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Tunbridge Wells 2-2 Hythe Town - I'm the proudest manager in the world, says Scott Porter PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 30 April 2011
Safety Net Associates Kent League
Saturday 30th April 2011
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium

SCOTT PORTER says he is the proudest man in the world after his Hythe Town side held their nerve – just – to clinch the Kent League title on a gripping final day of the season.

League leaders Hythe needed to claim at least a point at Culverden Stadium to ensure Herne Bay were bridesmaids for the second successive season, but goals from Andy McMath and Keelan Mooney’s nineteenth goal of the season put Tunbridge Wells 2-0 up at the break as Hythe put in one of their worst showings of the season.

But Porter ripped into his beleaguered side during a crucial half-time motivational team-talk and Hythe camped themselves in Tunbridge Wells’ half in the second half and bombarded the penalty box and Ronnie Dolan’s sixth goal of the season after 58 minutes kept their title aspirations alive.

And Brendon Cass sparked wild scenes of celebration when he turned and drilled a shot, which Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper Michal Czanner helped into his own net – with 43:38 on the clock – as Hythe clinched the Kent League title on goal-difference as Herne Bay won ended their campaign with an eighteen match unbeaten run, by dramatically winning their final game at the death, 3-2 at third-placed VCD Athletic.

”We had to do a job here today and we made it f*****g hard, you know what I mean,” said Porter afterwards.

”I mean, we’ve made it hard all season to be honest with you, so it didn’t surprise me, but after the first half, I was hugely disappointed.

”We drilled it into the players’ how important it is – they must know anyway even without me saying anything – we were 90 minutes away from winning the league and when you do it such a hard way winning like that, it is a nice way winning like that, last minute, but you didn’t think it was going to come and it did and we’re the Kent League champions.  Table don’t lie”

Folkestone resident Porter, 32, added, “You say they’ve (Herne Bay) taken us all the way but we didn’t go top of the league until March.  We’ve got there and we’ve stayed there.  That’s exactly what I told the lads to do!  We have never been knocked off the top so we’ve got there and stayed there and that’s what I said to the lads as soon as we got there.  Don’t come off it and we ain’t off it and it’s as simple as that!

”We set out our stall ten months ago to win the league.  The FA Cup (run) and we had all those games behind (when) we lost to Lordswood at home 4-3 on 27th December who would think we’d come and win this league like this?  But we’ve grown in stature.  We’ve got a great bunch of lads, great character, great togetherness and we just kept going.

”People knock us (about our style of play) – I’m not bothered!  We’re top of the league!  We’ve won the league and we’ll be in the Ryman (League) next year and that’s all that matters!

”I’ve only been in the job two years, I’m 32-years-old and got some great people behind me and we’ve done it all together and it is all together. I haven’t done it on my own, I’ve done it with 20-23 people and all credit to them and it’s my proudest moment in my footballing career.”

Tunbridge Wells boss Martin Larkin insisted before the game that his side would go out to try and win the game to cement a creditable sixth place in the Kent League table without a playing budget.

Hythe Town almost got off to a dream start – after just nine seconds.

Gary Mickelborough swiftly sprinted down the right flank and his low centre found Craig Thompson at the near post but he poked his shot wide under pressure.

News filtered through by text message that James Duckworth had given VCD Athletic an early lead against Herne Bay and Ashford legends Tom Adlington and Ian Ross, standing beside the dug-outs at Culverden Stadium, passed the information on to the Hythe coaching staff.

Hythe were nervous.  Goalkeeper Kieron Mann dropped McMath’s free-kick – and chances were wasted at the other end.

Right-back Greg Smith had time and space to float a cross into the penalty area picking out Thompson at the far post, who leapt above Jason Bourne to loop a header into Czanner’s gloves after 21 nervy minutes.

Thompson squandered another decent chance within two minutes when he slid the ball into the side netting.

Skipper Dave Cook played the ball out of defence to release Lee Winfield down the right hand side and he stroked the ball across the face of goal and a stretching Thompson smashed a left-footed shot into the side netting.

The game was littered by free-kicks and Porter raged at referee David Smart on many occasions as the Maidstone official made a number of bad decisions, especially when a couple of shots from Hythe took clear deflections, only for the official to award goal-kicks.

Tunbridge Wells, however, grabbed the lead in the 37th minute, with an excellent finish from McMath – his sixteenth goal from central midfield.

McMath and Mooney exchanged a one-two on the left wing and McMath looked up and drilled an excellent shot from 30-yards on the angle, which flashed across Mann and nestled into the bottom far corner.

Nick Barnes, Hythe’s experienced central midfielder – barked out instructions to his team-mates to “relax” and Hythe’s title aspirations were turning into a nightmare when Tunbridge Wells doubled their lead 47 seconds into stoppage time.

