This was my first visit to see Staplehurst Monarchs in their inaugural season in the Southern Counties East Football League Division 1. It was also the final Kent ground at level ten and above that I had yet to visit.
I chose a bright, but chilly, Saturday afternoon in February to travel to this match. I had enjoyed seeing Lewisham Borough play away, at Larkfield and New Hythe FC, earlier this season and was sure this tie would see some goals today.
The Jubilee ground has been upgraded to meet the expectations of the SCEFL Division 1, and boasts fencing, turnstile entrances and refreshment stands. There is also a covered and seated stand, providing seating for about 50 fans. The welcome at the turnstile was warm and friendly, and I was able to buy a club pin badge for my father’s collection easily. There was a decent crowd of 65 in for the game today.
The table at kick off, showed the home team just above the bottom three in sixteenth place with 26 points from 23 games. Lewisham Borough were in seventh place, with 40 points from 24 matches.
Bryan Zepo has top scored this season for Lewisham Borough, with 12 goals in 18 games. For Staplehurst Monarchs, the top scorer this season has been Sam Murray with 8 goals in 19 games.
Lewisham came into the match with injuries affecting their selection despite having won three games consecutively, before this one.
The opening ten minutes saw Staplehurst using the wind advantage to put pressure onto the Lewisham Borough defence. Both sides showed good short passing skills but the wind played a significant role as Staplehurst used the advantage to keep the pressure on the Lewisham goal.
In the 35th minute, the pressure of kicking into the strong wind, forced the Lewisham Borough keeper into an error, as he tried to clear the ball. Sam Jones, the Staplehurst Monarchs striker scored from a parried block, making it 1-0 to the home side.
At half time the home team held their advantage, despite a spirited push from Lewisham.
The second half saw intense pressure from Lewisham Borough throughout. A seemingly clear penalty after an elbow from the Staplehurst centre half, Dawson, in the box was missed by the referee in the 75th minute. The protests that followed led to a sin bin spell for one of the Lewisham attackers.
Despite chances for both sides, in the final ten minutes, the game ended with Staplehurst Monarchs securing a well earned 1-0 win, against a team placed higher than them in the league.