Deal Town 3-1 Lydd Town - We're going to miss the Vase, of course we are, but it's going to be new chapter in our history and why can't we go up and try and compete, says title-winning Deal Town boss Steve King

Saturday 13th April 2024
Deal Town 3 – 1 Lydd Town
Location The Charles Sports Ground, St Leonards Road, Deal, Kent CT14 9AU
Kickoff 13/04/2024 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 13 April 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Charles Sports Ground

DEAL TOWN manager Steve King says he is looking forward to being a part of a new chapter in the club’s history after celebrating winning the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title.

The club attracted their largest crowd of the season as 1,422 fans watched King’s side claim the ninth-tier title for the first time since Tommy Sampson’s side in 2000, who also became the first and only Kent club to win The FA Vase.

Deal Town sealed a comfortable victory, which ended Lydd Town’s hopes of grabbing a play-off place at the end of their maiden campaign at this level, despite travelling along the coast on a seven match unbeaten run.

It took Deal Town 10 minutes to open the scoring, through striker Jamie Kennedy, 19, who has now scored seven goals for the first team, having been plucked from the reserve side.

Lydd Town centre-half Jahmahl King scored a bizarre headed own-goal to double the home side’s lead, timed at just 10 SECONDS into the second-half, before winger Ifeoluwa Oni came off the bench to sweep in the third.

The Lydders scored a stoppage time consolation goal through a header from substitute striker Jack Shonk, who scored 25 goals for Bexhill United in Sussex and notched his third goal for his new club.

“I’m delighted, obviously we did a lot of the leg work in the last couple of months and then it’s about getting over the line,” said King, who was drenched in champagne during the post-match celebrations.

“Someone, somewhere wanted us to win at home on a Saturday and I wanted to win it Tuesday night at Lordswood (but we were held to a 2-2 draw), but we wouldn’t have had the same scenes if we had, so I’m just relieved that we’ve got it done and I’m absolutely delighted.

“I think we’ve deserved it. To win it with four games left, I think it’s a magnificent achievement from the players’ and everybody at the club. We’re really going to enjoy it and we’re going to able to enjoy the rest of the season now."

Lydd Town manager Scott Porter reflected on his 16th game in charge of the club (eight wins, four draws and four defeats).

“Sums the time I’ve been at Lydd to be fair, mistakes, individual mistakes have cost us every single game. Every single goal we’ve given away is a mistake.  No-one’s scored a worldy past us.  Look at the goals today, just sums it up. Sums up the time I’ve been at Lydd.

“I’ve just said to them in there, Deal do the same jobs for 90 minutes, every single player and we don’t and sometimes we play as individuals and you’re not winning anything with that mindset and it needs to change.

“It needs to change for the next two games. It needs to change for next season because credit to Deal, they deserve everything. They’re a well-organised side, they’ve been together a long time and congratulations to them but that sums our season up, the time that I’ve been at Lydd, just poor, poor goals.”

Deal Town have picked up 86 points (27 wins, five draws and four defeats) from their 36 (of 40) games to win the league title.

The play-off places are held by Glebe (77 points, two games left), Corinthian (76 points, two games left), Faversham Town (74 points, three games left) and Erith Town (71 points, four games left).

Whitstable Town (67 points, two games left), Bearsted (75 points, four games left) and Lydd Town (64 points, 19 wins, seven draws, 11 defeats, two games left), make up the top eight.

The abandoned home game against Fisher will not be played, with Lydd Town confirming that Fisher will be handed the three points as they were winning the game at the time. The club have been given a timeframe to appeal the decision and the League table will be updated accordingly next week.

“I don’t want to talk about budgets and stuff like that because every club does what they want to do,” said King.

“We’re a self-funding club, nobody puts any money in. All the money we generate is from the crowd.  We’ve had an unbelievable crowd today.

“I don’t like the phrase ‘the right way,’ because football’s all about winning, about being successful but a lot of clubs have spent a lot of money this year and have got a lot of very good players in.

“What we’ve done is built it since 2015 and I think all the hard work that a lot of people have put in. I think it shows if you do things properly at a football club and you’ve got a supporting board and you show a little bit of patience that you can get success and that’s the proud thing.

“It’s not about me. I lead the group but the support of the board, the support from everybody around the club, the players’, their loyalty, my coaching staff, my management team, it is a massive team effort.”

