Hythe’s fund-raising activities reached new heights in the close season with goalkeeper Lee Harrington and Bruce Marchant’s sister-in-law Jackie Sanders making a sponsored parachute jump which raised around £500 for the club. Manager Glenn Dempsey kept most of last season’s squad but would lose Mark Hatcher, soon to move to the West Country and John Smith had retired. Tim Hulme and Steve Ireland had signed for Folkestone and Micky Heynes loan had ended. There was good news with the return of Duncan Hood, out for the whole of the previous season with a knee injury, and also Adrian Bray who had not played since November.
The pre-season games saw a couple of heavy defeats with many players still unavailable but the pitch was looking in excellent condition after much work in the summer. The first league game was a poor 2-0 home defeat to Slade Green but the club went the next six games unbeaten, although four were drawn. As cup games began to interrupt the league schedule there were four games without a win and the club was down in eleventh place in mid-November, when they were able to concentrate on the league.
December and January saw five wins in eight games to improve the league position a little but this was undone in February and March with five defeats in eight games to drop to twelfth. A slight rally during April saw four wins and the final game saw a Bruce Marchant hat-trick enough to beat Faversham 3-2 and Hythe finished in eleventh position.
There were a few comings and goings during the season. Neil Cugley, who was at Dover for the season, signed on dual-registration and managed 6 appearances and a goal. A defeat at Herne Bay in November saw Jeff Ross and Dave Arter score for the home side, two players who would be in Hythe shirts a few years later. Paul Prior was persuaded out of retirement in November and made a few appearances from then on. Nicky Hall was signed in December, ex-Ashford and Hastings and was a regular in midfield and Clive Barham returned, having left for Canterbury the season before, he had been with Folkestone for most of the season. Even Frank Ovard played the one game, away at Herne Bay in a 3-2 defeat.
Hythe made their second appearance in the FA Cup but lost 1-0 at Southwick, then in Isthmian Division One. The Vase saw away wins at East Grinstead and Thames Polytechnic before a home defeat to Harefield United, of Isthmian Division Two. There were instant defeats in the Kent Senior Trophy at Herne Bay and in the Kent League Cup to Darenth Heathside.
Regulars through the season were Lee Harrington in goal, defenders Ian Daffin, Mark Valler and Adrian Bray, David Bible and Neil Smith in midfield and forwards Tony Hunter, Joe Valler and Bruce Marchant. In total, Hythe played 40 games, winning 13, drawing 11 and losing 16, scoring 61 goals. Marchant was top scorer with 16 goals, Joe Valler was second with nine.
The Manager’s Player of the Year was Bruce Marchant, and Geoff Ewins for the reserves. Players’ Player was David Bible, and Andy Bates. Supporters’ Player was Ian Daffin and Sportsman was Dave Gooding.
|Deal Town||34||8||7||19||45||73||-28||31||(-1 pts)|
|26/07/1986||Dover Athletic||F||Home||1-1||Tony Hunter|
|02/08/1986||Swanley Town||F||Home||2-2||Paul Martin 2|
|05/08/1986||Ashford Town||F||Home||1-4||Joey Valler|
|09/08/1996||Hounslow Town||F||Home||2-5||Bruce Marchant, Adrian Bray|
|20/08/1996||Whitstable Town||KLD1||Away||1-0||J Valler|
|23/08/1996||Alma Swanley||KLD1||Home||1-1||Mark Hatcher|
|27/08/1986||Kent Police||KLD1||Home||4-0||J Valler, Bray, Marchant 2|
|30/08/1986||Beckenham Town||KLD1||Away||2-2||Ian Lancaster, Steve Harris|
|20/09/1986||East Grinstead Town||FAVP||Away||3-1aet||41||Harris 2, Terry Collins pen|
