Match report by Simon Grier.
With a new squad of accomplished players and a return to Kingston Borough, Ks fans entered the new season with a sense of optimism not seen for some years. When the bookies opened their market with Ks at 33/1 for the league title, a quick flurry of bets saw them rapidly backed in to 11s.
On opening day however, the team failed to live up to the hype, going down 3-2 to a Brightlingsea Regent side missing five first team players.
It took just fourteen minutes for the visitors to look like they would spoil the Ks party, when Harvey Hodd fired past Rob Tolfrey from the corner of the penalty box. Ks fans hoped it would be a false alarm when Leigh Dynan’s men equalised two minutes later; Shaun Lucien, who had already had an early header saved, threaded the ball through for the returning Louie Theophanous to slot past James Bradbrook.
But Regent were soon back on top when Ks failed to defend a low cross into the box and Hodd was left unmarked to convert from close range. And this time there was no comeback from Ks, who failed to even threaten through the rest of the first half.
After the break the visitors extended their lead when Billy Hunt beat Rob Tolfrey from the edge of the area. The goalkeeper kept Ks in the game with two good saves, one from Hunt and one from Darren Mills, but his team-mates struggled to create much at the other end.
The fans were incensed when the referee failed to award a penalty for what appeared to be a clear trip on Theophanous and then things went from bad to worse when Ugo Udoji picked up two bookings in quick succession, the first for a foul and the second for some pushing off the ball.
Going down to ten men, along with the introduction of substitute Muhammadu Faal, finally jolted Ks into action and they finally began to put the visitors under pressure. With seven minutes remaining they won a penalty when Tommy Brewer was held back in the box following a corner. It was the kind of offence that mostly went unpunished during the last century of football, until VAR and Panamanian excess encouraged referees to clamp down during the recent World Cup. Faal powered the spotkick confidently into the bottom corner.
Faal had a great chance to secure an unlikely equaliser with two minutes to spare when he was sent through on goal but after he skipped round Bradbrook the defence was able to recover and the ball got caught under his feet. He eventually got his shot off but it went wide and any hopes of another chance for Ks went up in smoke when they went down to nine men, Elliott Buchanan picking up a second yellow in injury time.
Kingstonian: Rob Tolfrey, Josh Webb, Andrew Musungu, Aaron Lamont, Ugo Udoji, Jay Gasson, Shaun Lucien, Matt Saunders, Elliott Buchanan, Louie Theophanous, Freddy Moncur.
Subs: Muhammadu Faal (for Louie Theophanous, 65m), Greg Cundle (for Freddy Moncur, 56m), Reece Williams-Bowers, Tommy Brewer (for Shaun Lucien, 72m), Hassan Ibrahiym.
Brightlingsea Regent: James Bradbrook, George Keys, Jake Gould, Harry Morgan, Alex Taylor, Matt Cripps, Darren Mills, Amar Lewis, Billy Hunt, Harvey Hodd, Jake Clowsley.
Subs: Terry Amass (for Jake Clowsley, 56m), Tom Dunningham (for Amar Lewis, 84m), Harrison Banner.
Goalscorers: Harvey Hodd (14m, 0-1), Louie Theophanous (16m, 1-1), Harvey Hodd (24m, 1-2), Billy Hunt (54m, 1-3), Muhammadu Faal (84m pen, 2-3)
Red Cards: Ugo Udoji (71m, second bookable offence), Elliott Buchanan (92m, second bookable offence)