Friday 25th March 2005

Please credit article to Stephen McCartney - www.kentishfootball.co.uk

Catch us if you can!

FOLKESTONE INVICTA manager Neil Cugley is confident his side will retain their Ryman Premier League status following their 2-1 win over sixth placed Leyton at the Westbourne Stadium on Good Friday, writes Stephen McCartney.

Invicta ended a run of eight league games without victory, completing their first double of the season in the process, coming from behind thanks to James Dryden's brace to secure a vital victory going into their trip to local rivals Dover Athletic on Easter Monday, with the knowledge they now have a seven point lead on Clive Walker's men.

Invicta leap frog over free falling Cheshunt, who were beaten 3-0 at home to Chelmsford City today - and more importantly are now three points above the drop zone.

They still have to play five sides that are currently in the bottom seven - Dover Athletic (away), followed straight away by Harrow Borough (home) and a trip to Cheshunt.  They finish the season with a trip to basement boys Kingstonian - who are under a new managerial team of former manager Ian McDonald, coached by former K's reserve team manager and Bromley boss Stuart McIntyre.  There is also a home game with Slough Town to be slotted in before the end of the season.

Cugley admits his side need just two more wins to maintain their status.

However, it could have been a different story for Invicta, with Leyton twice hitting the post in the opening 19 minutes through Leli Bajada and a drive from Ian Bass, which was hacked off the line by Steve Norman.

And it was Bajada that gave the East Londoners a 23rd minute lead to the delight of many Dover fans in the crowd of 382, including their manager Walker and chairman Jim Parmenter.

Dean Bradshaw's corner was met on the volley by Des Thomas, which was clawed out by Folkestone goalkeeper Tony Kessell, but Bajada fired home the loose ball.

Folkestone's first real chance came four minutes later when Dryden slipped the ball through the visiting defence to Simon Glover.  After cutting inside Thomas, the blonde haired striker's 25-yard drive was comfortably saved by the young goalkeeper, David Morgan.

Ten minutes before the break, Invicta defender John Guest rose above the visiting defence to plant Paul Lamb's corner into the net, but the goal was ruled out.

Kessell made another fine save on the stroke of half time, blocking a fierce James Hawes' drive from 25-yards following Roy Parkyn's free kick down the left channel.

Cugley brought on Joe Neilson at the interval  and Glover's low drive from 25-yards was comfortably saved by Morgan early in the second half.

Leyton, however, seemed to be focused on keeping their slender lead in tact but they were punished by Invicta late in the game.

Neilson picked up the ball on the half-way line and raced down the middle, laying the ball into Dryden's path on the left hand side.  Dryden's shot, however, looped of Thomas and sailed over Morgan's head and into the net to bring the home side level with 19 minutes left.

Dryden's goal now gave Invicta a 5 point gap over their local rivals Dover but Leyton skipper Ben Wood almost snatched his side the lead with ten minutes to go, heading Bradshaw's corner towards goal, which was kept out by a diving Kessell.

But Dryden - who has now equaled the club's senior goalscoring record of 88 goals - scored a precious winner with seven minutes left - his 22nd of the season.

Unleashing a left-footed 25-yard angled drive, substitute goalkeeper Jason White, who had replaced the injured goalkeeper Morgan seven minutes earlier, allowed the shot to go across him, which nestled into the bottom far corner of the net to send the home following wild.

Leyton rallied late on, with Hawes (twice) going close and Kessell making another fine save, blocking Danny Costello's fierce shot on goal after being played in by Bradshaw but Cugley was pleased his side completed their first double of the season - and looks forward to, hopefully, winning their second one on Monday at Dover.

"We didn't perform in the first half," he told me sitting down in his office.  "To be fair to them they played a strange system, which messed us about really so we changed it at half-time and put another forward on with young Joe Neilson. I thought he was outstanding.  We kept them on the back foot and we looked so much better in the second half."

When Invicta travelled to Leyton in their second away game of the season, which resulted in a 4-0 win for the Kent side - it was to be their only away league win of the season to date, and they have collected only eight points on the road.

Cugley, however, cannot put his finger on why his side are so poor away from home.  "Eventually you think it must somehow turn round," he said.  "We don't know the reason why we are so poor away.  There's no reason at all.  We play the same system most of the time away but saying that we played ever so well as Yeading (lost 1-0) last week."

Cugley is confident his side can complete their second and last double of the season at the Hoverspeed Stadium on Easter Monday.

2,278 fans - a club record - packed into the Westbourne Stadium to see Guest score the only goal of the game against Dover on Boxing Day, and Cugley is looking for the same result.

"The one thing about Dover is it's a lovely pitch, with a couple of thousand there and  that will be a nice one to win," he said.

With breathing space between the two Kent sides, Cugley admitted there is a little bit of pressure off his team.

"It was a big game today," he said.  "Obviously if we lost they'll be right by us.  Cheshunt lost 3-0, that's a good result, so we go above them.

"A couple more wins and hopefully we should be safe.  Obviously we would like to do the double over Dover.

"We've got Cheshunt and Harrow (to play) and we have the sides around us, so it's completely in our own hands.

"I have always been confident of staying up.  It's been very frustrating in the last few weeks, we've put in a lot of youngsters and they've done well, but they do get found out when you concede goals because of their inexperience.

"Now I've got my players back we are now not a bad side."

Cugley urged the club's travelling fans: "Just get behind us.  If we win it will be very difficult for the other sides to catch us up.  I think we are on our way now."

Ryman Premier League (bottom seven)

16 Slough Town 29 11 7 11 41 42 40
17 Folkestone Invicta 35 10 9 16 40 45 39
18 Cheshunt 36 10 8 18 48 65 38
19 Harrow Borough 35 9 9 17 32 48 36
20 Dover Athletic 36 8 8 20 43 59 32
21 Tonbridge Angels 35 8 8 19 39 65 32
22 Kingstonian 35 6 5 24 36 73 23

Easter Saturday:
Hendon v Harrow Borough (1pm)
Kingstonian v Salisbury City (3pm)
Slough Town v Tonbridge Angels (3pm)

Easter Monday (3pm):
Dover Athletic v Folkestone Invicta
Harrow Borough v Northwood
Leyton v Cheshunt
Tonbridge Angels v Worthing
Windsor & Eton v Slough Town

Saturday 2 April (3pm):
Braintree Town v Dover Athletic
Cheshunt v Salisbury City
Folkestone Invicta v Harrow Borough
Hendon v Tonbridge Angels
Kingstonian v Windsor & Eton
Slough Town v Hampton & Richmond Borough

Folkestone Invicta: Tony Kessell, Kevin Watson (James Everitt 73), Paul Lamb, Adam Flanagan, John Guest, Scott Lindsey (Capt), Michael Everitt, Simon Glover, James Dryden, Stuart Myall (Mark Munday 82), Steve Norman (Joe Neilson 46).  Subs: Paul Sykes, Kieron Mann

Leyton: David Morgan (Jason White 76), Simon Peddie (Terry Brown 58), Vas Soteriou, Des Thomas, Ben Wood (Capt), Ian Bass (Danny Costello 65), Dean Bradshaw, James Hawes, Matt Hayes, Roy Parkyn, Leli Bajada.  Subs: Malcolm Dannie, Stuart Hibberd

Referee: M McCoy (Herne Bay)
Assistants: C Brook (St Leonards) & J Gooding (Ashford)