Kings Langley came within 60 seconds of beating high-flying Salisbury last night as Steve Conroy got the reaction he demanded following Saturday’s poor performance against Basingstoke Town.

Stevie Ward gave the hosts a 63rd-minute lead, but the second-placed side salvaged a 1-1 draw thanks to Chris Shephard’s free-kick in the fifth minute of injury time.

The point leaves Kings eighth in Southern League Premier Division South, six points outside the play-off zone, but with two games in hand on the Poole Town side currently occupying the last of those positions.

Following their 3-0 reverse in Hampshire, Kings boss Conroy reinstated Ward and Junior Osborne into the starting XI, with Gary Connolly and Josh Coldicott-Stevens dropping to the bench.

Both sides began at a pulsating pace, with plenty of skill and commitment on show, but created little in the way of clear-cut chances.

The hosts had the better of the early stages, with Andronicos Georgiou shooting just wide from a Rene Howe pass, but Salisbury came into it on the half-hour when Tom Whelan put a looping volley just wide.

The second half of an absorbing contest began in similar fashion with Kings again asking the majority of the questions, but sometimes making the wrong decisions in the final third, as a Georgiou shot was parried by Jake Hallett and Ward just missed the rebound.

This was to be a prelude to the breakthrough minutes later when Howe’s through ball to Mitchell Weiss saw the striker get a shot away under pressure, Hallett parried and an alert Ward react quickest to slam the ball home.

This only served to sting Steve Claridge’s side into furious action, with substitute Shephard producing a rocket with his first touch that drew a magnificent flying touch round from Alex Tokarczyk, an effort he had to reproduce minutes later from Whelan's low shot.

Fellow replacement Dan Fitchett looked certain to score until Tokarczyk and Jorell Johnson combined with a last-ditch tackle as Kings remained under the cosh, but relied on quick breaks to relieve the pressure and test Salisbury’s nerve.

One particular incisive run through the middle of a retreating defence ended with Dylan Switters hacked down by a cautioned Matt Partridge and the resultant free-kick fizzed just over by Georgiou.

As the minutes passed and time added stretched to five minutes, it seemed Kings would record a victory of character but there was to be a final twist.

The full-blooded commitment of Switters earned him a second yellow and the free-kick on the edge of the box was dispatched with such skill by Shephard that Kings custodial hero Tokarczyk hardly saw it.

While the outcome may have been disappointing, it should not detract from the positives of the performance as Kings prepare for another assault on the play-offs as the season enters the final third.

Langley had looked anything but play-off contenders on Saturday though, playing more like strangers as they served up a poor display at Basingstoke.

Sam Argent gave notice that he was going to be a handful when he put a ninth-minute shot just past the post.

But he was to open the scoring soon after when a short corner and a deflected cross left a static visiting defence vainly appealing for offside as the striker headed home.

Shots from Georgiou, Howe and Weiss, all comfortably dealt with, were the only response from a muted Kings attack, although a justified shout for handball in the area was missed by the referee.

The Kings defence was suffering from an uncharacteristic lack of co-ordination and decision making, being constantly threatened by the wing play of Sam Smart and Harry Pearce, while both sides were guilty of giving the ball away.

However, Georgiou had a golden chance five minutes before the break when a rebound put him through one-on-one with Tom McGill, but the keeper saved with his leg against the odds.

From the resulting break, Jacob Cook lost possession on the touchline and the defence parted to leave Pearce with a similar chance that he did not miss.

Any hopes of a Langley comeback after the break were quickly dashed as Conroy’s side displayed a lack of urgency and a level of ineptitude that was painful to watch.

Basingstoke, meanwhile, hit the post and grazed the bar before Smart put the final nail in the coffin with another mazy wing run, cutting in and beating Tokarczyk from a narrow angle, a trick he repeated five minutes later, this time hitting the post.