Stansfeld 1-0 Larkfield & New Hythe - Hopefully the boys will stay and give it a crack and hopefully we can compete at the higher level, says title-winning Stansfeld joint-manager Jamie Phipps

Tuesday 12th April 2022
Stansfeld 1 – 0 Larkfield & New Hythe
Location Foxbury Avenue, off Perry Street, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6SD
Kickoff 12/04/2022 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Tuesday 12 April 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Foxbury Avenue

STANSFELD joint-manager Jamie Phipps says winning the Southern Counties East Football League First Division title for the first time hasn’t sunk in yet – but it will!

Jointly-managed by Phipps and Billy Hamlin, the club celebrated their glorious success by beating third-placed side Larkfield & New Hythe, courtesy of Dan Parkinson’s eleventh goal of the season.

Stansfeld have banked 84 points from their 35 league games and the play-off places are currently occupied by Sutton Athletic (72 points), Larkfield & New Hythe (67), Snodland Town (65) and Bridon Ropes (62).

The likes of Tooting Bec (60 with a game in hand), Croydon (57) and Lewisham Borough (53 with a game in hand) are waiting to pounce.

A strong contingent from Stansfeld witnessed Sutton Athletic suffer a 4-0 defeat at Lewisham Borough last night and all they had to do was deliver at least a point to claim the league title and promotion into the Premier Division for the first time.

Stansfeld went into the game on a 10 match unbeaten run and having won their last seven, keeping four clean sheets before tonight.

“Brilliant! It’s been a lot of hard work, not just by the team but by the backroom people as well. Just fantastic,” said Phipps, 52, who has been involved with Stansfeld for 35 years.

“If you had told us in July we’d win the league with three games to go, reach the Fifth Round of The FA Vase, we’ve had a fantastic season. All credit to the boys, the hard work and unity that we’ve got.”

The League should have presented Stansfeld with the silverware after tonight game – especially after Sutton Athletic slipped up last night.

Phipps revealed: “We didn’t want the trophy here tonight.  We didn’t want to tempt fate and we didn’t know how Sutton Athletic would do last night so if they had won last night we couldn’t have won it tonight anyway so we didn’t want to tempt fate and having it here a little bit prematurely so it’s fine, we’ll get it Bank Holiday Monday.

“I thought we created the better chances. It was a bit of a scrappy game but I thought we edged it.  Larkfield are a very good side.  I don’t think Charlie (Cottrell) had too much to do. I can’t remember him making a save and their keeper made a couple.  We just edged it, I thought.

“We said before the game play the game and not the occasion.  We’ve done that really well this season.  We played seven games in the Vase and we didn’t lose one of them so we know we can handle the big occasion quite well so that’s all we said to them, play the game and not the occasion.

“We had a bit of a luxury because we had four games to get a point and we haven’t lost four all season so the chance of us losing four on the bounce was quite slim but we never took anything for granted.  We worked hard tonight. I thought the boys worked really hard, the work-rate from everyone was fantastic.”

Larkfield & New Hythe manager Kris Browning said: “First things first, congratulations to Stansfeld, a massive achievement for them, so congratulations to them and good luck to them next season.

“I’m slightly disappointed to lose 1-0. I thought we deserved a draw but I think we went into the game knowing that they had four hits really of winning the league.  They were more relaxed, they’ve worked hard throughout the season to put themselves in that position so it was always an uphill battle to come here and get something tonight.”

Larkfield & New Hythe arrived in Chislehurst on a 12 match unbeaten run but they created very little in attack.

Browning explained why he played centre-half Stuart West as an emergency lone striker.

“We’ve lost Charlie Smith through suspension. The two lads we had on loan, Luke Baptiste and Jack Nelson were recalled by (National League side) Dover Athletic so we’ve lost three of our main strikers and that’s mainly why we played Westy as a lone striker up front.

“He played there for Ashford and Whitstable and we just wanted to consolidate their midfield of the park where we know they’re very strong, which I thought we did well with and kept them to long shots but in the end we’ve been caught with a set-piece and sloppy defending.”

Larkfield & New Hythe’s best chance of the entire evening came in the 12th minute.

