Ben Smith has resigned as Herne Bay boss.

Smith last season led Bay to promotion from Isthmian South East through the play-offs, beating Ashford 2-0 at Homelands in the April finalbut the club struggled to embark on their inaugural season in Stage 3.

Ben Smith, pictured lifting the trophy after Herne Bay’s Isthmian South East play-off success last season, has resigned as club manager. Photo: Ian Scammell

They are now second, level on points with the Corinthian-Casuals basement boys who beat them 3-2 on Saturday despite the efforts of Maidstone on loan Tushaun Tyreece-Walters and substitute Rory Smith finding the net as the hosts were reduced to 10 men in the final stages.

Herne Bay chairman Stuart Fitchie paid a moving tribute to former Bay Under-18 manager Smith in a club statement on Saturday night.

“It is with real sadness that, following a conversation after today’s game, I have to inform you that Ben has decided to step down as first team manager with immediate effect,” Fitchie said. .

“On a personal note, I am disgusted. I wouldn’t be president of Herne Bay FC without Ben. He introduced me to John Bathurst early on and we spent three and a half years of testing together.

“We fought and fought, and gave our hearts and our soles for the good of Herne Bay FC.

“We speak many times every day and the topics are very varied. A friendship that turned into so much more, which makes it hard for me to live with, but I understand where Ben is at right now and I respect his decision.

Fractions had already appeared this season, however, with Smith last month saying he wanted more understanding – from some of Herne Bay’s own fans.

But with Smith named in 2019, after the arrival of a new consortium at the clubhe leaves with Herne Bay in a much better position than he found her in.

Fitchie added: “First of all, Herne Bay FC wouldn’t be where they are today without Ben Smith – in fact!

“The most successful manager in recent history and [he] guided us to promotion after the end of the 21/22 season via that famous win in the play-off final against Ashford United. A day we will remember for the rest of our lives. Something everyone involved at Herne Bay FC can be proud of and an achievement that will forever be etched in the club’s history.

“The love he has for the club is immeasurable. There are things Ben has done for the club on a daily basis that most people wouldn’t know and therefore couldn’t appreciate. The club always [was] his first thought.

“He gave his all to Herne Bay FC and deserves the respect of all of us. Sometimes upbeat and a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, we’ve had our fair share of moments, but there’s always mutual respect that has made the best of these situations.

“He gave the Blue Army something to sing about after many difficult years.

“To finish. Ben, it’s been an absolute pleasure. You did a tremendous job and you did the unthinkable and you should be incredibly proud. Where is the club now where you picked it up from, unfathomable.

“Ben Smith’s Blue and White Army!” I love you mate, Stuart x.

Others were quick to praise Smith for the work he did at Winch’s Field on social media.

“Honestly not many people in football like @bensmith88,” midfielder Kieron Campbell wrote on Twitter. “An incredible commitment to the cause.

“Unspeakable calls and messages for the benefit of everyone but himself. Thank you for blundering everything.”

The news follows the recent departure of longtime manager Neil Cugley’s dugout from rivals Herne Bay Folkestone.