For the second match of the day I travelled the short distance from Faversham to a Whitstable on the East Kent Coast, to see a Kent Senior Trophy, first round match between two teams that ply their trade in the Southern Counties East Football League (SCEFL) Premier Division.
The Belmont Ground has undergone a transformation since my last visit, with a 3G surface having been layed. The capacity of the ground is 3000, and Whitstable Town first played at the Belmont in 1888, so it is a ground steeped in history and character. Today’s tie attracted a good sized crowd of 346.
Whitstable Town were relegated last season from the Isthmian League South East, but have made a mixed start to life at Step 5, standing in tenth place as the tie commenced, with fifteen points from their opening eleven fixtures. Manager Richard Styles, who left rivals, Tunbridge Wells, to take up the manager’s role at Whitstable, in the summer, will know he is expected to gain promotion. Matt Gething is currently their top scorer, with five goals.
Stansfeld were promoted into the SCEFL Premier Division last season, as runaway winners of Division 1. Joint managers Billy Hamlin and Jamie Phipps will be delighted with a position of third in a highly competitive league, coming into this game, having secured twenty one points in twelve matches. Tommy Whitnell has top scored with four goals.
Both sides would enjoy the break from league football, knowing there is the very real prospect of drawing out a Kent Isthmian or even national league side, in the next round, for the winning team.
The game opened brightly with both sides creating early chances on the fresh looking 3G surface. In the 11th minute it was Stansfeld who broke the deadlock with Harry Day finishing, to put them 0-1 ahead.
At the break, despite plenty of chances the score remained 0-1. As the teams came out for the second half, it was announced that Whitstable Town’s Josh Oliver had been sin binned at the break and would be out for ten minutes.
The second half saw both sides throw caution to the wind and for Stansfeld, striker Lee Friend had two chances, to go clean through and put the tie out of reach, whilst strike partner, Tommy Whitnell, had a shot palmed over well, by Dan Eason, in the Whitstable Town goal.
This seemed to trigger Whitstable Town into action and for the final 20 minutes, they applied severe pressure on the Stansfeld defence. With a minute left on the clock, Whitstable had two great chances to score, but some last gasp defending and a combination of Charlie Cottrell in the Stansfeld goal and the woodwork, kept them at bay.
At the final whistle it was Stansfeld who deservedly went through to the next round. Whitstable Town will want to focus now on their league ambitions but on this evidence Richard Styles will have to think again if his side are going to force themselves into the promotion places. Stansfeld come away from the Belmont with confidence high and the chance to play a higher level side in the next round.