|18/10/1986||Thames Polytechnic||FAV1||Away||4-1||55||Marchant, David Bible 2, Lancaster|
|01/11/1986||Herne Bay||KST1||Away||2-3||Bray, J Valler|
|22/11/1986||Thames Polytechnic||KLD1||Home||1-0||J Valler|
|13/12/1986||Kent Police||KLD1||Away||2-1||Neil Smith, Bray|
|20/12/1986||Alma Swanley||KLD1||Away||2-2||Nicky Hall, N Smith|
|27/12/1986||Deal Town||KLD1||Home||4-2||Bible, Hunter 2, J Valler|
|03/01/1987||Faversham Town||KLD1||Away||2-0||N Smith, Marchant|
|24/01/1987||Metropolitan Police (Area 4)||KLD1||Home||2-0||Bible, J Valler|
|07/02/1987||Metropolitan Police (Area 4)||KLD1||Away||2-2||Marchant, J Valler|
|21/02/1987||Greenwich Borough||KLD1||Away||2-3||J Valler 2|
|21/03/1987||Tunbridge Wells||KLD1||Home||2-2||Marchant, Hunter|
|28/03/1987||Herne Bay||KLD1||Away||2-3||Neil Cugley, N Smith|
|04/04/1987||Darenth Heathside||KLD1||Away||2-2||Paul Prior, Marchant|
|11/04/1987||Beckenham Town||KLD1||Home||4-0||Hall, Hunter, Marchant, Prior pen|
|22/04/1987||Herne Bay||KLD1||Home||4-2||Marchant, Bible, Prior pen, N Smith|
|02/05/1987||Faversham Town||KLD1||Home||3-2||Marchant 3|
It would prove to be a momentous season in the history of Hythe Town but the first half would see business as usual. Again, pre-season preparation was difficult due to players missing and some late signings. Steve Ireland returned to the club after a season at New Romney, defender Graham Mitchell joined from Herne Bay and Stuart Patterson was signed as the first choice goalkeeper, joining from Folkestone Invicta. Defender Dave McDonald and striker Paul Godden both joined from Ashford, Dickie Rhodes joined from Folkestone and Paul Prior signed on again as an occasional striker.
The league season got off to a strange start, three wins were followed by four defeats and it would be March until Hythe managed two league wins in a row. There was a 6-2 defeat at Eastbourne United in the FA Cup which was shortly followed by a 2-1 home defeat to Chertsey Town in the FA Vase. The great storm of October 1987 saw Reachfields’ two-year-old stand have the roof lifted off and the front wall collapse, to be cordoned off and never rebuilt. The next game did see Hythe’s best win of the season, as they blew away Thames Polytechnic 6-0. There was a thrilling defeat to Southern League Corinthian in the Kent Senior Trophy, losing 4-5 after extra time. A run of six games with only a single point had seen the club fall to thirteenth place in the table.
But the new year saw news break of a takeover bid for the club by local businessman Tony Walton, the owner of Lympne Industrial Estate. His proposals were put to an EGM on February 11th and passed, with Walton becoming chairman, replacing Mick Leach who had been chairman for the previous five years. Walton’s plans were to rebuild the ground in the summer, when Neil Cugley would arrive from Margate to be player-manager. This news did not go down well at Margate, who suggested that Cugley should move immediately. He signed for Hythe and Walton made him manager in place of Glenn Dempsey, his first game in charge was a 2-1 win at Cray Wanderers in March.
The side was strengthened by the return from Folkestone of Micky Heynes; ex-Folkestone, Dover and Ashford’s Chris Hamshare and Ashford’s Steve Brignall would arrive soon after. Cugley’s second game was a home Kent League Cup semi-final with Cray, when Hythe’s biggest crowd of the season, nearly 250, saw the home side reach the final by coming from behind thanks to two goals from David Bible. The league results picked up, twelve wins from the last fourteen games saw Hythe climb the table to finish in fifth place. The Kent League Cup final ended in disappointment, being well beaten by Tunbridge Wells in the final at Herne Bay.
