Drage's late header may define Kingstonian campaign

To the rescue: Ks defender Matt Drage was an unlikely hero at the weekend with his second league goal of the campaign

Rarely seen: Matt Drage has not scored many goals for Ks this term but can make his presence felt in the opposition's box

Relieved: Ks assistant coach Martin Tyler

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Knigstonian left it late against Bury Town on Saturday - very late.

With 95 minutes on the clock, Kingsmeadow was resigning itself to a collective groan of disappointment as the mid-table visitors looked set to hold on for a 1-1 draw.

A play-off place was slipping away. But, more than that, confidence could surely not recover from more dropped points after the collapses against Harrow and Thamemead.

Then suddenly the home side made one more foray up the pitch.

A last-gasp corner from Charlie Knight was swung on to the head of centre-back Matt Drage, who powered the ball into the top corner, past the dive of the Bury defender on the line.

It could be the defining moment of a long season. With this 2-1 win, Ks hit the 70-point mark with seven games remaining.

They are in sixth position, only two points off 2nd with a game in hand on a Dulwich in decline.

Ks had taken the lead shortly after the break. Ryan Moss broke down the right and squared the ball to Daniel Pappoe, whose loan from Chelsea has been extended for another month.

The midfielder was calm enough to lay it back again for Knight who readjusted, swivelled and struck low for 1-0.

But the visitors from Suffolk, with a team full of youngsters being given their opportunity due to financial problems since Christmas, had more than their fair share of chances, drawing at least two wonderful saves from Rob Tolfrey.

It was getting increasingly nervy when Callum Finch made it 1-1 in the 90th minute, reducing the home support to weary gasps of frustration.

“There’s nothing that can make you feel so unhappy and so happy in quick succession as football,” said Ks assistant manager Martin Tyler, reflecting on the chaos of injury time.

“It wasn’t much fun in the dugout, I can tell you.”

“Having got in front, it was devastating to concede an equaliser so close to the end and you fear the worst.

"But you always feel there’ll we be one more chance. We knew there were three or four minutes extra to play.”

Drage was a popular goalscorer.

The 21-year-old has been a silky centre-half this season, often advancing to play with his feet and happy to thread through-balls for the forwards.

His partnership with Sam Page has kept K’s in the running despite the winter slump.

He is more often found taking set-pieces, but this time found himself in the perfect place to convert from eight yards.

Aside from Wealdstone running off with the title, and a functional Hornchurch, there is no other Ryman Premier side in form.

If Ks make the playoffs, a return to step two of the pyramid for the first time in a decade would begin to be worth a wager.

Ks head to Grays Athletic on Wednesday night before Cray Wanderers away next Saturday.
 

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