A cold, dark evening of incessant rain provided the backcloth for Kings Langley’s first meeting with Bishop’s Stortford for 53 years last night (Tuesday).
The last time the two sides met was in 1964 when they played in the Herts County Cup.
The weather reflected the mood of Kings’ boss Paul Hobbs, as the problem of team selection showed no sign of abating with three players continuing their absence with suspensions and skipper Jorell Johnson being joined on the injury list by Jack Pattison and Lee Stobbs.
Manny Folarin switched to the right of a back-three and there was a first start for Macauley Keating in midfield. Louis Bircham, returning from his loan spell at AFC Dunstable, also made his first start, partnering Mitchell Weiss up front.
Kings started this away fixture in a positive way and could have gone ahead in the third minute when Stevie Ward combined with Mitchell Weiss for the latter to deliver a shot that was parried on the line, but Louis Bircham couldn’t force home the rebound.
Weiss was to prove a handful all evening for the defenders deployed to mark him and won the ball to test Tyler McCarthy soon after, before the home side delivered a flurry of chances of their own.
A Jason Williams header was just past, a Ward slip nearly let in Darren Foxley and it took a superbly-timed saving tackle from Sam Tring to deny Dipo Akinyemi.
The pressure paid off in the 26th minute when a raking diagonal pass found Foxley unmarked in the left-wing position and he took it in his stride to beat Ross Hampton in the Kings’ goal.
Weiss was still plugging away at the opposite end, ably supported by the speedy Bircham, and a penetrating run was forced too wide for the acute shot to be on target.
The second half opened with an Ollie Cox powerful free-kick, held by McCarthy, but Stortford were using a wide formation effectively, constantly finding space on the wings and when they won a corner, the cross was headed back and the resultant shot was blocked by Hampton. Unfortunately, the ball rebounded off the incoming Williams and into the net to give a two-goal buffer on 64 minutes.
The Kings’ defence then suffered the jitters as they underwent a nervous five minutes that is becoming all too familiar. To their credit, they overcame this, showed more passion than three days’ earlier and finished strongly with Ward skimming the bar, a Callum Adebiyi header just wide and a Folarin header clawed away.
But the breaks wouldn’t come and though the performance was better, the result was the same.
Kings: Ross Hampton, Emmanuel Forlarin (captain), Sam Tring (Chris Gosling, 67), Macauley Keating, Callum Adebiyi, Josh Coldicott-Stevens, Stevie Ward, Ollie Cox, Mitchell Weiss, Louis Bircham (Jack Waldren 61), Keiran Turner (Ceykan Karagozlu, 81). Subs not used: Charlie Hasler and Lee Stobbs.
Saturday v Farnborough:
The final 13 minutes proved to be costly again on Saturday for Kings.
Already without three players due to suspension, Langley were dealt a further pre-match blow before their home clash with Farnborough on Saturday when influential skipper Jorell Johnson picked up a midweek injury and was ruled out.
Lee Stobbs and Jack Pattison passed late fitness tests and boss Paul Hobbs switched to a 4-5-1 formation.
The game got off to a slow start and the first half never really improved, as both teams tentatively tested each other out without creating anything in front of goal.
Kings’ keeper Ross Hampton held a Dan Walker shot on 20 minutes and at the other end Callum Adebiyi was inches away from connecting with a low corner five minutes later.
That was all there was to mention from the first period.
It had to get better in the second period and it did, but only for the visitors.
Hampton superbly tipped over a Connor Calcutt header and then the striker shot wide when well-placed.
Two substitutions changed the game for the visitors. They brought on evergreen Jamie Cureton, who immediately set up Walker, only for him to blast wide.
Kings had meanwhile brought on Brendan Ocran, who was to lose the ball on the halfway line and see it slip through to Glen Southern to beat Hampton and put the Boro on their way.
Unlike previous encounters, the fight in the face of set-backs didn’t seem to manifest itself on this occasion as a strangely subdued Kings showed little sign of getting back in the game with too many players having a collective off-day.
They were also outmuscled by a physical opposition.
Adebiyi acquitted himself well in his stand-in centre back role, often surging forward, and Ollie Cox was his usual industrious self in midfield and produced the majority of Kings’ few shots on target, while Hampton was solid in goal.
However, he was left exposed when Cureton’s second set-up for Walker was this time accepted on 88 minutes to make it 2-0 and again when an unmarked Calcutt lobbed in the third in the first minute of time added-on.
Overall it was a very poor performance and the third time in the three home matches so far this season that Kings have conceded three goals in the last thirteen minutes.
The defeat dropped Kings down to 18th in the Southern League Premier table.
This Saturday Kings host Margate in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup.