For the second Saturday in a row I had the pleasure of watching a hardworking Staplehurst Monarchs side, playing in the Southern Counties East League, Division 1.
This fixture was at Tooting Bec’s Imperial Fields Stadium, a ground they share with Isthmian League neighbours, Tooting & Mitchum United FC. The ground is impressive at this level, with a capacity of 3500 and provision for 612 seated fans.
It was a wet and windy day following 24 hours after Storm Eunice had left a trail across London and South East England. I arrived in heavy rain and was told the turnstiles don’t open until 2.30, so I took a seat in the huge Sports bar and watched West Ham v Newcastle on the large screens. Once inside the stadium I was impressed by the space offered by the two covered stands for standing behind the goals, as well as open terracing. The main stand gave a good view and provided much needed shelter from the heavy rain. The ground also benefited from a Caribbean food stall, which looked and smelled delicious, however I managed to resist!!
Tooting Bec have had a really positive season, sitting in fourth place in the league and pushing the top two of Stansfeld and Sutton Athletic, for the promotion places into the Premier Division. Coming into the match, Tooting had dropped some points, as they had a defeat, three draws and just one win from their previous five games. Staplehurst, too, had experienced inconsistency, with two wins and two draws and a defeat, in their last five matches, leaving them sitting in twelfth place.
Ed Mbango has top scored for a Tooting Bec this season, with 14 league goals in 21 games and a close second is Alistair Wiltshire, who has clocked up 12 goals in just 15 games. For Staplehurst the top scorer this season, thus far, remains Sam Murray, with 8 goals in 19 games.
The game was played at a slow pace due to the pitch being so wet (Many local fixtures today having been called off). However both sides passed well on a tricky surface and there were chances early on, at both ends.
In the 10th minute Alvin Turyatemba scored to put Tooting Bec 1-0 up, when the ball broke to him, after some scrappy play in the Staplehurst Monarch’s penalty area.
Then in the 27th minute, the left back for Staplehurst, Calum Gallie, cut in and fired home, to equalise with the goal of the day, tying up the scores at 1-1.
At half time, as the wind picked up again, the teams went in all square, at 1-1.
Within a minute of the restart, Alex Keating scored, sliding in unchallenged in the box, to make it 2-1 to the home side.
On 70 minutes Alistair Wiltshire broke through and slotted the ball home when through one on one, with the Staplehurst Monarch’s keeper, to make it 3-1 and to secure his 13th goal of the season.
After that there were good chances for both sides, however no one was able to change the scoreline. So, at the final whistle it was Tooting Bec who took all three points and pushed themselves closer towards the promotion places.