glory while Kingstonian struggled through relatively mundane league games. For 58 years, nothing. But, in the last four, just about everything. Giants killed, goalkeepers felled, insects dying, replays behind closed doors. And this year, genuine hopes of the football version of basketball's biggest game of the 1980s, Kingston against Manchester United.

Kingstonian, who play Third Division Plymouth Argyle tomorrow, were a significant name in amateur football for decades. Often high up the Isthmian League alongside Wimbledon (until the Dons turned pro in 1963), FA Amateur Cup winners in 1933, Wembley finalists in 1960, semi-finalists four times. And numerous other trophies underlining their cup prowess. But in the FA Cup they fell apart. Epsom helped themselves to 10 goals in one game, while Corinthian and Delphian League backwaters regularly dumped Ks out, Leatherhead doing so long before the "Leatherhead Lip" (whatever happened to him?). And 1960 was even worse. Thanks to their aforementioned Wembley appearance, Kingstonian only had to apply by 20 June to "automatically" enter the competition proper. Guess what arrived in the post on 21 June?

Final qualifying round defeats increased in frequency in modern times - a mixture of second-replay injury-time defeats, open goal misses and the FA rule which says Ks will never win at Slough denied them in 1985, 1990 and 1991. So when Welling succumbed in 1992, the explosion of emotion was understandable, if occasionally bordering on the illegal.

The Peterborough tie in the competition proper was a new experience to all but the oldest Ks fans - and they got great press out of it, with their "patient passing game" and "dead fly" goal celebration. Although the Peterborough fans' view that the game was a tedium masterclass they should have won in the last minute was probably nearer the mark.

Alas, Ks lost their captain, centre-half and top goalscorer to injury and manager Chris Kelly (so that's what happened to him) quipped that if the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury rang up they'd get a game. Yet salvation did come from above - a 50p coin braining Ks goalkeeper Adrian Blake with Ks three down after an hour and bound for humiliation. Ks reached humiliation (9-1, if you must ask) - but without their stricken keeper. And, with the FA in barmpot mode, a behind-closed-doors replay was ordered.

Kelly was rightly contemptuous of the decision and interpreted "club officials" as loosely as FA regulations permitted when allocating passes for the match. In such familiar surroundings, with two of the injured back in the side, Ks lost only 1-0.

An improbable win at Dover last year set Ks up at home to struggling Brighton. In a game as dramatic as Peterborough had been dull, two Jamie Ndah goals saw them off. One was a 20-yard overhead spectacular, denied "Goal of the Month" status by some Matt Le Tissier tap-in.

Our second-round pairing with fellow Isthmians Aylesbury was an anti- climax we were fated to lose, and which inflicted the duck walk on an undeserving football fraternity.

So this year we're getting greedy - and blase. There was more concern about the first round in the bar than first-round opponents after the final qualifying round win over Trowbridge. That first-round game was only treated like the 5-1 win over Eastern League opponents that it was. Now expectations have radically altered.

"Doing ourselves justice" against League opposition used to mean a draw or narrow defeat. This year, we believe we have a chance. True, Plymouth are well-versed in the art of beating teams at our level, but now we've been there and done it. With this year's Ks team the best for some time, there's a new perspective on doing ourselves justice.

In 1992, one Ks fan commented: "I could get used to this." Well, we all have now, and we're loving every minute.