Erith & Belvedere 2-2 Folkestone Invicta - Alfie May deserves all the plaudits, says Matt Longhurst

Sunday 31st August 2014

The FA Cup Preliminary Round
Sunday 31st August 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Park View Road

ERITH & BELVEDERE manager Matt Longhurst says his side’s togetherness helped them to earn a deserved second bite of the cherry against Folkestone Invicta in The FA Cup.


The Deres went into the game sitting proudly at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League with maximum points from their opening five games.

Longhurst’s side defeated Combined Counties League Division One side AFC Croydon Athletic 2-0 in the Extra Preliminary Round to set up this tie against Folkestone Invicta.

Invicta, sitting in fifth-place in the Ryman League Division One South table with 11 points from six games, put themselves in charge after scoring two goals either side of half-time.

Striker, Paul Booth, 37, drilled home a quality low finish to give Folkestone Invicta the lead with 43:31 on the clock, before his strike partner Ian Draycott, 26, doubled their advantage after only 39 seconds into the second half.

But two goals inside the final 20 minutes from right-back Bill Parkinson and Alfie May’s eleventh-goal of the season booked Erith & Belvedere a deserved trip to Cheriton Road on Tuesday to see who will host unbeaten Ryman Premier League leaders Margate in the First Qualifying Round on 13 September.

“We’ll take a draw having been 2-0 down but I thought we were probably, probably on top for the majority of the game,” said Longhurst afterwards.

“The difference in the levels for that one moment you switch off for they punish you and they did it twice to us.

“They’re a good side. It’s going to be a difficult game. We’ve got to go away from home but it’s a beautiful pitch down there, which should hopefully suit us.

“We’re a little bit younger than them so I’m hoping a few tired legs out there might have told on Tuesday.

“I can’t fault the lads, they’ve been absolutely unbelievable, to come back from 2-0 down.  I felt second half we were pretty much on the ball for the majority of the half if I’m honest.”

Folkestone Invicta boss Neil Cugley cut a bitterly disappointed figure afterwards.

“Disappointed. Two-nil up. We were a league above and we should have enough about us to keep hold of the ball better,” he said.

“We knew they’re going to chuck everything at us and quite rightly.  I just didn’t think we coped very well with it very well really.

“It’s disappointing because of the experience that I’ve got (in my team).

“You have to give them some credit.  I think they’re a good side, they’re really sharp.  That’s why they’re top of the Kent League and not lost a game because they’re busy. Sometimes you have to give credit.”

Folkestone Invicta started the game on the front foot but it was Erith & Belvedere that created the first clear cut chance of the game inside six minutes.

Chris Hubbard played the ball inside from the right to Kurtis Pykes, who teed up Ryan Johnson, who cracked a left-footed drive straight at Tim Roberts from 30-yards.

The home club’s largest crowd of the season had to wait until the 22
nd minute for the next opportunity.

May swept the ball forward into his strike partner’s feet and Adam Marsh played a reverse pass to play in May, but his right-footed angled drive from 15-yards forced Roberts to make a comfortable low save to his right.

Midfielder Pykes played the ball to May in the middle, who swept the ball out to Marsh on the right and he raced past Folkestone left-back Nat Blanks to reach the by-line to cut the ball back where Pykes swept his first time shot at the near post across Roberts and past the far post.

Longhurst said: “First half we didn’t really create a lot but we had possession but we didn’t quite do a lot with it, neither did them to be fair.  Neither goalkeeper had a lot to do. We had a few half chances.”

Folkestone Invicta’s first chance arrived in the 34
th minute following their first corner.

Darren Smith swung in a deep corner in from the right where goalkeeper Rilwan Anibaba came a long way out to punch the ball towards the edge of the penalty area where Dane Luchford opted to put the ball back into the box and Matt Newman cracked his left-footed volley over the bar.

“It was a bit of hard work that first half an hour,” admitted Cugley, shielding his eyes from the bright sunshine.

