Burgess Hill Town 3-1 Folkestone Invicta - That performance wasn't good enough, admits Neil Cugley

Wednesday 07th January 2015
Ryman League Division One South
Wednesday 7th January 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Leylands Park

FOLKESTONE INVICTA boss Neil Cugley admits his side will have to settle for a play-off place after losing to Burgess Hill Town’s invisibles.

Ian Chapman’s side are now seventh points clear of third-place Folkestone Invicta at the top of the Ryman League Division One South table with 65 points from 25 games, despite playing with ten-men for 58 minutes after having their captain Darren Budd red-carded for allegedly showing verbal dissent towards a match official.

By that time the Hillians were 2-0 up courtesy of goals from Rob O’Toole and lone striker Pat Harding inside the opening 28 minutes.

Burgess Hill Town killed the game off with a third goal just before half-time through left-back Sam Fisk, before the league leaders were content to sit back for large chunks for the second half.

Folkestone Invicta scored a late consolation through defender Frankie Chappell.

It was to be Burgess Hill Town’s 12th win on the bounce and they extended their unbeaten run to eighteen games.

Chapman’s side have lost just one game in 40 – at Vanarama Conference side Dartford in The FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round – and Darts boss Tony Burman was at Leylands Park ahead of his club’s game here in The FA Trophy Second Round on Saturday.

“We were poor, very poor,” admitted Cugley, following his side’s fourth league defeat of the season.

“It was a bit disappointing, very disappointing.

“I’m absolutely devastated.  Defensively, they’re so strong. They don’t give anything away. If you look at the goals against column (19 goals) it’s brilliant.  The manager has done a great job here.”

After a tight opening, the game exploded into life in the tenth minute when Folkestone right-back Josh Vincent floated over a cross towards the edge of the box where striker Richard Atkins sent his downward header into Josh James’ hands.

Folkestone Invicta keeper Tim Roberts made a fine diving save low to his left to push O’Toole’s low right-footed drive around the post from 30-yards, which whistled through a crowded penalty area.

Burgess Hill Town’s keeper James excelled just 80 seconds later to prevent the Kent side taking the lead during their best spell of the game.

Jordan Wright played a short corner to Ronnie Dolan, who whipped in a cross from the right towards the far post where Atkins’ header brought a brilliant save from the keeper, diving high to his right to push behind for a corner.

“A great save and the first 15-20 minutes there wasn’t much to choose (between the two sides),” said Cugley.

“I think we were the better side and we played the better football then, but once they got the ball up to (Pat) Harding and he got it down and started turning out central halves, he bullied us really.

“Pat Harding absolutely beat us up.  He just got into us, caused young Callum (Wraight) a little bit of a problem but I think the players around Callum didn’t help him.”

Dolan should have tested James when he latched onto a pass from Ian Draycott but opted to cut the ball across goal towards Atkins (the ball was cleared away) instead of drilling a shot towards the far corner.

It proved to be a key miss in the game.

Cugley admitted: “Yes it was a key thing early on. It’s one of them. If he shoots and he don’t score then everybody moans that he should have pulled it back!

“It’s one of those things really. He just made a choice at that time. Looking back, I wished he’d shot now because it didn’t get to Atkins.”

Burgess Hill Town punished Folkestone Invicta by taking the lead in the 21
st minute, courtesy of O’Toole’s sixteenth goal of the season.

Pat Harding was released down the right and he played the ball into Budd, who cut the ball back for O’Toole to steer his shot past Roberts’ left-hand, the ball nestling inside the bottom far corner of the net.

“I didn’t think we dealt with anything down that side really, down our left hand side during the first half,” came Cugley’s response.

Fisk launched a long throw into the Folkestone box, which was headed away, but O’Toole unleashed a first time drive with his right-foot from 20-yards, which bounced off the foot of the near post.

The game started to run away from the Kent side when Burgess Hill Town doubled their lead in the 28
th minute, courtesy of Pat Harding’s thirteenth-goal of the season.

Dan Pearse’s bullet header forward sailed over Chappell’s head to put the striker though on goal, who strode forward before placing his right-footed shot past Roberts from 12-yards.

Cugley admitted he missed central defender Liam Friend.

“He’s (Harding) not going to miss them to be fair to the lad.  It wasn’t very good covering. We missed Liam Friend really. His pace around the back, maybe, I don’t think that goal would have happened if Liam was playing.”

Folkestone Invicta were giving a lift when midfielder Budd was called over to the referee Jim Paterson and shown a straight red-card for allegedly saying something to one of the match officials.

When asked his thoughts on the sending-off, Cugley, like the rest of us, was bemused that Budd was sent-off, despite having no other player around him at the time.

Cugley said: “I don’t (know) honestly. It maybe have been for something that he said.”

But Folkestone Invicta’s hopes of clawing themselves back into the game vanished five minutes before the break.

Right-winger, Callum Saunders – who was being watched by Maidstone United – swung in a deep corner from the right, which was headed back across goal by Joe Keehan and Fisk caressed his left-footed volley through a crowd of players, which went in off the far post.

An unhappy Cugley said: “We’ve given a free header. We’ve got more players than them and we’ve given them a free chance and that was really poor marking. I thought that was the worst goal of the lot.”

Folkestone Invicta appeared to be shell-shocked and Cugley admitted he was not pleased with his players at the break.

“It was poor. I told them to try and win the second half because you get a bit of self-respect because the game ran away from us by then.