Both teams traded blows during an open first five minutes on a warm and sunny day at the Charles Sports Ground.

Deal Town produced a sweeping move, which saw right-winger Tom Chapman link up well with Ashley Miller, who played in Kennedy, whose right-footed shot was held by Lydd Town goalkeeper Craig Smith, low to his right, after only 34 seconds.

Porter said that “he expected,” his goalkeeper to make the saves that he did during the first half.

Lydd Town’s holding midfielder Sam Adams was pulling all the strings and a couple of wonderful set-piece deliveries should have been taken.

Firstly, he floated his first corner in from the right and central midfielder Robbie Dolan met it with a header on the edge of the six-yard box, which looped over.

No Deal Town player pressed Adams as he drove down the heart of the pitch, before drilling a right-footed drive from 35-yards, which screamed just past the right-hand post.

Porter said: “Robbie’s unlucky there.  It was a great delivery and Sammy’s had a strike.  We was in the game in the first half but even after the goal went in, we were still in the game but we wasn’t good enough in the final third. It’s as simple as that.

“In the first half we dictated with the ball. We played some good football but we wasn’t clinical.  We wasn’t on the front foot in the final third and we didn’t defend properly, simple as that.”

Craig Smith made his second comfortable save of the game (4:44 on the clock).

Right-back Joe Reeves threw the ball into the box, 23-goal striker Aaron Millbank laid the ball off to Tom Chapman and his left-footed low drive from 16-yards was held by the visiting goalkeeper, low to his right.

Deal Town opened the scoring with nine minutes and 20 seconds on the clock, with Jahmahl King and Mr Lydd Town, Ryan Smith caught out at the back.

Left-back Jack Penny launched a long ball out of defence and the Lydders’ two central defenders failed to deal with the ball and Kennedy headed the ball past the two defenders before cutting into the box and sweeping his left-footed shot across keeper Craig Smith, which was rolling towards the bottom far corner.

Lydd Town’s left-back Kane Penn got back on his goal-line and his attempted clearance crossed over the line in the centre of the goal.

“Jamie Kennedy’s done brilliant for us,” hailed the championship-winning manager.

“It’s always going to be a nervy start. It’s always going to be cagey. I think I’ve said to whoever I’ve spoken to, getting over the line in any sport is the hardest thing.

“Last dart, the world championship for a darts player, last few runs for a cricket team. It always seems to be difficult to get over the line and it was always going to be a nervy start.

“Lydd are a good side.  They still had a chance of getting in the play-offs.  That goal settled us down.”

Porter said: “The ball’s bouncing, it was windy, the pitch is hard and it’s gone over Kingy’s head and then it bounced to Ryan and he ain’t cleared it and they’ve run on and scored, so it’s just a mistake.”

Deal Town went close to doubling their lead just after 20 minutes when central midfielder Macauley Murray switched the play from close to the half-way line out to Penny, who shrugged off Troy Howard before drilling a long diagonal ball out to the right.  Millbank cut the ball back to Tom Chapman, who cut onto his left-foot to sweep his shot past the base of the near-post from 20-yards.

The home side were dominating the game at this stage and another chance went begging (24:10).

Penny smacked a volley upfield, Penn’s hooked clearance from left-back went straight to Tom Chapman, who played the ball into 20-goal midfielder Billy Munday but the visiting goalkeeper stepped to his right to comfortably gather.

The Lydders then enjoyed a decent spell of possession and they really should have grabbed an equaliser following a set-piece in the 32nd minute.

Penny was penalised by referee Howard Collins for fouling right-winger Howard and Adams whipped in a quality delivery from within the right-channel towards the back post where Robbie Dolan sent his free-header just past the left-hand post from six-yards.

“I think he’s got to score to be fair. I think he knows that as well and it would’ve been a great time to score to get back in the game,” admitted Porter.

“That’s been the thing, not being ruthless in front of goal.  We got Sammy Adams on the ball all the time. He got on the ball. He’s clever, he’s a good player. He gets the team ticking.

“We was good down the right-hand side. It’s just a lack of quality in the right areas from Troy Howard and Harvey Welford the other side.  We wasn’t good in the final third.”