Stuart Patterson was the regular keeper, full-backs were Ian Daffin, Russell Milton and later Neil Hearnden, centre-backs Adrian Bray and Mark Valler. The midfield was David Bible, Tony Hunter and Nicky Hall; Bruce Marchant played the whole season up front, with Steve Ireland and Paul Godden until the later stages when it was Neil Cugley and Micky Heynes. Tony Hunter top-scored with 14 goals, Nicky Hall scored 12. Hythe played 44 games, winning 23, drawing 4 and losing 17, scoring 89 goals in total.
|4/5 Aug??||Ashford Town||F||Home||0-5|
|18/08/1987||Kent Police||KLD1||Home||4-2||Dickie Rhodes, David Bible, Bruce Marchant, Steve Ireland|
|22/08/1987||Slade Green||KLD1||Home||2-0||Rhodes, Hall|
|26/08/1987||Whitstable Town||KLD1||Away||2-4||Bible, Marchant|
|12/09/1987||Eastbourne United||FAC1Q||Away||2-6||69||Hall, Tony Hunter|
|19/09/1987||Whitstable Town||KLD1||Home||2-1||Graham Mitchell, Marchant|
|17/10/1987||Thames Polytechnic||KLD1||Home||6-0||Ireland 2, Paul Godden, Hall, Bible, Mitchell|
|24/10/1987||Whitstable Town||KST1||Home||2-0||Ian Daffin, Bible|
|14/11/1987||Crockenhill||KLC2||Home||4-1||Daffin, Godden, Hunter, Bible|
|21/11/1987||Metropolitan Police (Area 4)||KLD1||Away||4-1||Marchant, Mark Valler pen, Hunter, Hall|
|05/12/1987||Corinthian||KST2||Home||4-5aet||Hunter 3, Duncan Hood|
|19/12/1987||Kent Police||KLD1||Away||1-4||Paul Prior|
|26/12/1987||Tunbridge Wells||KLD1||Home||2-2||Hunter, Ireland|
|09/01/1988||Slade Green||KLD1||Away||2-4||Ireland, Bible pen|
|20/02/1988||Deal Town||KLD1||Away||2-1||Hall, OG|
|05/03/1988||Sittingbourne||KLCQF||Home||3-2||Hall, Marchant, Bible|
|19/03/1988||Cray Wanderers||KLD1||Away||2-1||Micky Heynes, Hunter|
|26/03/1988||Cray Wanderers||KLCSF||Home||2-1||250||Bible 2|
|02/04/1988||Alma Swanley||KLD1||Home||2-1||Hunter, Hall|
|04/04/1988||Cray Wanderers||KLD1||Home||2-1||Heynes, Adrian Bray|
|09/04/1988||Thames Polytechnic||KLD1||Away||2-0||Neil Cugley, *?|
|10/04/1988||Metropolitan Police (Area 4)||KLD1||Home||1-0||Heynes|
|13/04/1988||Tunbridge Wells||KLD1||Away||3-4||Cugley 2, Heynes|
|18/04/1988||Faversham Town||KLD1||Away||3-0||Steve Brignall, Heynes, Hall|
|21/04/1988||Herne Bay||KLD1||Home||6-0||Brignall, Heynes 2, Marchant 2, Chris Hamshare|
|23/04/1988||Darenth Heathside||KLD1||Home||3-2||Hall, OG, Steve Harris|
|25/04/1988||Ramsgate||KLD1||Home||3-1||Rhodes 2, Hall|
|04/05/1988||Crockenhill||KLD1||Home||4-2||Neil Hearnden pen, Hunter, Rhodes, Cugley|
|07/05/1988||Sittingbourne||KLD1||Home||3-1||Cugley, Hamshare, Brignall|
Player recruitment for the new season had started before the previous season had ended, thanks to Neil Cugley’s earlier than intended arrival. Micky Heynes and Steve Brignall had played at the end of the 87-88 season and the summer saw plenty more activity. Tim Hulme returned to Hythe, from Dover Athletic, Mark Stanton joined from Folkestone Invicta, goalkeeper Lee Smelt, ex-Nottingham Forest, Halifax and Cardiff signed, as did Dave Carr, a local boy whose career spanned Luton Town, Torquay United, Maidstone and Dover. More June arrivals were Shaun Carey, after impressing for rivals Tunbridge Wells, Bruce Quarterman from KCL champions New Romney and another return for Terry Collins.
