Folkestone Invicta 2-6 Dartford - I think the fact that we've been off for three weeks really showed and Dartford's class took control of the game, says Folkestone Invicta's assistant manager Roland Edge

Tuesday 17th May 2022
Folkestone Invicta 2 – 6 Dartford
Location Maidstone Road Sports Ground, Bournville Avenue, Chatham, Kent ME4 6LR
Kickoff 17/05/2022 19:45

Kent Senior Cup Final
Tuesday 17 May 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road

FOLKESTONE INVICTA assistant manager Roland Edge says playing the Kent Senior Cup Final three weeks after their final game was a strange way to end their season.

Neil Cugley’s men completed their 42-match Isthmian League Premier Division campaign with a 4-4 draw at Haringey Borough on Saturday 23 April, finishing in sixth-place in the table with 72 points on the board, just missing out on the play-off’s by four points.

Folkestone Invicta beat their local rivals Hythe Town 2-0 in a hastily-arranged Kent Senior Cup Semi-Final just four days later and the Final was expected to take place in pre-season.

However, the Kent Football Association gave both of these clubs just seven days’ notice and played the competition’s climax on Chatham Town’s artificial pitch.

Dartford beat Dover Athletic (2-1), Margate (4-2) and Welling United (5-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw) to reach the final.

Folkestone Invicta saw off VCD Athletic (3-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw), Ebbsfleet United (3-1) and Hythe Town (2-0).

Dartford completed their 40-match Vanarama National League South campaign in fourth-place with 74 points.

Steve King’s side played their last league game on Saturday 7 May, coming away from Eastbourne Borough with an impressive 7-2 win.

However, their promotion bid was halted by losing their home play-off eliminator to Chippenham Town, going down 3-2 on penalties after a goal-less 120 minutes of football at Princes Park last Thursday.

“To be honest, it’s a little bit of a strange way to end the season, ours ended three weeks ago and then all off a sudden you get the news you’ve got a final,” said Edge, who was without goalkeeper Tim Roberts and defender Josh Vincent.

“Fair play to our lads, they showed all of their character. Some of them had holidays and some of them came back from holidays and I thought for 60 minutes it was a really good game and I think the fact that we’ve been off for three weeks really showed and their class took control of the game.

“You can’t fault our lads, they’re a brilliant set of lads.  They all work hard for each other, you never doubt that.  I just think the timing of it wasn’t ideal.  I understand they want to get the cup competition done in the same season because that makes sense but I think it would’ve been nice if it was at the end of both of our seasons to go and play it.”

King made eight changes to his side for tonight’s Final as Dartford scored five goals inside the final 20 minutes to retain the silverware, having beaten then Isthmian League South East Division side Whitstable Town 6-1 in the delayed 2019-20 final, which was played at Princes Park on 24 November 2021.

Folkestone Invicta took the lead through Ade Yusuff’s 28th goal of the season seven minutes before the break, before Dartford upped their desire levels during a dominant second half.

Luke Allen headed in the equaliser before Dartford took the lead through Ali Mansaray following a corner routine but Folkestone Invicta striker David Smith notched his 35th goal of the season to bring the score level at two-all with 75 minutes on the clock.

With Folkestone Invicta’s players now running on empty towards the end of their 60th outing of the season, Dartford rattled in four more goals through centre-half Connor Essam, striker Ade Azeez scored twice to take his tally for the season to 18 goals before winger Danny Leonard sealed Dartford’s 13th Kent Senior Cup title with a late strike to score his tenth goal of the season.

Folkestone Invicta have now suffered six Final defeats having previously lost to  Welling United (1-0 in 1999); Gravesend & Northfleet (3-0 in 2000); Margate (2-1 in 2004); Sittingbourne (3-1 in 2010) and Maidstone United (lost 4-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in 2018).

The opening 10 minutes was played at a frenetic pace in an end-to-end clash, with many Dartford's Academy prospects keen to impress their manager.

