An unbeaten run of nine league games carried over from last season came to an end on Saturday as Kings Langley fell to Kettering Town, a team with a 100 per cent winning record.
The hosts Kings made the task harder for themselves when Dean Hitchcock was sent off four minutes into the second half.
It had begun promisingly when Kings went ahead in the opening five minutes for the third time this season. Mitchell Weiss seized on a loose ball, powered past two defenders and unleashed a low shot from the edge of the box that beat Poppies keeper Paul White with the merest of deflections.
Kettering had looked dangerous both before and after that strike when a superb Jorell Johnson tackle saved a situation of their own making and then when Sam Tring deflected an Aaron O’Connor shot over the bar.
But when the equaliser came in the 25th minute it had a touch of fortune about it. Kings’ old nemesis Rhys Hoenes put in a right-wing cross that had so much swing it found the far top corner.
O’Connor was alert enough to take advantage of hesitation between Johnson and Kings keeper Kyle Forster to intercept and extend the lead 12 minutes later, while Forster saved with his feet minutes later, as Kings entered the break on the back foot.
The absence of Stevie Ward, fit enough only for the bench, resulted in a central midfield trio that was mainly of a defensive nature and while they were having their work cut out, there was an absence of creative inspiration.
Resumption almost immediately saw an aggressive tackle from Linden Meikle prompt an aggressive reaction from Hitchcock and the seemingly obligatory but equally tedious stampede of players from up to 50 yards away eager to express their opinion.
When the dust settled there was a red for Hitchcock, a yellow for Hoenes and a mountain to climb for Kings.
To their credit, they stuck to their task for a fairly featureless half-hour and after Callum Adebiyi headed a corner just over, it lifted the Gaywood Park fans when the same player surged forward again to lay off a side pass for Gareth Price in the 80th minute to pick his spot so well and make it 2-2. Was there yet another comeback against the odds on the cards? Sadly the answer was no, as Kettering were stung into action and launched a devastating burst of three goals, as a tiring defence was torn apart with simple close range strikes from O’Connor and sub Matt Stevens (two), to ensure there was to be no happy ending on this occasion.
Kings slipped to 13th place in the Southern League Premier table and next travel to Haverhill Borough on Saturday for an FA Cup qualifying round tie.
Kings: Kyle Forster, Gary Connolly, Sam Tring (Josh Coldicott-Stevens), Emmanuel Folarin (Ollie Cox), Jorell Johnson, Dean Hitchcock, Lee Stobbs, Callum Adebiyi, Mitchell Weiss, Gareth Price, Kieran Turner (Brendan Ocran). Subs not used: Jack Waldren, Stevie Ward.