Lone Lydd Town striker Kenny Pogue often cut an isolated figure but he fed Howard in behind Deal Town centre-half Alfie Foster but the former Deal Town and Margate winger rushed his shot and sliced a first-time wide of the target on the angle from 12-yards.

Deal Town captain Millbank dropped deep before hitting a long 40-yard through ball to put Kennedy through on goal and his right-footed shot was parried by the diving Craig Smith’s right-hand, before Ashley Miller kept it alive inside the box and teeing up Tom Chapman, whose right-footed shot from 20-yards deflected past the far post.

Murray played in the home side’s resulting, first of two corners and Miller’s cut-back from the left by-line was put on a plate for Munday at the far post but his first-time shot from within a crowd of players, agonisingly struck the right-hand post.

“I didn’t think we were great first half, I’ve got to be honest,” admitted King.

“I thought we did ok.  We hit the post, probably should’ve gone 2-0 up. They didn’t really threaten, they had a couple of headers from set-pieces.

“I don’t think we played very well but I thought we were the more threatening side. Jamie Kennedy and Tom Chapman had a couple of chances and we worked on that corner routine that we’ve been working on.  It was devised in a car park in Lincoln that one before the Vase game. We nearly scored in the Vase with it, it nearly came off today.”

Porter admitted he was feeling “gobsmacked”, admitting his half-time team-talk literally went out of the window as his centre-half gifted Deal Town a second goal to kill the game off.

Deal Town restarted the game, Murray launched a long ball from the centre-circle into the final third and goalkeeper Craig Smith rushed to the edge of his penalty area and was beaten by Jahmahl King’s header (25-yards from his own goal) which went beyond the goalkeeper and bounced into the bottom left-hand corner of an empty goal.

King said: “At the start of the second half, it’s a dream start isn’t it?  That goes in at 2-0 and then they have to change the game. I felt quite comfortable at that point.

“It was lucky! I always say over the course of the season luck evens itself out. Refereeing decisions evens itself out and that’s why winning the league is such a big achievement because no-one can argue that after 40 games the best team wins it.

“Teams can win cups. You can win cups by getting nice draws and a bit of luck.  You don’t win a 40-game league without being the best side and I think we got a bit of luck with the second goal today.

“I didn’t think we got much luck (at Lordswood on Tuesday), so I’m not going to complain.  We had a stonewall penalty turned down and Lordswood go up the other end and we kick it into our own player and it goes in for an own goal and then we’ve hit the post.

“What a great time for us. You’ve got a massive crowd in, you’re 1-0 up at half-time, it’s edgy and you score a goal like that, 10 seconds into the second half. It was just meant to be today, wasn’t it?”

Porter gave his thoughts on the own-goal, which clearly left King’s defensive partner Ryan Smith in disbelief and very angry.

“We’re in the game, we were well on the game. All the pressure is on them, there’s no pressure on us. (I told them at half-time) to go and express yourselves and go and get on the ball and go and put a fight up and look what happened.

“It killed it. It’s killed it. It’s killed everything and I’ve never witnessed anything like it. It’s a bad, bad mistake from Kingy and the goalkeeper. It’s got to be dealt with by two experienced players, so there goes the momentum, it’s gone.

“There’s no communication. He’s (Craig Smith) not called early enough. The wind’s blowing, it just goes to him.

“I’m feeling just gobsmacked, gobsmacked. It’s killed my team-talk. It’s killed the lads’ mindset, which is gonna and it’s an uphill battle.

“They’ve got a big crowd here, so it’s hard, it’s difficult and then you’ve got to pick the lads up again after 10 seconds. I’ve never seen anything like it!”

Kennedy and substitute left-winger Rory Smith linked up well before the ball was worked back to Penny, who whopped in a deep cross towards the edge of the Lydders' box.  Millbank cushioned his header down for Tom Chapman, who swept a first time shot across the goalkeeper and deflecting past the far post.

Goalkeeper Adam Molloy – who has now won this division with Sheppey United, Erith & Belvedere and Deal Town – was called into action in the 70th minute.

Jahmahl King played the ball out of defence and rolled the ball to left-back Penn, who played a one-two with winger Harvey Welford, before Penn cut inside Tom Chapman before cutting onto his right-foot and unleashing a drilled 25-yarder towards the roof of the net, which was plucked out of the air by Molloy, stretching high to his right.

