Published: 10:00, 29 May 2020
| Updated: 19:50, 29 May 2020
If you want a thrilling end to the season - look no further than Hythe Town’s last-gasp triumph in 2011.
Scott Porter’s team needed to avoid defeat at Tunbridge Wells on the last day to clinch the Kent League title but found themselves 2-0 down at the break. The match was levelled and the season settled with just a minute to go after the home keeper fumbled the ball into the net.
Hythe took the title on goal difference to win promotion to the Ryman League in what was Porter’s second season in charge. They had reached the FA Cup first round too, after some giant-killing triumphs, in what has been acknowledged as the club’s best ever season.
The man in charge back then takes us through the highs and lows in the sixth part of our ‘Decade of Champions’ feature.
BACKGROUND TO THE SEASON;
Hythe had finished third the season before in the Kent League.
It had been Porter’s first season in charge. He had played at the club for 10 years, known then as a tough tackling, no nonsense midfielder.
After a spell as reserve team manager and then assistant to Paul Fisk, he eventually landed the top job.
His direct style of play proved effective and with Brendon Cass firing in the goals, he had quality in there too. Cass had dropped down two leagues to sign from Folkestone Invicta that summer.
Porter said: “Brendon scored an amazing amount of goals, 40 odd and he got the golden boot. He made a massive difference.”
Lee Shearer was another key addition, bringing quality to the defence having helped Faversham win the league the year before, while Gary Mickelborough added pace following his move from Ramsgate.
THE FA CUP;
Hythe Town’s main aim was the league but the early part of the campaign was dominated by a terrific FA Cup run.
They beat Bookham, Deal Town, Epsom & Ewell and Erith & Belvedere before really starting to make a name for themselves.
Danny Cowley and his brother Nicky have gone onto make FA Cup history with Lincoln City in recent years but back in 2010 they were on the other side of the fence, beaten by Hythe while managing Concord Rangers.
A fourth qualifying round win over Staines Town earned Hythe a place in the first round.
Porter said: “You set out at the start of the season to try and earn a few quid from the FA Cup for the football club, that is what the cup is all about, you are never going to win it.
“When we went on the run, the Concord Rangers game was maybe the turning point, we went up there and they were doing well in the Ryman Prem at the time, two leagues above us.
“I think we scored with a deflected Dave Cook free-kick and it went in (Hythe won 1-0). Danny and Nicky are at Huddersfield now so you see how far they have come but they said we deserved it that day.
"Staines said the same and we had about 800 fans at the ground that day, it was a fantastic occasion.
“To get into the first round of the FA Cup was a miracle, wasn’t it?
The team enjoyed the win and watched the draw live in The Golden Arrow.
Porter said: “Celebrations had gone long into the night and the next day I was on TV for the draw, the sunglasses were on because I hadn’t been to bed! The only downer was there were a lot of lower teams in it and we didn’t get a home tie but we had a great experience.
“I even got a call off Harry Redknapp the day we left for Hereford. It was a complete surprise, just mad.”
Hereford, then in League 2, won the first round tie 5-1. It had been Hythe’s seventh game in the competition and they then had to focus on their number one priority - winning the league.
PLAYING CATCH UP;
“We were playing a lot of games, Saturday-Tuesday nearly every week,” Porter recalled.
“After that bit of experience we had to get the boys focussed. Winning the league was important to me, my coaching staff and the club. The players responded to it.
“I got a bit of money off the chairman from the FA Cup and brought in Nick Barnes after the FA Cup. He had been at Maidstone United and played at a good level. It was the turning point and allowed us to push on.
“To bring him in was instrumental for us to go and win the league. His experience pushed on the likes of Dave Cook, Pat Kingwell, Brendon Cass and all the youngsters involved as well. I had a good bunch of lads in there, a good mixture.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS;
Porter said: “We did a lot of stuff off the pitch as well as on it. We had nights out and I have always done that with my teams and it has paid off.
“I had a style of football in that league. You play at some venues and on pitches that aren’t great and you have to be direct, I do play direct football but it is effective and it is known to be because I have won the league with Hythe and I have got out of that league playing that way with Whitstable.