Folkestone Invicta created the first opening in the seventh minute when centre-half Callum Davies slid in to win the ball off Azeez before breaking and Smith played the ball inside to Scott Heard who drove forward before scuffing his left-footed shot harmlessly wide of the right-hand post from 25-yards.

Dartford’s right-back Gabriel Duo released Leonard in behind and Folkestone centre-half Matthew Newman slid over and allowed Leonard to cut inside to drill a low shot towards the near post, which was kept out by the legs of Roberts’ understudy, Connor Collins.

“Tim wasn’t here and wasn’t able to do it but Connor’s deserved to play. He’s gone up and down the country all season supporting Tim and today he got the call to play and I thought he did really well,” said Edge.

Folkestone Invicta swiftly went up the other end and produced a sweeping move involving Newman, Smith and Ian Draycott who played Smith in behind the Dartford defence but dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Folkestone Invicta were to be denied a deserved lead in the 17th minute, thanks to Daniel Blades’ offside flag.

Newman played the ball towards Yusuff, who nipped in front of Duo and a sublime touch took him past his marker and into the penalty area.  He fed his strike partner Smith, who got in behind Tom Bonner and his drilled low shot from eight-yards was blocked by the legs of Dartford’s goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook and Yusuff smashed the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle but from an offside position.

Folkestone Invicta took a deserved lead when it arrived with 36:01 on the clock.

Newman fed the ball along the deck into an unmarked Yusuff, who ran in behind Essam, before playing Alfie Paxman in behind Duo and the left wing-back reached the by-line before putting it on a plate for Yusuff to tap the ball into the net from close range.

“It was a well-worked goal.  I thought at times we played some really good football. We’ve got Alfie down the wing and I thought Alfie caused them a lot of problems and delivers a good ball at pace like whoever watches us all year will know and Ade was there to poke it home, so it was a good goal really,” said Edge.

Unfortunately, King didn’t make himself available for interview post-match but Edge said he was delighted going into the break a goal-up.

“It wasn’t a lot wrong. We talked about Alfie Paxman getting out to pressure their full-backs to not allow them to come forward but pretty much we wanted to keep playing the way we were,” said Edge.

“We were looking after the ball and moving it well and I thought it was sticking up front. We were joining inter-play, we were getting it out on the wings.  I thought it was a good half, the first-half.  We were quite complementary.”

King certainly rallied his troops during the half-time interval as Dartford came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second half and were to be denied an equaliser through a fine save from Collins after only 48 seconds.

Central midfielder Samir Carruthers ran down the right and played a 20-yard pass along the deck into striker Azeez, who took a touch before drilling a right-footed drive towards the roof of the net from 20-yards, only for Collins to dive to his right to push the ball over his crossbar.

“It was a brilliant save. It could’ve been worse for a youngster to come in, in a big game, for him it’s a big game, a cup final. He made some tremendous saves,” added Edge.

Davies hit a long ball straight down the middle of the pitch, the ball was knocked down by Smith and Kieron McCann’s right-footed drive from 25-yards grazed Bonner’s head on the edge of the box and was comfortably gathered by Charles-Cook.

However, Dartford’s urgency paid off as they scored an deserved equaliser with six minutes and 10 seconds on the clock.

Midfielders Mansaray and Carruthers linked up before the ball was played out to an unmarked Duo, who floated a cross into the Folkestone penalty area.

A mistake from Collins resulted in the ball coming back towards an unmarked Allen, who placed his free header into the bottom right-hand corner of an empty goal from 16-yards.

Edge said: “Connor’s a youngster. He made a mistake for the first goal but I’ve just said to him there ‘you’ve had a good game mate’, and what I liked the most about it, he didn’t hide.  Once it happened, he got on with it and he made some very good saves and I thought he had a good game really.

“The guy can’t believe he’s got that simple header. No one’s in goal and it’s like one-all and that was the start of Dartford kicking on.”