“It was always going to be hot. Everybody was sussing each other out and closing people down. There wasn’t much room. It was a bit frantic. That happens quite a lot.”

Colin Richmond clipped a diagonal ball away from the home side’s defence and the ball sailed over May’s head but left-back Ben Wilson latched onto the long ball and cut inside before dragging his left-footed angled drive across the keeper and past the far post.

Wilson played a lovely ball to release winger Hubbard down the right and he whipped in a cross towards the far post where May knocked the ball down and Johnson drilled his low shot past the far post.

But Folkestone Invicta grabbed the lead just before half-time with the first piece of quality.

Draycott swept the ball to Smith, who played the ball inside to Booth, who stroked his first time right-footed drive past the diving Anibaba to find the bottom right-hand corner from fifteen-yards.

Cugley was full of praise for striker his five-goal striker.

“He’s still class. It was a quality goal, quality goal. He’s done well for us.  I don’t think him and Draycott have got going as much as we hoped. I know that sounds a bit strange when they’ve got that number of goals. I still think they’re not quite where we want to be.”

Longhurst added: “They had one opportunity, but the bloke still scored from 18-yards so little bit disappointed with the goal.

“They’ve got players that are match-winners.  Booth has been a quality player for however long and you can’t give players like that time around the edge of the box because he’s done that for years, put the ball in the back of the goal from there.

“I can’t fault the boys. We’ve switched off a couple of times and they’ve punished us.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at half-time.

“We just said to the boys we wanted to pass it a little bit more,” said Longhurst.

“We wanted to try and get third man runs in behind their back four because we just felt it would unlock doors for us doing that.

“We just wanted our wide players staying a bit wider so we can get in behind the full-backs but we just said be patient.  You just have to concentrate for 95 minutes against these teams because they play at a higher level for a reason.

“They’re very organised, very structured and they’re good at what they do. That’s pretty much what we said at half-time. Just try to get on the ball a little bit more.”

When asked whether Booth’s goal changed his half-time team talk, Cugley said: “No not really. I said just keep plugging away and work hard and try and play a bit of football. It never changes much.”

Folkestone Invicta came out of the traps flying and doubled their lead after 39 seconds with Draycott’s fourth goal of the season.

Smith played the ball out to Luchford on the right who whipped in a cross towards the far post.

Booth rose and planted a deflected header which looped off the underside of the crossbar and Draycott reacted by his looping his header into the net from five-yards.

Cugley said: “Boothy’s header hit the bar and Draycott followed it in well.

“It was alright. It was quite well worked. We worked hard to get in there. It was a bit scrappy but it’s a goal!”

Longhurst added: “It’s cannoned off one of our players and hit the bar and took it away from the goalkeeper and the rebounds dropped down and they’ve reacted quicker than us, which was disappointing.

“But other than 39-40 seconds in the first half when they’ve scored and 39 seconds in the second half when they’ve scored, we coped really well with them.

“We said to them before, after, at half-time and at the end you can’t do that (switch off) at this level. If we were playing in that level of football every week you’ve got to concentrate the whole game.”

Erith & Belvedere recovered from that set-back and took the game to Folkestone Invicta.

Hubbard cut inside to drill a deflected low drive past the far post from 22-yards, before Parkinson made progress down the right wing to whip in a cross into the penalty area where half-time substitute Richmond Kissi looped his header into Roberts’ gloves.

Longhurst made a double substitution and George Humber and Ryan Palmer took the game by the scruff of the neck and turned the game in the home side’s favour.

“We changed formation. We just felt we were having lots of the ball but we weren’t quite created enough,” said Longhurst.

“We just wanted to get a little bit more legs in there so we changed the formation.

“We’ve got a good squad of players here. Ryan Palmer played in the under 21’s yesterday and got two goals to get his confidence back and George Humber hasn’t played a lot in the last couple of games.

“In a squad you need to have players like that, to be able to come off the bench and change the game and I thought when they came on they changed the game.”