Porter said: “Kane Penn’s decent. He’s a really great player. He can play anywhere and he was a plus today, along with a couple of others but today, I’ve said to the boys, today you’ve got to be nine out of 10 or 10 out of 10 to win this game and we was way, way below that.”

King added: “It almost felt like a cup final for us. It had that cup final feel and once we got in front you don’t then want to make a mistake but I don’t really care about the performance. 

“It’s probably the first game this season that I’m not going to watch back tomorrow morning. I might watch it back on Monday but I’m just delighted we won.”

Deal Town’s second corner came in from the right by Penny’s left-foot and the ball came out to Oni, who hit a rasping drive which just missed the top of the left-hand post by inches from 22-yards.

Deal Town sealed their third League title by scoring their third goal with 33 minutes and 39 seconds on the clock.

A long ball over the top released substitute striker Wes Hennessey, who cut along the by-line down the right before putting it on a plate for Oni, who swept his right-footed shot across the keeper into the bottom far corner from six-yards.

“We always had the plan to bring on Rory Smith, Wes Hennessey, Josh Byford.  We knew we had four attacking players on the bench,” explained King.

“We knew we was going to start tiring.  We knew the last 20 minutes we would be a threat and two of the subs combined and that’s probably been our big difference this season, our depth of squad.

“Most of our benches have been really strong and when you’re bringing on players’ that can impact games, especially when you’re dominant in the game, it makes a big difference.”

Porter simply added: “We had the ball, gave it away in a poor area and then go and concede another poor goal. Another mistake, highlight of my time here.”

Porter was concerned that his side failed to lay a glove on Deal Town during the second half, but they did score a consolation goal 22 seconds into stoppage time.

Ryan Smith floated the ball into the penalty area, the ball was knocked across the face of goal by Robbie Dolan towards the far post and an unmarked Shonk headed past Molloy from inside the six-yard box.

Lydd Town complete their campaign at home to Glebe (20 April) and a trip to VCD Athletic (27 April) and Porter will get his players in shape during pre-season to ensure that they are challenging next season.

“We’ve just got to go and get them done and move on, simple as that. Hopefully we can play Saturday, without making a mistake,” added Porter.

“We’ll have to sit down at the end of the season and go over a few things and see where we are after that.

“The pre-season is going to be hard. It’s been a bit of an up-and-down season regarding that and organisation so next season, pre-season will be organised properly. It will be hard, they’ll be fit and they’ll be physical and we’ll be well-organised and well-drilled and there’s going to be a lot of comings and goings.

“We need to win the last two to finish as high as we can.

“It’s our own downfall by not getting in (the play-offs).  It’s as simple as that because we’ve slipped up.  We’ve given leads away, we’re not been ruthless in front of goal to finish teams off and we’re making mistakes and you’re not going to win every single game like that because you’re giving teams chances and that’s what we keep doing and that’s been our downfall, simple as that.”

When asked about Lydd’s goal, King replied: “I don’t care.  I don’t care.  No, I don’t care. Of all the goals ever conceded at this football club, that’s the one I care least about. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t care.”

Referee Howard Collins blew the final whistle (50:40) and at seven minutes to five o’clock, Deal Town were confirmed League champions and their fans ran on to the pitch to celebrate with their heroes.

The League has confirmed that Deal Town will be presented with the trophy on the final day of the season.

The league champions welcome Punjab United here on Tuesday (16 April), travel to Corinthian (20 April) before hosting Erith Town (23 April) and Stansfeld on 27 April.

Deal Town were thumped by Chipie Sian’s Punjab United 6-0 in last season’s Kent Senior Trophy Final – watched by a crowd of 1,851 – in Maidstone.

“A year to the day, 16th April.  We’ve got a little bit of history with Punjab.  We go to Corinthian and Michael Golding is a good friend of mine but we’re not going to go there and roll over.  We have got Erith Town at home on the Tuesday and then the last game, when we get the trophy, which I think will be another big crowd and another big celebration, so we’re going to try to win all four,” said King.

“First of all, we’ll respect the league because we’ve got Erith Town and Corinthian and those play-off places are going to be who’s at home and who’s away. It’s going to be crucial.

“We have got a lot of tired bodies so we will be making some changes now but we want to try to win all four because we’ve got three games at home. We’re going to have three good crowds and we don’t want to let people down, so we might change it around and throw a few youngsters in that have done well for us this season when they’ve played.