The club was to become a limited company and work was well under way on the new dressing rooms, clubhouse, covered terracing and floodlights. It was expected that most of the previous season’s first team would continue to play for the club in the reserves, in Kent League Division Two. The club also entered a third team, Hythe ‘A’, in the Kent County League Eastern Section Premier Division, under manager Keith Tebbutt. Season tickets were on offer at £20, with match admission £1 and 50p. Shirt sponsors were Chairman Tony Walton’s window company Larchimage, and the club colours were changed to reflect this, with yellow shirts and green shorts.
July arrivals were Paul Brenchley, a full-back from Ashford, Frank Ovard (again), lastly with Crawley before playing the summer in Sweden, and Folkestone full-back Kevin Smart.
After an unbeaten pre-season, which included a 6-0 win at Hythe’s twin town Berck-sur-Mer, Hythe got off to a flying start. The first three league games saw a 7-0 win at Ramsgate, a 6-0 home win over Met Police (Hayes) and another 7-0 away win, at Herne Bay. Reality returned in the next game, losing 2-1 at home to Alma Swanley, who would prove to be Hythe’s nearest challengers in the first half of the season.
The FA Cup saw a trip to the Feltham Arena and a game on one of the early and unpopular old Astroturf pitches where Hythe managed a 1-1 draw. The replay saw the inaugural game under the new Reachfields floodlights and Hythe were coasting, 2-0 up, when goalkeeper Lee Smelt was injured and was taken to hospital with a broken collar bone. Outfield players Heynes and Mark Valler both had spells in goal but were unable to prevent Feltham scoring five goals.
September saw Joey Valley rejoin the club, Ricky Fusco sign from Margate and Mark Hyham arrive from Gillingham’s youth team. Even Tony Howes, our goalkeeper ten seasons previously, was needed to cover three goalkeeper injuries. Mark Stanton was signed from local football.
Hythe continued their league matches, many were won, some by large scores but there were still the shock defeats, including twice to third-placed Faversham. By October Hythe were 15 points clear at the top, having scored 60 goals in 14 games.
In the FA Vase there was an easy win over Sittingbourne followed by an epic battle with Hastings in the first round. Hythe led 3-0 with 15 minutes remaining only for Hastings to draw level, with two of the goals from Peter Heritage, which didn’t go unnoticed. A glorious goal from Shaun Carey won the tie in extra-time. Sadly, the next round saw an extra-time 1-0 defeat at Romsey Town.
Hythe managed their seventh league win in a row with a 9-0 beating of Chatham Town, helped by a Mark Stanton hat-trick but the local paper highlighted a typically cheeky goal scored by Frank Ovard, who received a tap pass from a penalty by Dave Carr. Hythe ended the year still 15 points ahead, with the reserve side also top of their division.
The new year saw a blip in form with two defeats, at Deal and at home to Sittingbourne. Hythe’s reaction was to sign Peter Heritage for £4,000, described by Dave Carr as the toughest forward he had faced in non-league football. The recovery was not instant as Hythe exited the Kent Senior Trophy at Cray and the Kent League Cup at Whitstable and lost again in the league to Sittingbourne.
The club closed the ground for three weeks to complete ground improvements in the hope of promotion. It did not affect first team home games but two reserve fixtures were cancelled, which did not please the Kent League. They fined the club £250 and deducted six points, dropping the reserves to second place.
Two more players arrived, this time on loan, Jason Wheeler from Crawley and Mark Smelt from Leatherhead. Bad weather had seen the first team without a game for six weeks. Desperate for a game, the first team fulfilled a reserve team fixture at Hastings, winning 6-1 and adding to the displeasure of both Hastings, the reserves’ nearest rivals, and the league. Back on the pitch, Hythe could only manage a home 4-4 draw against Darenth Heathside in front of over 500 in the newly improved ground.
April saw Hythe cruise to the title with three games to spare, winning eight games in a row and ending up breaking three league records. Frank Ovard had broken the individual scoring record with 36 goals, the club broke Greenwich’s goalscoring record by 20 goals, ending with 133 and a league record points total of 90. In the same week that the first team clinched the league title, the reserves also won their division and beat Folkestone Reserves 3-1 in the Division Two Cup final at Reachfields. It proved a bittersweet moment, with the news that the reserves (virtually last season’s first team) were being disbanded in an attempt to ease the problems with the Reachfields playing surface. The newly formed ‘A’ team finished fifth in the County League and were beaten finalists in the Invitational Cup.