But Folkestone Invicta created a good chance in the 65
th minute.

Booth robbed the ball off Richmond and played the ball into Draycott, who set up Booth, whose right-footed chip was plucked out of the air by the former Beckenham Town goalkeeper.

Holding midfielder Richmond played another fine diagonal ball out to May, who cut inside before Palmer’s floated over a cross, which was hit first time by Johnson, the ball deflecting over the crossbar.

But Erith & Belvedere kept knocking on the door and pulled a goal back with 20 minutes remaining.

Central defender Billy Manners stayed up for a set-piece and picked the ball up down the left channel before whipping in a cross and May’s driven shot was blocked and the ball came out to Humber who floated in a cross where Parkinson planted his header into the roof of the net from four-yards.

“We played Bill purposely at full-back to give us a little bit more height and give us a threat going forwards aerially,” explained Longhurst.

“I don’t want to give too much away because we’ve got to play them again but we did that purposely and he got the goal in an area we were trying to get him into, which he probably didn’t get into enough, but it’s paid off.”

Cugley added: “They should (throw the kitchen sink at us) and they done it well. We’re moaning that we didn’t cope with it very well.

“They’re going to do that. We know they’re a lively side. They’ve got some good forwards and they’re a good side.

“I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t cope especially as I’ve got the experience in that team now. We should be able to kill off games and we didn’t really get hold of the midfield second half like I wanted us to do.

“They threw everything at you. You can see why they haven’t lost many games yet.

“At the time they needed that goal. At the time I didn’t really see them scoring.  Suddenly they’ve got the goal. It’s given them a lift and went into another gear.”

Folkestone Invicta squandered an excellent chance to kill the game off just 59 seconds later.

Anibaba came rushing out of his box to hit a poor clearance straight to Luchford, who lacked composure to place his right-footed shot past the right-hand post.

Cugley wasn’t pleased with the miss and said: “He should have scored from there, shouldn’t he?  He knows that. It would have killed them off but they’ve got nothing to lose.”

Time was ticking out, but Erith & Belvedere continued to press for the equaliser that they deserved.

Johnson went on a 30-yard run with the ball before drilling a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which was plucked out of the air by the Folkestone keeper.

“I felt we let ourselves a little bit open but we had two boys sat in front of the back four and we just wanted to get our full-backs high up the pitch, which they did.

“We were fairly in control for long periods in the second half, from our point of view anyway.

“But sometimes you just sit there and think as the game’s ticking by and the minutes are ticking by is it going to come?

“But fair play to our players who have just carried on trying to do it and kept digging away and they’ve got their rewards because of that.”

But Erith & Belvedere stunned their higher league opponents with a deserved late leveller.

Johnson released Palmer down the right who danced his way into the penalty area and he cut the ball back towards the near post where May rifled his first time left-footed shot into the roof of the net from inside the six-yard box.

Longhurst said: “Last week against Sevenoaks he did nothing for pretty much 75 minutes out of 90 and he got the winner and today he was quiet and didn’t do a lot and he’s got the equaliser.

“A little bit similar to Booth, opposite ends to their career. Booth’s had one chance and has scored a goal and Alfie’s had one chance and scored a goal and that’s why it’s vitally important you have forwards who can put the ball in the goal and that’s why they’re there.”

May goes down in the record books by becoming the first player in Erith & Belvedere’s history to reach double figures by the end of August.

“Unbelievable! Absolutely unbelievable he’s broken the record and he deserves all the plaudits,” said Longhurst.

“He’s come in to play for me to get his head right and get back enjoying the game. He scored 32 goals last time he played for me (at Corinthian) and he went a little bit wayward last year and we’ll get his feet back on the floor.

“We’ve already had an approach come in already from another Kent League club but he’s turned that offer down to stay with us.

“Alfie will be the first one to say it – the boys have been brilliant and it has been put on the plate for him by Ryan Palmer, who has come off the bench and been patient and weren’t even in the squad at all last week because he missed both games.