“They’re a good enough side, they’re not going to let you back in the game.”

Folkestone Invicta came out with much more purpose and desire for the start of the season half, after changing their formation and playing three men at the back.

Atkins unleashed a right-footed half-volley from 25-yards, which sailed just wide after only 103 seconds.

Substitute Flavius Fedor also impressed down the left and he stroked a left-footed shot towards goal from eight-yards, which forced James to make a low save to his left, after the ball bounced around the Hillians’ penalty area.

“He’s alright.  I don’t think he’s fully fit. He had to wait for International Clearance,” said Cugley.

“At this time of the year you don’t train much, you’re playing twice a week so we haven’t seen enough of him. 

“We had to take a risk really. We had nothing to lose by doing that.

“We had no option really. I don’t think we ever were really going to get anything out of it. We had to have a go and we did have a go.”

Draycott then cut the ball back for Dolan to drill a first time right-footed drive from 22-yards, which took a deflection before James made a comfortable low save.

But after that 53
rd minute chance, central defenders Andy Pearson and Will Miles slammed the door shut firmly in Folkestone’s face.

Folkestone’s next chance arrived in the 66
th minute when Nat Blanks played the ball into Fedor, who turned and cracked a left-footed drive from 25-yards, which sailed over the top of the angle of near post and crossbar.

Burgess Hill Town felt content to sit back and conserve energy ahead of Dartford’s visit on Saturday.

“They’re good defensively. Looking at the goals against column it’s a great achievement. They are a hard team to break down, especially if they get their noses in front.”

Burgess Hill Town ventured forward for the first time in the final seventeen minutes when Fisk won the ball and feed the ball inside to O’Toole, who cut inside and from 20-yards hit a right-footed angled drive into Roberts’ hands for a comfortable save.

Folkestone Invicta striker, Draycott’s right-footed attempt from 25-yards sailed over the crossbar just 63 seconds later.

Folkestone Invicta were to be denied by a smart save from James, who dived low to his right to push away Jordan Wright’s left-footed volley, after Atkins played the ball into his path.

Folkestone Invicta did pull a goal back in the 88
th minute when Dolan raced down the right and whipped in a cross towards the far post where Chappell rose to plant his firm header down inside the bottom near corner from two-yards, beating James, who had scrambled across his goal in an attempt to keep a clean sheet.

Cugley added: “We got a goal back so that was quite nice but generally it was one of our poorest performances of the season.

“As I’ve said before, he’ll get goals if he’ll play centre forward. He’ll get goals at this level and he proved that there. It was too late.”

Burgess Hill have two games in hand on Cugley’s men and are favourites to go on and land the league title.

For a side to have only suffered one defeat in 40 games (47 if you count pre-season friendlies too) is remarkable!

Cugley wants to settle for a runners-up spot so they can have home advantage in both play-off games should they get there.

Invicta are four points adrift of second-placed Faversham Town, both Kent sides have eighteen league games left to play.

When asked about the title, Cugley replied: “They’ll (Burgess Hill) win it and good luck to them.  They deserve to win it.

“We haven’t been good enough tonight and we had to win tonight to get anywhere near them.

“I’ve said to the lads to try to get to the highest play-off position if we can. That’s important because we’ll be playing at home if we get into the play-offs.

“I think we’ll get into the play-offs but we’ve got to improve on that performance.”

Folkestone Invicta welcome seventh-placed Whitstable Town to Cheriton Road on Saturday.

Whitstable chairman Gary Johnson was on a scouting mission in West Sussex tonight and will feed his findings to Jim and Danny Ward.

“I bet they’ll be delighted,” said Cugley.  “I bet they can’t wait to play us!

“But we won four in a row before that (defeat tonight), playing some good stuff and looked a good side. 

“Tonight we let ourselves down. 

“I think they’ll get into the play-offs. I think it won’t be a shock if Whitstable get into the play-offs.

“They’ve got a lot of enthusiasm. Jim Ward gets them going. I think they’ll have a go so it will be a tough game for us.

“If we play like that, I think most teams are going to beat us.”

There was a large following from Kent for tonight’s game and Cugley admitted: “It is really disappointing. A lot of people have come down from Folkestone. I think we’ve let them down. I said to the players I think we’re letting them down really because we haven’t given them a good show.

“We’ll lose games. We’re not going to win every game. We’re not a good enough side to win every game. We know our own limitations but to put that performance wasn’t good enough!”

Burgess Hill Town: Josh James, Neil Watts, Sam Fisk, Darren Budd, Andy Pearson, Will Miles, Dan Pearse, Joe Keehan (Graham Martin 81), Pat Harding, Callum Saunders (Lee Harding 68), Rob O’Toole (Dan Perry 86).
Subs: Spencer Slaughter, Toby Pointing

Goals: Rob O’Toole 21, Pat Harding 28, Sam Fisk 80

Sent off: Darren Budd 32

Folkestone Invicta: Tim Roberts, Josh Vincent, Nat Blanks, Callum Wraight (Flavius Fedor 46), Frankie Chappell, Matt Newman, Jordan Wright, Jon Pilbeam, Ian Draycott, Richard Atkins, Ronnie Dolan.
Subs: Reece Palmer, Roland Edge, Micheal Everitt, George Fender

Goal: Frankie Chappell 88

Attendance: 353
Referee: Mr Jim Paterson (Camberley, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Mark Hounsell (Camberley, Surrey) & Mr Peter Meek (Frimley, Surrey)