In May came the news that Hythe had been accepted (promotion was not automatic in those days) into the Beazer Homes (Southern) League for the following season, with Bashley and Yate Town.
There was one further battle with the Kent League as all Hythe’s prize money was withheld for ‘failing to buy tickets for the presentation evening’. After a couple of weeks of newspaper headlines and bad publicity for the club, league and the league’s sponsors, a cheque for £2,000 arrived without comment. The club could now look forward to Southern League football, with the Chairman publicly stating, seriously or not, that the aim was the Football League within ten years.
Goalkeeping duties were shared between Lee Smelt and Tony Howes, full-backs were Kevin Smart and Ricky Fusco, centre-backs were Dave Carr and Neil Cugley. Tim Hulme, Shaun Carey, Steve Brignall and Mark Hyham were the regular midfield, with Paul Stanton, Frank Ovard and, later, Peter Heritage up front. Ovard was leading scorer with 36, Stanton scored 27 and Hulme managed 18. Hythe played 48 games, winning 34, drawing 4 and losing 10, scoring 152 goals. Kevin Smart was voted Player of the Year, with Paul Stanton runner-up.
|Greenwich Borough||38||8||15||15||53||56||-3||36||(-3 pts)|
|?||Berck sur Mer||F||Away||6-0||******|
|10/08/1988||Canterbury City||F||Away||1-1||Micky Heynes|
|13/08/1988||Hastings Town||F||Home||3-2||Frank Ovard, Tim Hulme 2|
|17/08/1988||Ramsgate||KLD1||Away||7-0||Heynes 3, Neil Cugley 2, Dave Carr, Ovard|
|20/08/1988||Metropolitan Police (Area 4)||KLD1||Home||6-0||Ovard 4, 1 pen, Heynes, Bruce Quarterman|
|23/08/1988||Herne Bay||KLD1||Away||7-0||Heynes 3, Ovard 2, Hulme, Carr|
|27/08/1988||Alma Swanley||KLD1||Home||1-2||Shaun Carey|
|29/08/1988||Deal Town||KLD1||Home||3-2||Ovard, Carr, Steve Brignall|
|07/09/1988||Feltham||FACPR||Home||2-5||300||Heynes 2, 1 pen|
|10/09/1988||Cray Wanderers||KLD1||Home||3-0||Heynes 2, Carey|
|17/09/1988||Darenth Heathside||KLD1||Away||3-2||Ovard 2, 1 pen, Quarterman|
|20/09/1988||Faversham Town||KLD1||Away||1-4||Ovard pen|
|24/09/1988||Greenwich Borough||KLD1||Home||4-1||Mark Hyham 2, Mark Stanton, Ovard|
|27/09/1988||Tunbridge Wells||KLD1||Home||4-1||Carr, Cugley, Ovard, Kevin Smart|
|01/10/1988||Danson||KLD1||Away||4-1||Hyham, Carey, Ovard, Stanton|
|05/10/1988||Kent Police||KLD1||Home||8-1||Ovard 4, 1pen, Stanton, Brignall, Hulme, John Smith|
|15/10/1988||Tunbridge Wells||KLD1||Away||4-1||Hyham, Hulme, Ovard 2, 1 pen|
|19/10/1988||Herne Bay||KLD1||Home||5-0||Hyham, Carey, Styanton, Cugley, Ovard|
|29/10/1988||Thames Polytechnic||KLD1||Home||4-0||Stanton, Hyham, Cugley, Ovard|
|05/11/1988||Hastings Town||FAV1||Home||4-3aet||350||Cugley, Hulme 2, Carey|
|12/11/1988||Beckenham Town||KLD1||Home||4-2||Brignall, Ovard 3, 1 pen|
|19/11/1988||Kent Police||KLC2||Home||3-0||Ovard 2, Stanton|
|23/11/1988||Chatham Town||KLD1||Away||2-0||Ovard, Carey|
|03/12/1988||Whitstable Town||KLD1||Away||3-0||Carey 2, Stanton|
|10/12/1988||Alma Swanley||KST2||Home||4-2||Hulme, Carr 2, Ovard|
|17/12/1988||Chatham Town||KLD1||Home||9-0||OG 2, Hulme, Stanton 3, Carr, Ovard 2|
|21/12/1988||Whitstable Town||KLD1||Home||2-2||Cugley, Stanton|
|27/12/1988||Kent Police||KLD1||Away||5-2||Stanton 4, Hulme|
|14/01/1989||Metropolitan Police (Area 4)||KLD1||Away||6-3||Stanton 2, Hulme, Carey, Ovard, Carr|
|21/01/1989||Cray Wanderers||KSTQF||Away||1-2aet||Peter Heritage|
|28/01/1989||Thames Polytechnic||KLD1||Away||7-1||Ovard 3, Stanton 2, Heritage, Cugley|
