Kings Langley’s push for the Southern League Premier Central play-offs gathered yet more momentum after a stunning strike from club captain Gary Connolly secured a 1-0 victory at top-five rivals Rushall Olympic.

Without the key trio of Jordan Parkes, Roddy Collins and Harry Crawford, the visitors were not at the free-flowing best but produced a determined display to continue their unbeaten 2020, knocking their opponents out of the final play-off place in the process.

Kings remain in tenth place following a third successive victory, and seventh in nine league outings since New Year’s Day, but they are now within four points of fifth-placed Coalville Town, who visit the Orbital Fasteners Stadium this weekend.

Boss Chris Cummins – as he had told the Watford Observer prior to the game – rewarded Edu Toiny-Pendred with a place in the starting XI following a couple of impressive substitute outings, while fellow youngster Jack Wood came on for his debut in the second half.

With a swirling wind at their backs, Rushall dominated the early exchanges and but for a superb tip over from Kings keeper Melvin Minter the hosts may have been ahead in the first minute.

Spurred on by this early opportunity, the home side continued to force the pace. The powerful Jonathan Letford was the regular focal point of their attacks, but all too often he lacked the support necessary to break down a stubborn defence.

Langley also had their moments on the break and Toiny-Pendred and Will Hoskins both went close after Mitchell Weiss had twice stretched the home defence with penetrating runs.

The Pics continued to keep the pressure on and generated a number of dangerous dead ball situations, but in the main the visitors coped with these comfortably except for one heart-stopping moment when Asa Charlton’s powerful header glanced off the bar.

This turned out to be the last significant action of a half which left both teams pondering how the deadlock might be broken.

As it transpired, the second period was only six minutes old when that question was spectacularly answered.

A move symptomatic of the flowing football that has been a hallmark of Kings’ new year renaissance started with Weiss winning the ball in midfield before taking a driving run at a retreating defence and squaring to Gary Connolly who hit a peach of a shot into the top corner from nearly 30 yards out.

The strike galvanised both teams into increased levels of endeavour, with Olympic desperate to achieve parity and Kings equally determined in protecting their advantage.

Rushall introduced three substitutes in rapid succession while Kings responded with the introduction of Saul Williams and 17-year-old debutant Wood.

Despite the new personnel, the hosts could not penetrate a resolute rearguard who, along with keeper Minter, saw out the remainder of the game to put another three points on the board.

Prior to Saturday’s game against Coalville, Kings are also due to be at home tomorrow night when they face Stevenage in the quarter-finals of the Herts Senior Cup.

Langley have also rearranged their postponed home game against Lowestoft Town for Tuesday, March 3.

Kings Langley: Minter; Doyley, Johnson, Adebiyi, K Connolly; G Connolly, Hitchock, Ward (Williams 64); Weiss, Hoskins (Wood 76), Toiny-Pendred. Subs not used: Anderson, Linsell.