I’d been to watch Gillingham Fc play their final match of the season against Rotherham at an early kick off, before rushing across to Hextable, the home of Sutton Athletic, to see the Southern Counties East Football League (SCEFL) Division 1 play off final.
I’d been fortunate to see the play off semi final on Tuesday evening, between Kris Browning’s Larkfield & New Hythe team and Snodland Town. The game had been eventually, settled by a long range Jack Bray effort, in the second half, but was a match which the home side had never really, looked like losing.
Sutton Athletic, managed by Dan Kelly, who had finished second in the very competitive SCEFL Division 1 this season won comfortably in their semi-final, at home to Tooting Bec. Arlie Desanges, their talismanic goal machine, with 41 goals from 41 games this season, had scored along with Ijah Currie-Wilson and Jacob Kolanda, as the home side secured a comfortable 3-0 win to see them into today’s final.
This was my second visit to the London Hire Ground this season, having seen Sutton Athletic beat FC Elmstead 3-2 in a thrilling match, over the Christmas period. It’s a decent ground with ample parking, even for the huge crowd that gathered today and covered standing and seating. It has a nice clubhouse but will require some more hard standing pathways if the ground is to qualify for the next level, depending on the outcome of the match today.
The first 30 minutes saw mostly Larkfield & New Hythe pressure, with a great chance on 30 minutes falling to Jake Beecroft, who shot narrowly wide. Sutton Athletic looked nervous when defending and got away with some errors at the back. Larkfield picked up three bookings, which really felt like they could have serious consequences later, in such a close fought game.
Then in the 40th minute, after clawing their way back into the half and securing two corners in quick succession, Sutton Athletic went a goal up, when Arlie Desanges stabbed the ball home, after the ball broke to him, following another corner.
Larkfield came back at Sutton and on the stroke of half time were awarded a penalty, after a clumsy, late challenge on Jackson, right at the edge of the penalty box. Top scorer, Jake Beecroft stepped up for Larkfield & New Hythe but his penalty struck the post and at the halftime whistle it was Sutton Athletic who walked off with their heads up, leading by one goal.
The second half started with Sutton Athletic looking likely to add to their total but then on 68 minutes Larkfield & New Hythe came to life when they had a second penalty of the match. This time the Sutton Athletic keeper saved the penalty but Hicham Akhazzan followed up to make it 1-1.
Both teams threw everything at the last quarter to secure a winner but at full time the scores were tied at 1-1, so the game went into an energy sapping, extra time, in the Spring sun.
The extra time started, with Larkfield & New Hythe’s players visibly tired and Sutton Athletic relentless, in their own attempts to move forward. On 97 minutes Sutton Athletic’s Billy Muckle volleyed from 20 yards out and the ball flew past Andrews, in the Larkfield goal, to put the home side 2-1 up.
Larkfield & New Hythe’s Charlie White, was then given a red card, in the 100th minute, for a late tackle. Despite being down to ten men, Larkfield & New Hythe continued to fight upto the half time whistle, when the sides went in with the score: Sutton Athletic 2 Larkfield & New Hythe 1.
The second half saw Larkfield & New Hythe fade, as the exhaustion of 120 minutes of play with just ten men, really took its toll. At the final whistle it was Sutton Athletic who celebrated the victory and claimed the promotion place to the SCEFL Premier League, for 2022/23.