|01/02/1989||Gillingham XI||F||Home||3-2||Hulme 2, Stanton|
|24/03/1989||Darenth Heathside||KLD1||Home||4-4||500+||Carr, Hulme, Jason Wheeler, Heritage|
|30/03/1989||Danson||KLD1||Home||3-1||Stanton, Hulme, Heritage|
|01/04/1989||Slade Green||KLD1||Away||4-0||Hulme 3, Heritage|
|08/04/1989||Ramsgate||KLD1||Home||3-1||Carey 2, Wheeler|
|12/04/1989||Crockenhill||KLD1||Home||4-1||Hulme 2, Carr, Stanton|
|20/04/1989||Beckenham Town||KLD1||Away||4-0||Stanton 2, Heritage, Carey|
|27/04/1989||Slade Green||KLD1||Home||4-1||300||Heritage, Carr, Carey, Stanton|
Once again it was a busy summer with comings and goings. Ricky Fusco retired at the age of 35, Frank Ovard signed for Folkestone and Timmy Hulme would soon be transferred to Premier Division Ashford for £2,000. The boss of the disbanded reserve side, Dave Williams, moved to Folkestone as assistant to manager Carl Gilbert. Forward Simon Bryant was the first signing, from Deal Town, followed by midfielder Grant Gallacher from Crawley Town and Terry White, from Hastings Town, for £4,000. July saw the arrival of Mark Weatherly from Gillingham, where he had made over 500 Football League appearances. It suited him to go part-time, and he soon became mine-host of Carriages Wine Bar in Hythe. Jason Wheeler and Malcolm Smith impressed in the friendlies, where Hythe were unbeaten in seven tough games, as did goalkeeper Steve O’Brien, a former Eire youth international. Pat Hilton, another local man with League experience, also signed. Season tickets were £30/£20 with match admission £1.50/80p.
The season did not quite start as planned. A late arrival at Buckingham Town for the first game, due to traffic gridlock for the nearby Bon Jovi concert, saw the side do well to draw 0-0. Frank Ovard had returned from Folkestone in time for the first home game, which was also 0-0, followed by a single goal defeat at home to Andover. Hythe’s first goal, and first win, came on Bank Holiday Monday when Simon Bryant’s goal earned a 1-0 win at Margate.
The sixth league game, a defeat at Bury Town, was remembered for an ex-England international playing for Hythe. Mark Barham, ex-Norwich, Hull and Middlesbrough and brother of Clive Barham was ‘between clubs’ and played just the single game. After this game striker Peter Heritage signed for Gillingham for a fee of £30,000.
Hythe’s modest start of 11 points from 8 games was interrupted as the cup games began. FA Cup wins over Three Bridges, Molesey and Whitstable saw Vauxhall Opel Premier side Hayes come to Reachfields. On a day of gale force winds and torrential rain the game finished goalless, with Fusco making a return after unretiring. Hayes won the replay 3-0 and got to visit Peterborough United in the first round proper. Paul Hyde was the goalkeeper who kept Hythe at bay for the two games. Folkestone were the opponents in the Southern League Cup, the first leg at Cheriton Road finished 2-2 and the second leg was goalless, Folkestone winning 4-2 on penalties in front a new Hythe record attendance of 726. Two rounds were passed in the Vase, with wins over Malden Vale and Littlehampton – in the former game the coup-de-grace was delivered by Frank Ovard where he rounded the keeper, walked the ball to the goal line, stopped it and went down on all fours to head the ball over the line. There were two more signings in Chris Vidal, a striker who had impressed when playing for Molesey earlier, and Jed Nohilly, a midfielder from Dulwich and before that Northampton, Tonbridge and Gravesend.