“Alfie will take the plaudits but he has walked in there and saw the way the boys celebrated. We did the same when we beat Sevenoaks last week. The togetherness that the players have got already after a short space of time is fantastic.

“We’ve only been together seven games. I don’t think it looks like that at the moment. I think we look like a team that’s been playing together for a little while and that’s all credit to the players.”

Cugley simply added: “That’s what strikers do mate. He’s put in a good cross. I don’t think we got hold of the game too well.”

There was still time for Folkestone Invicta to nearly win it at the death but substitute Jon Pilbeam was to be thwarted by Anibaba after the former Tunbridge Wells winger expertly brought a long ball down under his spell.

The Folkestone Invicta boss wants his side to perform much better at Cheriton Road on Tuesday night to secure a lucrative home tie against Margate in the next round.

“That’s the thing, it’s a big game for everybody. There’s a few bob on it and everybody needs money,” said Cugley, bidding to grab the £1,925 prize money.

“Our home record’s good so we have to put that into practice on Tuesday.

“I think we’ve let in too many goals recently. Six goals in the last three games is not like us really, so it’s disappointing. We’ve talked about it and we’ll put things right for Tuesday.”

When asked about the Margate incentive, Cugley replied: “Of course it is. They’ll be thinking the same won’t they?

“That’s why it’s disappointing being 2-0 up.  We had that chance to make it 3-1. It might have been all over but that’s football.”

Longhurst, meanwhile, insists his side are not going down to the Kent coast just to make up the numbers.

“It’s going to be a tough test going down there on Tuesday now, away from home,” he said.

“It’s going to be a difficult game. We all have to travel from here after a day at work.

“Look, it’s The FA Cup, You’re going to try to win the game. I wanted to win today. We tried to win the game until the 95
th minute when the referee blew his whistle.

“We’ll go down there and try to do the same. A draw is no good to us. We have to try to win the game. If we can perform as we did and just have a little bit more of a cutting edge and we’ve got a chance.

“They’re going to be difficult to play against at home. They’ve haven’t lost many games at home over the last 18 months.”

Longhurst insists he wants Margate to travel to Welling and not Folkestone in thirteen days’ time.

“We’ve said to the boys, it’s going to be like playing Man City of non-league football at the moment.

“We said to the boys before the game who would you rather play? No disrespect. Would you rather play against Cray Valley in a league game or play Margate here in front of 500 people? Everybody would want the same.

“It’s a massive incentive there and the funds that come in are massive for the club as well.”

Reflecting on the club’s largest crowd of the season, Longhurst said: “Brilliant! They’ve got good support and they had a lot of people here today. Hopefully if we can just keep doing what we’re doing, hopefully we can get a few more people through the door ourselves. I think we try to play the right way.”

Erith & Belvedere: Rilwan Anibaba, Bill Parkinson, Ben Wilson, Colin Richmond, Billy Manners, Lee Craig, Kurtis Pykes (Ryan Palmer 57), Ryan Johnson, Alfie May, Adam Marsh (Richmond Kissi 46), Chris Hubbard (George Humber 57).
Subs: Joe Jackson, Allan Matthews, Joe Minter, Denzel Kobia

Goals:  Bill Parkinson 70, Alfie May 89
Folkestone Invicta: Tim Roberts, Josh Vincent, Nat Blanks, Liam Friend, Frankie Chappell, Matt Newman, Dane Luchford (Jon Pilbeam 75), Darren Smith, Ian Draycott, Paul Booth (Connor Coyne 71), Micheal Everitt.
Subs: Roland Edge, Jordan Wright, George Fender, Callum Wraight

Goals: Paul Booth 44, Ian Draycott 46

Attendance: 183
Referee: Mr Paul Yates (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Leigh Judd (Tunbridge Wells) & Mr Matthew Pollington (Paddock Wood)