Kings Langley finally returned home after an extensive away fixture list and crowned their homecoming in style with a 3-1 win over Barking in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup.
After 14 consecutive pre-season and league away matches, Kings played at the Sadiku Stadium following extensive pitch renovation works.
A bright but chilly afternoon was the backcloth for a potentially intriguing cup tie against Barking from the tier below and the visitors showed signs of nerves as Kings fashioned chances for Roddy Collins and Max Hercules in the opening five minutes.
However, the Isthmian League South Central side served warning that they should not to be taken lightly when Sammy Dadson got on the end of a flowing move, but shot wide, before Kings fired back and the visiting defence had to block three consecutive shots from Hercules, Mitchell Weiss and Charlie Ruff.
The impressive Barking keeper Mitchell Ware pulled off a flying save from a Ruff shot and topped that by tipping over a close-range header from Eoin McKeown.
And his side almost took the lead when Kings stopper Melvin Minter was beaten to a 50/50 through ball only for Collins to chase back to clear off the line.
The home breakthrough came in the 33rd minute when the pacy Weiss caused consternation in the Barking box with a driving run and was felled by Dan Flemming for a penalty. A confident Ruff blasted the ensuing spot-kick high into the roof of the net.
The first-half closed with Barking’s Jack Roult and Johnny Ashman testing Minter.
A rare error by Ware on resumption saw a Ruff shot deflected and the resulting corner headed onto the bar by Callum Adebiyi.
The pressure was building and the result looked to be determined when an unorthodox Ruff cross from the left received a glancing header from McKeown to double the Kings’ lead on 55 minutes.
That proved false, as five minutes’ later a diagonal pass found Ashman on the left and while he had the run of the ball in a tackle with Gary Connelly, his rounding of Minter and classy shot past defenders on the line sealed a fine individual goal to make it 2-1.
A cagey 20 minutes followed as both sides reassessed their options, broken only by another flying save by Ware from the ubiquitous McKeown.
But the Barking keeper was powerless when Hercules picked up a contested ball, exchanged a one-two with McKeown and finished with poise in the 84th minute for a scoreline that was possibly a little harsh on Barking.
But it was one that was to send Kings into the hat for the draw on Monday for the second qualifying round.
Kings have been drawn at home again and will face Isthmian League Premier Division outfit Folkestone Invicta in the next round.
The ties will take place over the weekend of September 20-22.
Winning clubs will receive £6,750 from The FA prize fund, while losing clubs pocket £2,250.
Kings were due to resume their Southern League Premier Division Central campaign last night (Tuesday) as the Gazette was going to press when visiting 16th-ranked Biggleswade FC.
Kings are in 11th place in the early table, but have a game in hand over all the teams around them.
They have won two, drawn two and lost one and will hope to keep their solid run going.
This Saturday they return to the Sadiku Stadium for their first league home game this term when hosting sixth-placed Hednesford Town.