After eight cup games Hythe returned to league duties at Dunstable. It was chairman Tony Walton’s stated intention to climb the leagues and promotion was the main, if not the only, aim. After a poor performance and a 2-0 defeat, manager Neil Cugley was relieved of his duties. Dave Carr moved up from the assistant’s position, Lee Smelt became assistant from his previous position of coach.
There was a reaction from the team and Hythe got to Christmas with only a single defeat in ten games, and two more Vase victories over Camberley and Deal. On Boxing Day Folkestone came to Reachfields and a fine performance saw Hythe win 3-1 in front of another record attendance, this time 1,094. The late consolation goal for Folkestone was from Neil Cugley, now at Cheriton Road as just a player. Two more holiday wins saw Hythe move up to ninth place with a few games in hand.
But that saw the league winning run end, with four draws and a defeat in the next five league games that again had many cup games squeezed in as bad weather added to the fixture pile-up. Collier Row were beaten in the Vase, after a replay, as were Abingdon Town after a replay and a few postponements, in the next round. By now Tommy Warrilow had joined Hythe from Crawley for £15,000, to play at centre-half or centre-forward.
It was a trip to Rushden Town in the sixth round, a tough ask having had to play on the previous Monday and Wednesday. A lone Frank Ovard goal decided the tie but the hero was goalkeeper O’Brien who stopped everything that Rushden could fire at him and a place in the semi-finals was achieved. Before then it was back to league action but with the Vase an understandable distraction only five points were gained from five matches.
Hythe were at home to Yeading in the semi-final first leg and it was a thrilling game. Simon Bryant and Frank Ovard had put Hythe 2-0 up before the visitors rallied to equalise. A rare goal from Jason Wheeler won the tie 3-2 to send most of the new (and still existing) record crowd of 2,147 home happy. The ridiculous fixture schedule saw Hythe have to play a league game the very next day and another on the Wednesday before the vital second leg at Yeading’s Warren ground. Hythe went behind midway through the second half and lost the tie in the 89th minute when a cross took a big deflection away from keeper O’Brien’s reach.
With eleven league games left there was still the faintest chance of promotion, with eleven wins, and it was a brave attempt with nine wins and two defeats and Hythe ended up in sixth position, ten points behind champions Bashley but only five behind Poole Town in second place. So near and yet so far.
The club did end up with a piece of silverware, even if it wasn’t the major prize. Hythe had entered the Knight Floodlight Competition, the sponsored name for the Eastern Professional Floodlight Cup, a prestigious competition usually competed for by East Anglian clubs. Hythe won their mini-group with four wins out of four against Dover and Aveley and qualified for the quarter-finals. This saw a trip to Heybridge Swifts and victory thanks to a lone Frank Ovard goal. The semi-final saw Harlow Town visit Reachfields where a goal in each half by Terry White was enough for a 2-1 win. The final, and Hythe’s 72nd and final game of the season, involved another trip to Collier Row, who had been narrowly defeated in the Vase fourth round. Frank Ovard had put Hythe ahead in the first half, Row equalised with eight minutes remaining but there was still time for Mark Weatherly to head an 88th minute winner.
Steve O’Brien played in virtually every game, full-backs were Kevin Smart, Malcolm Smith and Terry Collins, centre-backs Dave Carr and Mark Weatherly, midfielders Jason Wheeler, Jed Nohilly, Mark Stanton, Terry White and Mark Hyham. Strikers were Simon Bryant, Frank Ovard and Chris Vidal. Ovard top scored with 22 goals, White and Bryant both got 17 and Shaun Carey (12) and Stanton (11) also made double figures. Hythe played 72 games (and 8 friendlies!), winning 41, drawing 18 and losing 13, scoring 125 goals. Steve O’Brien was voted as Player of the Year, Pat Hilton won the Chairman’s award.
|20||Erith & Belvedere||42||8||11||23||34||73||−39||35|