It's all in our hands, says Folkestone Invicta boss Neil Cugley
FOLKESTONE INVICTA boss Neil Cugley says he wants his side to take advantage of home comforts in the Ryman League Division One South Play-Offs this week.
The Kent coast outfit finished their campaign as runners-up on 98 points from 46 games, but lost out on the title to outstanding Burgess Hill Town, who only lost three games and banked 109 points to seal the sole automatic place to the Ryman Premier League.
HOME COMFORTS: Folkestone Invicta boss Neil Cugley wants to win both play-off games to return to the Ryman Premier League.
Photo: Folkestone Invicta FC
Folkestone Invicta will play fifth-placed Whyteleafe at Cheriton Road on Tuesday night.
John Fowler’s side finished on 81 points in their first season back in the Ryman League after clinching the Southern Counties East Football League last season at the second attempt.
If Folkestone Invicta get past the Surrey side then they will stage the Play-Off Final for the second successive season on Saturday.
Last season they lost out to Leatherhead on penalties with Deren Ibrahim saving two penalties in a dramatic final to leave the Kent club heartbroken.
“At the start of the season we said we wanted to get the club out of debt, get out the CVA. We’ve done that and also success on the pitch so I’m very pleased with everything,” said Cugley.
“I’m pleased to get the runners-up spot because players’ will get medals so that’s nice for that.
“We might have won (any other league on 98 points) but it doesn’t matter to be fair.
“Burgess Hill started so well and continued so long, it got so hard to catch them but I’m delighted with what we’ve achieved.”
You got the impression that Cugley didn’t want to reflect on last year’s play-off Final defeat but he is ready to go again this week.
Former Croydon boss Fowler has done a great job to put Whyteleafe in the promotion picture.
Cugley said: “They’ve done well last year, they won their league. They’ve done well and they’ve carried it on really. They’ve brought in a couple of players and they’ve done tremendously well to get in the play-offs.
“I think they’re quite a good side. They’ve got some good forward players. They’ll be a good test. Hopefully it will be a good game.
“I think all four sides in the play-offs are very similar to be fair.”
League form tends to go out of the window in winner-takes-all play-off games like the play-off lottery, but Folkestone were held to two draws by The Leafe during the league campaign.
When asked if the two results have any bearing on Tuesday’s game at Cheriton Road, Cugley replied: “We drew both of those so it’s difficult to say really.
“I don’t think we were at our best in those two games so they may think the same. I don’t think there’s much to say on that.”
But Cugley is delighted that Folkestone Invicta will have home advantage for two potential lucrative play-off games.
If Folkestone get past Whyteleafe then they will host the winner of the Faversham Town-Merstham tie on Saturday afternoon.
“No disrespect, the one I didn’t want was Merstham away, travelling down there on a Tuesday night so once we got third-place I was really pleased and then it was a bonus to get second.
“If we can win our first game, we get another home game on Saturday. It’s all in our hands, that’s what’s nice.
“Yes, there’s some pressure, but it’s not the end of the world and you can get on with it and try to enjoy it the best you can. You’ve got to enjoy these sorts of games.
“We mostly get in them every year so that’s pleasing. It’s very exciting. I agree with them, even though this year we finished second. In the old days of two going up (we would have got automatic promotion). I think play-offs are a good thing, it keeps the league going for longer.
“I enjoy them and I’m looking forward to the game.”
Cugley was full of praise for 26-year-old former Maidstone United and Leatherhead striker Ian Draycott.
Draycott has scored 42 goals for the club this season – 33 of those coming in the league, level with Chris Smith of South Park.
Cugley said: “His attitude is tremendous. He’s just not a goalscorer, but he works hard as well. He’s such a team player as well, that’s why he’s so popular with everybody at the club and we’re delighted that he’s signed for next year.
“He’s a big part of what we do at our club. He has a great attitude and to get that number of goals and working so hard is a great credit to him.”
Meanwhile, Folkestone Invicta will maintain normal ticket prices for this game, although season tickets will NOT be accepted.
Children aged 5-16: £3
Under 5s: Free – accompanied by an adult
The game will be settled on the night, so extra-time and penalties if needed.
Visit Folkestone Invicta’s website: www.folkestoneinvictafc.co.uk
Folkestone Invicta v Whyteleafe
Ryman League Division One South Play-Off Semi-Final
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Kick Off 7:45pm
At Cheriton Road, Folkestone, Kent CT19 5JU