Left-back Tom Willoughby drilled a left-footed 60-yard diagonal pass towards the edge of the Stansfeld penalty area, Stuart West flicked it on and winger Brett Ince ghosted in to smash a left-footed volley screaming into the side-netting from 18-yards.

Browning said: “I think he should score. I think it’s a hell of a diag. That’s what we worked on tonight, diags are important.  We made sure Josh Jackson and Ince gives us that width. As soon as the full-backs picked it up we wanted them to peel off. It was kind of text book really. I think Ince normally will bury that for us but he hit the side-netting.”

Phipps added: “It was a good ball actually but it didn’t really trouble us.  Charlie was quite comfortable with it.  He looked quite comfortable. I don’t think there was too much danger there.”

Stansfeld created a decent opening to score in the 20th minute when the outstanding centre-half Billy Parkinson swept a through ball forward to put in striker Lee Friend, who drilled his shot across the keeper and past the far post from 15-yards.

Billy Parkinson sublimely brought the ball out of the air and under control inside his own half before right-back Sam Smith clipped the ball over Lewis Mingle, who did just enough to put off Friend, who flicked his shot past the foot of the near post.

However, visiting goalkeeper Scott Andrews showed a pair of safe hands on the half-an-hour mark, getting down low to his left to hold Dan Parkinson’s drilled right-footed shot from 35-yards, which was heading towards the bottom far corner.

Phipps said: “The keeper did well, his hands were good there. Dan’s done that a few times in the last few games. We know what he was going to do but the keeper had good hands there.”

Browning added: “It could’ve gone anywhere on this bobbly pitch.  Scott Andrews is a very, very safe pair of hands and he has been since he’s taken his chance and he’s been outstanding for us since he’s come in and taken his place.  You can always rely on him with his experience.”

Stansfeld edged a hard-fought first-half battle played at a frenetic pace and Andrews pulled off a great save to thwart the home side in the 34th minute.

Centre-half Rob Curtis hit a long ball which released 16-goal Ollie Milton down the left and he cut the ball back for left wing-back James Hawkins to take a touch before whipping in a deep cross which was met at the far post and outside the box by right-wing-back Smith and Andrews used a strong left hand to push the ball towards safety to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom near corner.

“A good save. He got a good hand on it. A good height for the keeper to be fair.  Hit the target, which is what you ask him to do but it was a decent save by the keeper,” said Phipps.

Browning added: “Another good save from him. He’s definitely got that in his locker and he’s made two great saves for us.”

Larkfield & New Hythe were disappointing and a half chance came their way following their first corner of the game just before the break.

Winger Ross Ibbertson’s corner failed to beat the first man, who cleared his lines at the near post.  Willoughby recycled the ball back into the box, which was cleared out to Ince, who swept a first-time shot harmlessly wide from 25-yards.

“I think due to losing the strikers we have over the last few weeks, we haven’t created as much as we can but saying that against Staplehurst (a 1-1 draw at home on Saturday) we did create quite a bit but tonight I just think it was trying something different with Westy up front,” added Browning.

“We’ve only played him up front for half a game this season and it was maybe to get the ball into him and feed off him.

“Coming away from home, we find it a bit tricky and they did limit us to a couple of chances so I am frustrated but then I wasn’t expecting us to come here and have a host of chances.”

Phipps added: “Nil-nil at half-time and we’ve won the league so all we said to the boys at half-time was keep the work-rate going, keep the intensity going.

“I always thought one goal would win the game. It never looked like there would be too many goals so I always thought one goal might win it. We didn’t have to score to win the league, all we had to do was keep a clean-sheet, which we have done 13 times this season.

“We know we defend well so we know that we don’t have to score two, three or four goals to win football matches.”

Stansfeld created their first opening of the second half after only 38 seconds.

A big kick by keeper Charlie Cottrell was hooked out to the left-flank by Aidan Hayes and Hawkins drilled in a low cross but Friend lacked composure on the edge of the box and sliced his first-time shot harmlessly wide.

Stansfeld then created a chance in a second phase of Dan Parkinson’s corner, which came back to him and he put the ball back into a crowded penalty area but Hayes’ hooked right-footed volley looped into Andrews’ gloves as he stepped to his right to make a comfortable catch.