Dartford missed a decent chance in the 63rd minute when Leonard whipped in a cross from the right and winger Che Krabbendam controlled the ball as it bounced before curling a right-footed shot around the far post from 20-yards.

Dartford continued to press and were to be denied halfway through the second half.

Carruthers and Mansaray linked up again before the ball was played out to Krabbendam down the left and he cut into the box before drilling a low shot through Ryan Johnson’s legs for Collins to make a comfortable save at his near post.

Dartford took a deserved lead with 24 minutes and 48 seconds on the clock, following their fifth and penultimate corner of the game.

Leonard floated a deep corner from the left, Bonner rose like a salmon to knock the ball down at the far post and Mansaray swept the ball into the bottom left-hand corner with a first-time shot from the edge of the six-yard box.

Edge said: “It’s a good corner, they had more height than us, Tom Bonner’s a big strong lad.  I think he pinned whoever was on him, unselfishly squared it and they’re just quick on their toes again and headed it into a good area and the guy got their quickly and smashed it home.

“I mean sometimes you’d love to believe every goal can be stopped but they can’t. It was a good ball and they worked it well.”

Folkestone Invicta went close when Yusuff released Paxman down the left and he fizzed a ball across the face of goal which Smith slid in but failed to get a touch and McCann ghosted in at the far post and steered his shot past the foot of the near post from a tight angle.

Folkestone Invicta showed character to grab an equaliser with 29 minutes and 59 seconds on the clock, however.

Yusuff played the ball out to the right to the energetic McCann, who drilled in a low shot towards the near post which Charles-Cook pulled off a fine low save to his right to keep out.

The ball came back out to Paxman, who fizzed the ball towards the goal-mouth for Smith to poke in from close range.

Edge added: “They did a few good blocks as it was coming in. It got fizzed across the box and Dave, as he’s done all year, he’s in the right position and put it in the net.

“We were putting them under pressure, weren’t we? They did some good blocks and then we squared it and tapped it in and I thought we deserved it at that point.”

Dartford sensed Cugley’s men were tiring and snatched the lead with 31 minutes and 50 seconds on the clock.

Allen fed krabbendam down the left and he put in a cross towards the edge of the box for Essam to score his second goal of the campaign, finding the bottom far corner via a deflection.

“It took a big deflection. The thing is we worked hard to get back into it and then all off a sudden they had space everywhere the minute they took centre, which was quite weird,” admitted Edge.

“They go up the other end and fling it in. I think Matt Newman won the header and goes out to the edge of the box and it’s kind of a strange strike and deflected into the bottom corner, you can’t save them!”

Folkestone Invicta were to be denied an equaliser just 141 seconds later when Paxman whipped in another excellent cross from the left and McCann ghosted in at the far post to steer his first-time shot into the bottom far corner, only to be denied by Dan Proctor’s offside flag.

Edge said: “It’s always that hard one isn’t it because Alfie had 15 minutes of causing them a fair bit of a problem down the wing and he’s hit a great ball across and Kieron’s come in and hits it in the back of the net.

“Is he offside? We don’t know because it looked like he came from behind the crosser, which obviously makes him onside. He should’ve been on but I don’t know. Who knows? It looked like a good goal but the ref said it wasn’t so you get on with it don’t you?”

That decision knocked the stuffing out of Folkestone Invicta as clinical Dartford killed off their opponents with three more late strikes.

Dartford’s fourth goal arrived with 36:52 on the clock when left-back Jaydon Boulton was released down the left and after skipping over Scott Heard’s sliding tackle, he galloped down the flank before whipping in a quality low cross towards the near post where an unmarked Azeez poked a first-time right-footed shot into the bottom near corner.

“Was that when their left-back flew down the wing?” queried Edge.

“I give him credit that was a good move. I thought they moved the ball quickly, that’s what you want every full-back to do. Scott Heard’s gone in there to try to tackle him, he’s slipped the challenge. He’s still got a fair bit to do and he delivered a good ball and I thought the forward got across the front and finished it well.”