“We’re on 86 points, so can we get to 98 points and what an achievement that will be. If you get 98 points, that’s not just winning it, it’s smashing it.  We’re going to do our best but it does come with a caveat of we’ve got a lot of tired bodies so I’m not going to murder them.”

With a squad of local players, Deal Town are more than capable of challenging in and around the play-offs in the Isthmian League South East Division next season.

“I’ve always wanted to progress this football club. I’m a local person, I’m a loyal person and I don’t want to go anywhere else,” insisted Dover resident King.

“It means a lot to me and I want to see how far we can take this football club and providing the day I leave it – hopefully not for a long time – it’s in a better place than when I took over then I always think you’ve done your job well.

“To play Step Four football, to play in The FA Trophy, it’s going to be new. We’re going to miss The FA Vase, of course we are, but it’s going to be a new chapter in our history and why can’t we go up and try and compete?

“We know how difficult it’s going to be but we’re going to look forward to it and we’ll embrace it. I’ve definitely got a forward line for Step Four.”

Deal Town finished in fifth-place in the now defunct Aetolian League during season 1962-63 – finishing 10 points behind champions Cray Wanderers to win promotion into the Southern League Division One.

Deal Town struggled during three season’s at that level – winning only 15 league games from their 130 league outings.  The club were relegated and spent one season in the Greater London League before joining the Kent League in 1968 and have stayed there ever since. 

King is relishing the chance to manage in the eighth-tier next season.

“It will be our normal summer, we’ll asses.  We’ll look to bring in probably two, three or four players into areas where we feel we can strengthen but these players’ have proven they are good enough to play Step Four football and they will, providing they want to be here, which I’m sure they will, get that opportunity.

“We’ll add, of course we will, but we won’t be ripping it apart and building a new squad. We’re not going to win it, of course we’re not but we want to go up and we want to be competitive.  We want to keep the feel-good factor up around the town.  Let’s see where we go. Why not? Why can’t we go and compete at that level, there’s no reason. 

“I’ve been in the SCEFL for a long time, so I’m looking forward to playing different sides, going to new grounds, meeting different managers, it’s going to be good.”

King had this message for those closest to him.

“When I came out onto the pitch before the game you have a bit of a lump in your throat.  I’ve got to mention my family, my fiancé Kelly, because I’m football mad and they’ve suffered. I haven’t missed a game or training session for nine years. I’ve missed birthdays and weddings and I’ve missed a lot of stuff to try and do this.

“For my family to be here today as well, it was nice to spend some moments with them after the game – they’ve been so supportive of me because I know Woody (Erith Town manager Adam Woodward) said it the other day after you spoke to him after the Challenge Cup Final, but people don’t realise it’s not paid, this isn’t my job, it should be a hobby but it is a second job and our friends and the people closest to you are the ones that suffer the most and to win it at home and have those people here and see how much it means to everybody, I hope for them they understand the commitment.

“A massive thank you to my fiancé Kelly and the family because I hate losing. I’m intense and they suffer and I was really proud when I saw the crowd and have so many family and friends here. It was really nice.”

Deal Town: Adam Molloy, Joe Reeves (Liam Hark 83), Jack Penny, Billy Munday, Alfie Foster, Maxwell Niblett, Ashley Miller (Rory Smith 56), Macauley Murray (Josh Byford 86), Aaron Millbank, Jamie Kennedy (Wes Hennessey 74), Tom Chapman (Ifeoluwa Oni 74).

Goals: Jamie Kennedy 10, Jahmahl King 46 (own goal), Ifeoluwa Oni 79

Lydd Town: Craig Smith, Elliott Moore (Calvin Sedenu 89), Kane Penn, Sam Adams (James Rogers 77), Ryan Smith, Jahmahl King, Harvey Welford (Charlie Dickens 74), Robbie Dolan, Kenny Pogue (Jack Shonk 65), Ronnie Dolan (Billy Horley 86), Troy Howard.

Goal: Jack Shonk 90

Booked: Kane Penn 62, Ryan Smith 73

Attendance: 1,422
Referee: Mr Howard Collins
Assistants: Mr Nicholas Derrane & Mr Christopher Skilton
Observer:  Mr Ian McGrath