My first visit to the Ladywell Arena, for a non league football match (although I have attended sports and athletics events on the arena previously) took place on a chilly but dry March evening.
Forest Hill Park came into the game sitting in 19th place and in the relegation places, still seven points behind the 17th placed team, Lydd Town, although with two games in hand. Stansfeld are having a great season up in second place, just four points behind the leaders, Sutton Athletic, but with three games in hand.
Forest Hill Park FC were formed in 1992, and have been members of the SCEFL since 2016. In 2018/19 the club had its best ever season, finishing seventh. The welcome to the ground was warm and for £6, I got entrance and a programme. I was able to sit in the modern cafeteria and enjoy a cup of tea before the game.
Stansfeld’ stop scorers this season are Ollie Milton with 12 goals in 23 games and Jack Carthy with 11 in 16. Stansfeld also added prolific scorer, Lee Friend, from SCEFL League Division 1 rivals, Snodland Town, to their attacking armoury.
The first half saw both sides evenly matched. Jason John having a clear run on goal for Forest Hill Park FC before being denied by a bobble on the pitch. The pitch condition made it hard to control the ball on the ground, although Stansfeld shaded possession as the half progressed.
On the stroke of half time, Stansfeld FC created a decent chance through Lee Friend, but his shot was blocked. The players went into the break, with the game poised evenly at 0-0. Whoever mastered the challenges, posed by the pitch, in the second half, would be able to grab the points.
The second half started with both sides hitting the ball long, in the hope of playing over the shortcomings of the pitch, to secure the first goal. However, it was a moment of class, from Stansfeld’s Tommy Whitnell, in the 56th minute, that secured the opening goal, to put the visitors 0-1 ahead.
More Stansfeld pressure paid off, in the 79th minute, when Casey Killilea headed in, from a corner, to make it 0-2.
Stansfeld played out the final ten minutes to grind out a hard win victory and to put themselves just a point behind the league leaders, Sutton Athletic, but with still two games in hand. Forest Hill Park’s fight for survival, this season, continues, but they showed some resilience and fight tonight despite their loss.