Favourites Folkestone aim to break Dover duck
eyes are on the Westbourne Stadium when Folkestone Invicta host their eagerly
anticipated local derby against Dover Athletic in the Ryman Premier League on
Bank Holiday Monday, 27th December (3pm), writes Stephen McCartney, Richard
Murrill and Justin Allen.
Expectations are high for Invicta as they go in search of what would be a first ever league victory for the club against their closest rivals with a crowd in the region of 1,500 - their highest of the season - expected.
Invicta, however, have won their last three home matches, scoring ten goals in the process, and how they handle the mantle of being favourites may be the key to the game's outcome.
As well as the not to be dismissed matter of local pride and bragging rights, second from bottom Dover Athletic will come to Folkestone desperate for the points as they bid to dig themselves out of the relegation zone, whilst Invicta would love to put one over their local rivals after years in their shadow.
Dover have not won away from home all season and their chairman Mick Kemp resigned last Tuesday to allow saviour Jim Parmenter to put together a rescue package for the troubled club.
Neil Cugley's side, however, are sure to be fired up this game, with captain Scott Lindsey, blonde haired striker Simon Glover, Mark Munday, Steve Norman and Paul Sykes all being former Dover players and local boys such as James Dryden and Michael Everitt also sure to be highly motivated for this one.
In fact, the furthest based Folkestone player is Adam Flanagan - who will make the trek down from Romford.
Dover, by contrast, are managed by former Slough Town, Boreham Wood and Hemel Hempstead Town boss Steve Browne - who hails from Walthamstow - and he will call on players far and wide with only Matt Carruthers amongst their squad who has played against Invicta in the past.
Billed as favourites, Invicta boss Cugley feels his side can handle the pressure and collect the three points up for grabs.
He said: "Maybe for the first time we are favourites. We are at home - it's a big game.
"With all local derbies, there won't be too much between the two sides on the day.
"We have both been bringing in new players over the last month but obviously I've got a more settled side than Dover, so hopefully that will go in our favour."
Cugley admitted his side are favourites and added: "We are, a lot has been written with the Dover situation but I am sure it will resolve itself.
"A couple of seasons ago, the same thing happened and they continued to invest heavily in players so I don't think things will change that much."
Folkestone are expecting a big financial boost for the game. To make sure the game does go ahead, they haven't played on their pitch for two weeks in a bid to reap the financial awards on Monday.
Games over the Christmas period are the most lucrative for non-league clubs and Cugley added: "It's very important to us.
"We haven't played on the pitch for over two weeks because of the importance of getting revenue from the game.
"We were delighted when the fixtures were announced that we were at home to Dover.
"The one thing we don't want is the game to be postponed, which will make things at the club difficult."
Cugley reveals he runs on a tight squad with only 13 paid players but they "all look like they will be fit" for the busy schedule, which includes a trip to Windsor & Eton on New Year Day and a visit from Kingstonian in the Bryco Cup at home two days later.
"You just hope they use common sense," he said about players indulging on New Year's Eve.
"You are not in a situation that you can dictate to them but I think they will be ready for the game at Windsor."
Recent signings have aided the club's rise to 14th place in the table, above the drop zone where Kent rivals Tonbridge Angels and Dover Athletic find themselves in.
"Recent weeks we were able to sign a few players," Cugley added.
"We've got more strength in depth now, which was badly needed.
"We are only running with 13 paid players, but we've got some young players for the bench, who come away with us."
Dover boss Steve Browne, however, insists his team will relish the atmosphere at Cheriton Road.
He said: "We are looking forward to the game.
"Folkestone v Dover games are special occasions in this area and I'm sure Neil (Cugley) is looking forward to it too.
"They are doing OK, obviously better than ourselves at the moment but I can't see them being better than the likes of Yeading, Eastleigh or Billericay. So we hold no fears.
"I know they are a strong, solid outfit but, on paper, our team is every bit as good as theirs - but we've got to go out there and show it.
"Our main objective is to win the match and send the huge Dover support home happy."
One thing that the Whites did miss during their decade in the Conference were the derby games with Folkestone and this will be the second year of derbies with their rivals since their relegation from non-league's elite.
Carruthers and Paul Armstrong, however, are doubts through injury - although Browne is hopeful Carruthers should be fit in time to make the short trip.
Jude Stirling, the former Luton Town defender, could be set to make his debut after a week training with the club.
All the behind-the-scenes activity has almost made the football a sideshow in recent weeks but Browne insists he has not been affected by all the uncertainty.
He said: "I've spoken to John Farringdon (acting-chairman) and just been told to carry on.
"I know there is a chance the club could be taken over soon and it's up to me to impress the new men coming in - if they're successful.
"It's been a tough job here, having to bring lots of players in and shift others out.
"Results are what managers are judged on - I just hope anyone coming in gives me a chance."
This will be only the third league meeting between the two clubs, with Dover Athletic winning 2-1 in both Dr Martens League Premier Division games during the 2002-03 season.
Invicta player Nicky Dent scored both Dover goals within the opening five
minutes at Cheriton Road in August 2002 before Allan Tait pulled a goal back
from the penalty spot after 70 minutes.
on Boxing Day 2002, Dover won 2-1 at Crabble when Lee Spiller gave them a first
half lead. Martin Chandler equalised during the second half before Tommy Tyne
grabbed a late winner.
Dover have also knocked Invicta out of the Dr Martens League Cup for the past two seasons at Crabble. It was 2-0 in last season’s Fourth Round tie thanks to second half goals from Dover-born Craig Cloke and Israel Amadi. The previous season it had been 2-1 to Dover, with Simon Glover (now of Invicta) hitting a late winner.
were victorious 4-1 at Crabble in a Kent Senior Cup semi final during the
1999-2000 season when Nicky Dent and James Dryden both scored two goals apiece
during the first half.
Cugley’s will be hoping that this latest game will give them some more
Invicta manager will have centre half Adam Flanagan back after missing
Saturday’s 2-1 defeat away to Chelmsford City and right back Kevin Watson is
also due to return after a groin injury.
hardy brand of Dover supporters will be walking over the hill to the game as
part of the club’s recent emergency fundraising efforts.
Let's hope it's a cracker!