With the weather warmer and some holiday time on my horizon, I decided to come up for an evening midweek kick off, to Staplehurst, home of the Monarchs, for their Southern Counties East Football League fixture. This game had been reorganised twice before due to the pitch being unplayable, but tonight the weather was much drier and warmer.
The Jubilee Sports ground is situated in Staplehurst, near Maidstone and boasts a small clubhouse, covered stand with seating for 50, alongside covered standing, as well as floodlighting and a high quality grass pitch.
Larkfield & New Hythe came into the fixture in second place, some seven points behind their local rivals, Snodland Town. Staplehurst Monarchs sat in twelfth place, safe from the bottom two places by some twelve points.
Goals this season have been harder to find for the visitors, despite their second place, with Stuart West (6 goals) leading the way, since top scorer Luke Burdon moved to rivals, Lydd Town. Staplehurst Monarch’s goals have been led by Bradley Large (11 goals) and Kieran Pallett (5 goals).
The opening first half saw possession even between the teams, but Staplehurst Monarchs created the better chances, with Mackenzie Gardiner twice missing, when through on goal. Larkfield & New Hythe really looked like they missed a proven goal scorer and as the half progressed they seemed to run out of ideas, in the final third.
In the 33rd minute, a long cross from the Staplehurst Monarch’s left found the head of Harley Gorse, who finished clinically with a looping header, to make it 1-0.
At half time the sides went in with the scores separated by a single goal.
The second half saw a downpour of sub-tropical proportions as Larkfield & New Hythe came out determined to claw their way back into the match.
Both sides fought hard, in very difficult conditions, and created their best chances with long balls played over the top. Lewis Mingle and Luke Leppard for Larkfield & New Hythe didn’t stop running and battling throughout the second half, and were matched at the back for Staplehurst Monarchs, by James West and Connor Cheek.
At full time, it was Staplehurst who secured all three points. Larkfield & New Hythe need to address their recent bad run, so they don’t slip out of the play off places, as it now looks like they have handed the title to Snodland Town. The crowd of 97, who braved the rain, went home having been well entertained.