Dartford’s fifth goal of the night came with 39:53 on the clock when Azeez rode Heard’s sliding tackle just outside the centre-circle inside the Invicta half and ran through on goal and clinically slotted his right-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner when he only had Collins to beat.

“At that point I’ve got to say we were treading water and that has got to be expected,” admitted Edge.

“You’ve been off for three weeks and you get a game. Fair play to Dartford, they’ve had to overcome the fact that they’ve gone out of the play-offs, which is never easy for the mental side of football, so they’re bound to be in better physical shape so from that point onwards, I just think we couldn’t physically deal with them. I think they over ran us probably from their fourth goal onwards, we were just fatigued.”

Leonard drove through a tired Folkestone Invicta defence down the right and his right-footed angled drive screamed past the far post before he sealed the deal with Dartford’s sixth goal, timed at 43:59.

Bonner clipped a long ball out of defence, Azeez flicked the ball on to release Leonard through on goal down the middle and his clinical right-footed finish nestled into the bottom corner in another one-v-one situation with Collins.

Edge said: “Listen, I analyse football and goals all the time but today from about 70 minutes it’s not fair to analyse the goals because we were just tired and we were tired because our season ended three weeks ago!

“I think I’m quite honest and I’ve got to be honest today. Our players’ don’t deserve that kind of defeat solely because we stopped three weeks ago. It is what it is, we don’t want to bang on about it.”

Reflecting on their campaign, Edge said: “It is over! It is over and now we reflect on it. It’s been a good season. Was it how we wanted it to end? Not necessarily.  We were sixth in the league, we had a good FA Cup run, a good FA Trophy run, a semi-final (Velocity Trophy) and a final. That’s not a bad year.

“If you’re greedy, you want to go up and win the cup but at the end of the day we’ve had a good year.  The boys have done brilliantly for us. We’re proud of them. It’s now a well-earned rest before we come back and work at it again.”

Folkestone Invicta’s first scheduled pre-season friendly will be against relegated League Two side Gillingham at Cheriton Road on Saturday 2 July.

Edge is looking forward to playing against a former club, currently managed by Neil Harris, who attended tonight's game.

“It’s always a good game. They normally bring a strong side down and I like that in pre-season,” said Edge.

“I like to play teams that you’re not expected to beat because they can show you what you need to work on. If you beat sides five or six nil in pre-season it’s kind of expected. When you play against a higher tier side you have to think faster and move the ball faster and I think they prepare you for the start of the season better so I’m looking forward to it.”

Edge had this message to the Folkestone fan base, which has increased during the 2021-22 season.

“I’d say thank you for your support. You heard them today, they were outstanding and they were outstanding all season. Hopefully our fans can have a little break as well because their hearts are broken in certain ways and they can go and enjoy their holidays and come back and support us next year as we push again.”

Folkestone Invicta: Connor Collins, Ryan Johnson, Alfie Paxman, Ronnie Dolan, Callum Davies, Matthew Newman, Scott Heard (Lenny Atherton 90), Ian Draycott (Luca Borrello 90), David Smith, Ade Yusuff, Kieron McCann.
Sub: Micheal Everitt

Goals: Ade Yusuff 37, David Smith 75

Dartford: Reice Charles-Cook, Gabriel Duo, Jaydon Boulton (Dan Watson 90), Ali Mansaray, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner, Che Krabbendam (Harry Sargent 86), Samir Carruthers, Ade Azeez, Luke Allen, Danny Leonard (Louis Atkins 90).
Subs: Jimmy Shepherd, Tom Wray

Goals: Luke Allen 52, Ali Mansaray 70, Connor Essam 76, Ade Azeez 82, 85, Danny Leonard 90

Booked: Luke Allen 82

Attendance: 496
Referee: Mr Harry Wager
Assistants: Mr Dan Proctor & Mr Daniel Blades
Fourth Official: Mr Ryan Chantrill-Smith