Jason Bourne threw the ball to Carl Cornell, who cut the ball back to Bourne, who from the touch-line touched the ball to Scott Whibley on the half-way line, and he clipped the ball up field to release winger Jon Pilbeam, who ghosted past Pat Kingwell and his low centre was drilled into the bottom near corner by Mooney – a first time shot with his left-foot which left Hythe in disarray.

Porter admitted, “We couldn’t play any worse first half.  I got into the lads’ at half-time without a doubt! 

”We had 90 minutes to win the league and now we’ve got 45!”

”After going two down we was poor first half.  I think a few nerves hit a few players and you could tell that but I got into them and they’ve come out and that’s all credit to the lads to dig in like that, the pressure they’ve got.

”To be honest, the pitch, I wouldn’t put my dog on that pitch and that’s no disrespect to them – that’s awful! 

”At this standard of football the pitch is an absolute disgrace but it’s the same for both sides but at the end of the day we kept plugging away.

”I didn’t think it was going to come. I really didn’t! But it did and fairytales happen and it has today!”

Ten of Hythe’s thirteen corners came in the second half – a sign of the pressure coming from the visitors’, who threw the kitchen sink at Tunbridge Wells during a desperate and enthralling second half.

Dolan picked the ball up and cracked a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which took a deflection on it’s way to flashing wide – but the decision to award a goal-kick angered the tense Hythe bench.

But Hythe pulled a goal back in the 58th minute, as Dolan took the game by the scruff of the neck.

Thompson was released down the right hand side, beating Wells’ left-back Alex Rich, and he whipped in an excellent cross, which bounced off Czanner’s body and the ball dropped nicely for Dolan to hook a right-footed shot past the Slovakian goalkeeper.

Hythe increased their pressure – backed by excellent vocal support from the travelling fans – and Thompson was agonisingly close to scoring his 13th goal of the season.

Lee Winfield swung in a corner from the left and striker Thompson guided a glancing header across goal and agonisingly wide of the far post.

Halfway through the half, Barnes sent a right-footed chip narrowly over a back-peddling Czanner, but the ball dropped just over, before another chance came from a set-piece.

Winfield – Hythe’s longest serving player – delivered a corner from the right and Kingwell rose like a salmon and planted a header over the bar.

Cass then flicked the ball forward to release Thompson, who shrugged off the attentions of central defender Scott Whibley, but flashed a right-footed drive across Czanner and just past the foot of the far post.

A mistake from McMath in midfield gifted possession to Mickelborough who burst forward and his low drive deflected wide – but astonishingly a goal-kick was awarded, which didn’t please Porter, who sarcastically described the referee’s performance as a “masterclass.”

Tunbridge Wells were hanging on and were on the ropes and it was just a matter of time that Hythe would score.

News had filtered through that Herne Bay had levelled at VCD, courtesy of Toby Ashmore’s penalty – after Darren Marsden, who netted a dramatic last-gasp free-kick against Holmesdale on Easter Monday to keep the title race going down to the wire, missed an earlier penalty.

Desperate Porter threw on substitutes Simon Austin and Kieran Byrne, and there was a cheer around the ground when VCD Athletic regained the lead through Duckworth, only for Dan Lawrence to make it 2-2.

The tension was immense.  Hythe were on the brink of either winning or losing the title in what has been the most exciting Kent League title race since Maidstone United grabbed the title away from Beckenham Town on the last day of the season five years ago.

But Cass pulled it out of the bag as he played a major part in the title winning goal – timed at 43:38 – as Byron Walker’s late winner for Herne Bay after this game had finished proved to be all in vain for Simon Halsey’s side.

The ball was pumped into a crowded Tunbridge Wells penalty area and the ball fell to Cass and the goal-machine turned and struck the ball sweetly but his right-footed shot should have been saved by Czanner, who inexplicably let the ball bounce off his knees and nestle into the back of the net, sparking pandemonium on the terraces – some fans jumped over the fencing to celebrate – and coaches and players sprinted out of the dug-outs and on to the pitch to celebrate their title.

The giant keeper had a day to forget as his two errors led to Hythe’s two goals and he can expect a frosty reception when Tunbridge Wells play Herne Bay next season.

Cass, 27, said afterwards, “I’ve got to be honest.  I didn’t know it went in! 

”I hit it quite sweetly but I thought the goalkeeper saved it.  It wasn’t until I turned round when he spilt it and it went in and the crowds’ reaction I knew I scored.

”I’m obviously delighted we got the goal.  We got what we went out for which was a draw and we’re obviously delighted we’re going up.”

Porter added, “Without a doubt the lad’s an absolute genius in front of goal – the goals he’s scored for us.

”I signed him at the start and he said he’ll score the goals to get us out of the league and he’s done it.

”It’s written on there on the wall, Brendon Cass, 89th minute.  Without his goals we wouldn’t have been here.  I’m not taking nothing away from all my players, they’ve been an absolute dream to work with, made me the proudest manager in the world, proudest man in the world.”