“It was comfortable, not a lot of power on it so it never really troubled the keeper. If he got a bit more power and maybe a bit more height on it, it might’ve troubled him but it was a comfortable save,” admitted Phipps.

However, Stansfeld sealed the deal by deservedly taking the lead with 14 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Hawkins launched a long throw into the box from the right, the ball was cleared out to Friend, who put the ball back into the box and Dan Parkinson found a pocket of space inside the six-yard box to flick the ball into the roof of the net with his boot.

Phipps said: “It was a bit of a strange goal to be honest. It seemed to be like slow motion.

“Lee Friend helped it back in and Dan ran off the back of someone and just put it in the roof of the net.

“He’s scored a few winning goals down in the last six to eight games. His contribution has been fantastic.

“You look at Billy Parkinson today, he was magnificent. I thought Billy Parkinson was the best player on the pitch in my opinion.  The (brothers) give you commitment and other players’ look around and if gives you a lift.  They’ve been brilliant for us. We’re lucky to have a lot of these boys.”

Browning added: “We thought he was offside standing where we were standing and then someone came round and told us he wasn’t offside but he looked offside from where we were but if he’s onside, he’s onside.

“We cleared our lines and we only half clear stuff and teams pounce on us and they pounced on it tonight really. We left him in at the back post and he tapped it in.

“I would’ve been happy with a nil-nil but we would’ve snatched it with a set-piece.  That was my objective. Get just a point here to cement that third play-off place.  We just tried to nullify it. They had nothing to lose really. We tried to stifle them and tried to hit them on the break.”

There would be no fightback from Larkfield & New Hythe, who put in a disappointing performance during a game between two sides gunning for promotion, either automatically or via the maiden play-offs.

Stansfeld should have doubled their lead at the halfway point when Larkfield’s centre-half Mingle opened the gate after failing to deal with a long ball and this let in Friend but Andrews rushed off his line and smothered the shot low to his right in a one-v-one situation.

“Lee will be upset. I think his second touch just took the ball away from him a little bit and gave the keeper a chance to close him down a little bit a bit more than Lee would’ve liked,” said Phipps.

“But that’s the danger when you’re going downhill. If your touch ain’t great, the ball can run away from you. It was another good chance and another good save from the keeper.”

Browning added: “Lewis Mingle is coming back from injury and he was superb for us tonight. He’s held the back line there. These things happen, especially Lee Friend. Look at the goals he scores, his movement is superb. He’s gone through and Scotty has come to our saviour again.”

Browning’s men didn’t look like scoring and Stansfeld keeper Cottrell superbly plucked four crosses out of the air with some expert handling during the final embers of the game as Stansfeld ran out deserved winners and deserved champions – all without a playing budget too, which adds to the romance.

Phipps said: “I think people underestimate Charlie because he’s not the tallest keeper but he’s fantastic in the air. He gets up so well and his handling is superb.  Charlie has been brilliant for us since he’s been with us.”

Browning agreed, adding, “I thought the keeper’s handling for them was superb for a smallish sort of fella. When you’re winning leagues and you’re topping tables you must have something about you regards to goalkeeper and back four and I thought he’s an exceptional goalkeeper.”

Champions Stansfeld travel to thirteenth-placed Faversham Strike Force on Good Friday (14:00), before welcoming bottom-three side Meridian VP to Foxbury Avenue on Easter Monday before completing their campaign at Greenways.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet but it will.  We want to go and win them, no disrespect to the three teams. We want to win as many games as we can,” said Phipps.

“It’s brilliant to win the league being 12 points clear with three games to go but we want to finish the season strong. We don’t want to let it peter out and we’ll be at it for the next three games.”

When asked about life in the Premier Division, Phipps insists Stansfeld will maintain their amateur status.

“We won’t have a budget, it’s as simple as that.  We’ve got no way to generate revenue to create a budget for the playing side,” said Phipps.

“We’d like to think all the boys we’ve got will stay. I’m sure some vultures will circle at some point in the close season. We’ve now got the platform to play higher, automatic entry in the FA Cup as well, which is fantastic for us.  We’ve been in it before but it was a bit of a lottery and now we’re in it on merit.

