It's been a fantastic season and one I will never forget, says Sheppey United's quadruple winning captain Billy Bennett
SHEPPEY UNITED captain Billy Bennett says winning the Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup yesterday was the icing on the cake.
Ernie Batten’s side claimed the delayed 2019-20 Kent Senior Trophy after beating Isthmian League South East Division side Corinthian 3-1 on 1 February, before they retained the silverware by beating Gillingham-based Hollands & Blair 2-1 on 10 April.
Sheppey United completed their Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division campaign as champions after beating basement side Tower Hamlets 3-0 on the final day of the season, finishing with 102 points on the board from their 38 games.
Chatham Town will also join them in the Isthmian League South East Division next season as Kevin Hake’s men finished on 100 points.
Bennett, 29, scored Sheppey United’s first goal in the 40th minute as they beat tenth-placed finishers Crowborough Athletic 5-2 yesterday to cap off a quadruple winning campaign.
“I think it just puts the cherry on the cake really,” said attacking midfielder Bennett.
“We’ve worked so hard all season and thankfully got over the line in the league, which we were pushed to the wire by Chatham, so credit to them.
“We were successful in two cups prior to yesterday but I don’t think this team, this group of players will never get bored of winning.
“We won the first cup, which was the delayed 19-20 Kent Senior Trophy in February and from there on in I think that put us in good stead. We continued to play games with a super intense backlog and we’ve just picked them off. We were getting the wins under our belt and thankfully we won the league.”
Sheppey United’s last defeat was a 2-0 defeat to third-placed Glebe on 18 January and the club went unbeaten in their last 26 games and won their last 14 in all competitions.
“I think you’ve got to give credit to the boys and the club more so because the club have that determination, that drive, that hunger and the enthusiasm to enable you to succeed and if things are in place above playing level then the players should but into what they do and thankfully we have this year,” said Bennett.
“I didn’t realise it was that many, it was January since our last defeat. It just goes to show the trophy that we won in February from there on in it just gave us that winning feeling and the confidence was there week-in-week-out.”
Reflecting on the title race, the first time in the league’s history that two clubs have finished on at least 100 points, Bennett said: “It’s brilliant! We didn’t read too much into it until the last two months, the last 8-10 fixtures.
“We always knew the goal internally was to get over the Christmas period and then see where we’re at. We always knew we’d be up there and we thought Glebe would be up there with us also but it just goes to show the level within this league.
“I’ve played the level for quite a few years and it’s been the most competitive it’s probably ever been and that’s credit to both teams pushing us to the wire. Finishing on 102 points and 100 points respectively, I don’t think it will ever be done again.”
Bennett scored 24 goals this season and winning the quadruple with the Holm Park outfit is a career highlight.
“It’s good, I’d like to have scored more. It’s just about contributing for the team. I think my stats, my assists and my goals is complimentary towards myself but as long as we win or progress in the cup competitions, that’s all that matters in my opinion.
“It’s there, isn’t it, it’s got to be? I’ve been successful fortunately with league titles and cup competitions previously but to win it with these group of boys and coaching staff and everything about the club, it just means a little bit more.
“Also my own personal accolades when Jack Midson got injured around Christmas time, so I’ve lead the boys with the captaincy and that’s more of a personal privilege.
“But credit to everyone involved. It’s been a fantastic season and one I will never forget!”
With Sheppey United and Chatham Town’s financial muscle behind them, expect both promoted sides to be challenging for the top spots in the Isthmian League South East Division next season.
Bennett added: “We’ve got to go for it, it’s the only way. The club is that ambitious from chairman level to management level to coaching staff to everything around the club. The infrastructure is there.
“The players are all determined, we’ve got that winning feeling. I’m sure they’ll be some new faces, whether that’s down to the players or the club itself but as long as they get that same mentality they’ve had this season whereby everyone wants to win and it’s a collective then I honestly think we could be in that top play-off positions.”
Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division Leading Goalscorers Season 2021-22 (all competitions – 18 goals to qualify):
55 Dan Bradshaw (Chatham Town)
47 Jamie Philpot (Glebe)
35 Matthew Gething (Tunbridge Wells)
35 Warren Mfula (Sheppey United)
30 Jack Evans (Chatham Town)
24 Billy Bennett (Sheppey United)
23 Steadman Callander (Erith Town)
20 Gary Lockyer (Kennington)
19 Jordan Ababio (Bearsted)
19 Elliott Duncan (Crowborough Athletic)
19 Danny Lear (Erith & Belvedere)
18 Billy Munday (Deal Town)
Glebe, who finished their campaign in third-place on 81 points, have announced that striker Jamie Philpot, 25, has signed a contract to stay at Foxbury Avenue next season.
Chairman Rocky McMillan said: “This is fantastic news in our ambition to go one better next year.”