“I know you have got to win ugly sometimes, you have to go back to front very quick and play in their final third. The boys moulded into it and I had winners in my team. I had quality as well.
“People listened and understood and I looked after people, they were my friends on and off the pitch but they knew when we were in the changing rooms, that was football, we did what we did and then afterwards we would go upstairs and have a beer. We did lot of stuff out of football as a group and it paid off.”
“Dave Cook is a close friend of mine and he was pivotal to what we did at that football club. The season afterwards he was the Ryman League top scorer.
“He came as a pair with Pat Kingwell. Dave was my captain, I liked his hunger, he was a winner, plays with his heart on his sleeve and he scores goals and he defends too.
“He was box to box at the time, people looked up to him and he didn’t give up. His goals speak for themselves but he could also do the dirty work."
“I have the upmost respect for other managers and I will always shake their hands and have a beer with them but during the game it is always about me and my team and my players, I want to win.
“Herne Bay did it the year after and the year before that Faversham did it. It was always us three there or thereabouts and we all went and got promoted in the three years.
“We have all had ding dongs, we are there to win games but the respect is still there. We have all got promoted.”
THE RUN IN;
The Easter weekend saw Hythe travel to Woodstock Park to play Norton Sports. Porter knew it would be a battle, he had warned his players but they lost the game 3-1.
Porter said: “The pitch at Woodstock Park was not great, I knew they would just want to beat us up and they did, I said that to the boys, that they would try and spoil it. They had nothing to play for and we were there to be shot at. We got bullied and we got beaten up. They battered us.”
Hythe players responded and beat Beckenham on the Bank Holiday Monday, winning 6-2 at Reachfields.
The title could have been theirs that day but Herne Bay scored a goal late on in their game, taking the title down to the wire.
THE FINAL SHOWDOWN;
Hythe went into the final game two points ahead of Herne Bay and with a superior goal difference. Their rivals were away at VCD but all Porter’s men needed to do was avoid defeat.
Tunbridge Wells hadn’t read the script. Goals from Andy McMath and Keelan Mooney had put the home side 2-0 up at the break. Porter feared the worst.
“I had gone absolutely mad, I let the boys have it,” said Porter.
“We had come so far, it was such a long season with the FA Cup and all the games. We had a lot of support there including family and friends and everything was riding on this game. When the boys went out of the door I had a moment to myself.
“Gavin Ransley was my former captain and probably my longest serving player and he was sub. I said to him “we have blown it.” We were 2-0 down, it’s a bumpy pitch, a red hot day but he said, “come on - get out there” and as soon I went back out there I got my soul back. I thought, “yep, fair enough.”
The second half was one-way traffic as Hythe's players responded to their half-time roasting.
Ronnie Dolan’s 58th-minute goal got them back in it and then came the crucial moment - one which Porter didn’t even see!
Porter said: “Ronnie’s goal gave us a lift and then the dramatic happened. Brendon swung at the ball, it was a fluff shot, I turned around to the bench saying “how the hell has he missed that?!”
“I was going mad and then the next thing there was a roar, the crowd are going crazy and the ball is in the back of the net. I didn’t see it!”
The point was enough for Hythe to clinch the title and promotion.
“When the final whistle went there were great scenes,” Porter recalled.
“I can remember it all now and it was deserved at the end.
“It is a club close to my heart, I did a lot of good things there, as a player, a coach an assistant and then manager. I managed to achieve what nobody else had done.
“I have had a good chairman around me, good assistant managers, kit men, physios, it comes as a whole. I was one of their most successful managers and it is nice because I do work hard on and off the pitch and to get your rewards is great. I am proud of it.”
Porter left Hythe in 2014 after five years in charge and then led Whitstable to promotion from the same level in 2018, finishing six points behind champions Sevenoaks Town.
He moved upstairs at Whitstable as director of football but now has a fresh challenge as manager of Kent County League side Hawkinge, with his brother Daniel assisting him.
“They are on my doorstep and we are working on big plans to move up the leagues.”
The change of scene has allowed Porter to take a step back, enjoying watching and coaching his son, who is in the junior ranks at Folkestone Invicta.
“Hawkinge was perfect for me,” he said.
“You think you can do without football but you can’t!”
If you missed any of our 'Decade of Champions' features click the links below;