Kingstonian boss Alan Dowson reckons finishing second in the table means nothing when it comes to who is favourite to win the Ryman Premier League play-offs.
A 1-1 draw at Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday proved enough for Ks to finish runners-up to champions Wealdstone – and secure a potentially crucial home advantage in the play-offs.
In a turbulent final day of the regular season, Bognor Regis Town lost 4-2 at East Thurrock, meaning a point lifted Dowson’s side above their Sussex promotion rivals.
It means K’s will play AFC Hornchurch at Kingsmeadow this Wednesday and, if they win, would be at home again the following Bank Holiday Monday against either Bognor Regis Town or Lowestoft Town.
But manager the Kingsmeado chief stressed that, home or away, knockout games are all about what happens on the day.
“There’s no favourites now," said Dowson.
"AFC Hornchurch are a Conference South side who’ve just come down to this league and are looking to go back up and they’ve got about nine forwards to pick from.
"Were Sutton favourites against us in 2010? Probably – but we beat them. Were we favourites against Boreham Wood in the final when K’s lost 1-0? It just doesn’t work like that.
“To be at home, of course it’s an advantage. You wouldn’t want to play every single game away. But it wouldn’t have bothered us to go away. We’d have got on with it. But it is good for the fans and good for the area.”
Hamlet, with Turkish midfielder Erhun Oztumer pulling the strings, started fast and took a deserved lead when Kevin James drilled in a half-clearance from the edge of the box.
But this Ks side, on a 13-match unbeaten run, has a habit of grinding its way back into games.
After a defensive adjustment to cope with the loss of left-back Bruce Hogg to injury in the opening phase, Steve Laidler and Daniel Sweeney gradually put Dowson’s men on the front foot.
Sweeney it was who scored the equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Player of the year Ryan Moss expertly laid off the ball 20 yards out and the former AFC Wimbledon midfielder ran on to slam the ball first time into the bottom corner.
As a tense second half wore on, results elsewhere began to filter through.
“We knew what the scores were in the second half,” said Dowson.
“In the first-half I wasn’t interested but I told [physio] Jamie Street to keep tabs on it and when we found out East Thurrock were winning 4-2… we felt secure and could just hit Dulwich on the break.”
Hamlet knew a win was likely to be necessary for them to make the top five and scrambled desperately in the closing stages for that elusive goal in front of a crowd of over 1,300 at Champion Hill.
But a draw left them sixth and outside the play-off places.
Ks, meanwhile, know that they are only two matches from a return to step two of the non-League pyramid for the first time in a decade.