“Hopefully the boys will stay and give it a crack and hopefully we can compete at the higher level.  As I’ve said to you many times, everybody does it for nothing -  – it will sink in!”

Larkfield & New Hythe travel to Meridian on Friday, before welcoming Greenways to New Hythe Lane on Easter Monday before completing their campaign at Lydd Town on Saturday 23 April.

Teams that finish second and third will be at home in the play-off semi-finals and Browning wants his players to use Stansfeld claiming the title as motivation to join them in the ninth-tier of English football next season.

“Meridian will be tricky, they’re looking to survive themselves. It’s always a tough place to go,” said Browning.

“But as I’ve said to the lads after the game, they’ve given me everything tonight and they came here and they carried out what I asked them to do. It was my game plan to stifle them and to play 4-5-1 and hit them on the counter.  They carried it out and we’ve just been caught out with some sloppy defending from defenders who have given me everything tonight.

“That’s what happens at this level but it’s 1-0 away from home but we’ll bounce back. We’ve got some good characters in that dressing room.

“I’ve spoken to all of them tonight about what we’ve got to do in the next couple of weeks going forward, they’re up for it. They want it. We know we’re in the play-offs, wherever we finish up. They’ll give us their all and hopefully I’ll get it right tactically and these lads will give me their all.

“We’ve got to make sure we go to Meridian, put in a good performance, win and concrete that third place so at least we’re at home for the Semi-Final because our place is a bit of a fortress and then we just go from there.”

Browning insists he has met his club’s objective in their maiden campaign at this level and insists he is not under pressure to join Stansfeld in the Premier Division.

“Listening to Stansfeld and how they won it tonight and the way they celebrated and I told the lads to listen to that and want that because they’ve done something special this season, the way they’ve played and everything else,” said Browning.

“I’ve won promotions as you know and I just think that’s an ingredient and you look at that and you learn from teams and you’ve got to look at teams.

“When we came here with K Sports and Glebe won the (First Division) I watched pretty much what the did and tried to mirror it the season after.  It’s just getting that balance right and getting the right players in to carry it out.

“They’ve got to show that desire that Stansfeld have shown which they know and that togetherness and if it’s this season or next season that’s the ingredient we ned to win anything.

“There’s no pressure, they’ve put no pressure on me whatsoever. The objective at the start of the season, it went a bit over the top, I’m not used to that and the pressure came to smash leagues and you need a bedding in time. The club needed reinforcement and needed a base to build from.

“I know Welling Town came up and they won it the first season they came up but this is the strongest I’ve known this Step Six. I think lockdown let a lot of teams to regroup and I think the money being spent in the higher divisions, a lot of players weren’t getting in and dropped down to our level.

“I put myself under pressure. I like the pressure.  I still think with the squad we’ve got, we can still get out of the play-offs. 

“They’ve told me from Christmas time they’ll be happy with the play-offs.  I’ve achieved with a squad that we’ve only had for one season, our first season in the league. We’re still focusing getting through the play-offs but if not they’ve told me we rebuild again for next season but me being me and the lads we’ve got, we want to go up through the play-offs this season.”

Stansfeld: Charlie Cottrell, Sam Smith, James Hawkins, Rob Curtis, Billy Parkinson, Casey Killilea, Dan Parkinson, Aidan Hayes (Teddie Bailey 82), Lee Friend, Ollie Milton (Ross Morley 70), Macey Malyon (Tommy Whitnell 79).
Subs: Joe Borland, Rob Hughes

Goal: Dan Parkinson 60

Booked: Dan Parkinson 45, Aidan Hayes 80

Larkfield & New Hythe: Scott Andrews, Jack West, Tom Willoughby, Jack Bray, Jack Clark, Lewis Mingle, Ross Ibbertson (Hicham Akhazzan 72), Jake Beecroft (Robert Lyall 82), Stuart West, Joshua Jackson (Daniel Lott 76), Brett Ince.
Subs: Keaton Courtman, Marc Powell

Booked: Joshua Jackson 31, Jack Clark 40, Jack Bray 63

Attendance: 125
Referee: Mr Thomas Marshall
Assistants: Mr Paul Greenfield & Mr Joshua Reid