Porter paid tribute to his backroom staff – Clive Cook, Nicky Dent and Martin Chandler.

”Clive doesn’t get a lot of praise, not from people outside Hythe, but at Hythe everybody knows the job he does and he’s like a father figure to me,” he said.

”We ring each other every day, we’re always on the phone trying to improve things and do things and he’s a father figure to me and an absolute godsend.

”We would be here without him. 

”Obviously Chandler and Denty work together and we’re just a big unit and that’s what it boils down to.  You can’t do this job on your own, by a long shot.  They’re a great backroom staff. Clive has been exceptional and they’ve played a massive part in this.”

After leading the team out in the FA Cup First Round at League Two Hereford United back in November, skipper Dave Cook admitted winning the league eclipsed playing at Edgar Street.

”You can’t explain the words at the moment – it’s unreal,” said the 27-year-old, midfielder turned central defender, who has scored 20 goals this season.

”We’ve had a good season this year.  We done the FA Cup run and as Scott says ‘he doesn’t want to be remembered for that.’

”You interviewed me for the FA Cup – it’s ten times better than that because you know you ain’t going to win the FA Cup.”

Tunbridge Wells boss Martin Larkin was upset that his side throw away a two-goal lead over the champions – but he is happy with finishing in the top six.

”We were 2-0 up at half-time and we wanted to win the game.  The point is what we wanted to secure this year.  We’ve finished top six so we’ve finished above Sevenoaks, which was nice to do,” he said.

”They’ve only had two shots on target in the game and they’ve both gone in.  The second one was an error, which is disappointing but we were very, very good in that first half – but second half we haven’t held on.”

Larkin revealed he could hear what Porter was shouting out in the visitors’ dressing room during the interval.

”He shouted a few words.  We could hear it from our changing room,” said Larkin,

”They threw the kitchen sink but we held it back.  Nothing was troubling us.  They scored a goal from a cross from the right hand side where out keeper has kicked it down the pitch and we could’ve held onto it a little bit longer to slow things down but he hasn’t and the second goal, Michal’s saved it and unfortunately the ball’s come out and he’s put it in.

”It’s frustrating because I think we would’ve been worth our victory today but they didn’t create much.  We knew what they were going to do.  We’ve knocked it all back so it’s disappointing.”

Larkin congratulated Hythe Town for clinching the Kent League title in dramatic style.

He said: ”They’ve worked very hard over the years and they’ve spent a lot of money to do it and they deserve the victory.  The league table doesn’t lie.  They’re top of it, whether it’s by goal difference or by 25 points they’re on top for a reason and they do what they do very well.  Full credit should go to the committee at Hythe who work very, very hard to put everything in place for the team to go out and to perform.”

Larkin is delighted with a top-six finish.  He led the club to the Kent Senior Trophy final, which they lost to Erith Town on 17 April, and they had good runs in the FA Cup (which included beating Dulwich Hamlet in a preliminary round  replay) and FA Vase.

”We’ve hit every target we’ve had this year,” he said.  “We had runs in the Cup, the Vase and the league.  We’ve hit every single one of them so we’re delighted with that.  We’ve finished sixth with no budget.”

Larkin admitted he is pleased that a striker of Cass’s calibre will be playing where he belongs – the Ryman League.

But he said, “It was an own goal to be fair.  Michal’s saved it and it’s hit his knee and it’s gone in but Brendon is a player who shouldn’t be playing in the Kent League!  He’s an exceptional centre forward and that’s the difference sometimes.

”The way they play they want someone in the box to finish off the goals for them.  Brendon’s a very, very good player.  He’s someone who has played at Ryman Premier level.  You can go right through their side, they’ve got players who should be at a higher league.”

Congratulations to everyone at Hythe Town on their Kent League title success.

Tunbridge Wells: Michal Czanner, Jason Bourne, Alex Rich, Tom Davey, Scott Whibley, Perry Spackman (Drew Crush 73), Jon Pilbeam, Andy McMath, Keelan Mooney, Carl Cornell, Rob Wells (Steve Ashmore 66).
Subs: Ben Williamson, Jack Harris, Callum Hampson.

Goals: Andy McMath 37, Keelan Mooney 45

Booked: Perry Spackman 53, Scott Whibley 56

Hythe Town: Kieron Mann, Greg Smith, John Walker, Pat Kingwell, Nick Barnes, Ronnie Dolan, Dave Cook, Lee Winfield (Simon Austin 83), Craig Thompson (Kieran Byrne 88), Brendon Cass, Gary Mickelborough.
Subs: Sam Conlon, Gavin Ransley, Dan Cook.

Goals: Ronnie Dolan 58, Michal Czanner 89 (own goal)

Booked: Craig Thompson 52, Pat Kingwell 72, Nick Barnes 86

Attendance: 251
Referee:  Mr David Smart (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Ollie Woodrow (Maidstone) & Mr Chris Clarke (Maidstone)

Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 May 2011 )
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