Folkestone Invicta 1-1 Harlow Town - I don't think we came here in the right frame of mind, admits Folkestone Invicta assistant manager Roland Edge

Saturday 03rd March 2018
Folkestone Invicta 1 – 1 Harlow Town
Location Cheriton Road, Folkestone, Kent CT19 5JU
Kickoff 03/03/2018 15:00

Bostik Premier Division
Saturday 3 March 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Cheriton Road

FOLKESTONE INVICTA assistant manager Roland Edge says his players didn’t turn up in the right frame of mind against second-from-bottom Harlow Town.

Groundsman Gary Towse and his army of 50 volunteers worked miracles on the morning of the game to get the pitch clear of snow as this game beat the big freeze.

“The majority of us have been house-bound, the snows been thick all around the country really, surprising Folkestone only got it yesterday,” said Edge.

“That’s the brilliant thing about Folkestone.  I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, the fans are excellent!  You throw out an SOS and 50 people turn up.  I don’t think there’s a lot of club’s that could say that, even club’s that have double or treble the attendance but they came down, they like to see their football and there’s no excuses on the pitch front, it was virtually immaculate especially for this time of the year.”

Harlow Town arrived on the Kent coast with 30 points from 35 games and on a run of eight games without a win so it came as a shock when Alex Read curled a beautiful strike into the top bins to give the Hawks the lead against the run of play on the stroke of half-time.

Folkestone Invicta striker Ian Draycott scored his fifteenth goal of the season to rescue his side a point 20 minutes into the second half as Neil Cugley’s men missed a glorious chance to climb from fourth-place to second-place in the Bostik Premier Division table with 11 games left to play.

“I think sometimes the mentality can sometimes affect the game,” said Edge.

“I think we didn’t turn up in the first half and what I mean by the mentality is because there’s been loads of snow and disruption and I think players’ sometimes get it in their head that games are not going ahead and then when it does it’s a quick start-up and maybe lacked a bit of focus on the job today at first.

“Then they score a screamer and then you’re playing catch-up.  I thought we turned up in the second half but sometimes it’s too little too late and I think that Harlow more than deserved a draw in the end.”

Folkestone Invicta were denied by visiting goalkeeper David Hughes after only 36 seconds.

Johan Ter Horst cut into the penalty box on the left-hand side and drilled his shot towards the bottom near corner, only for Hughes to tip the ball behind for the first of three Folkestone corners.

“I think Johan was a livewire today to be honest.  I thought he was unfortunate,” admitted Edge.

“He made bad balls, good ones. In this instance he’s gone through, I think he’ll be honest, if it was probably 25 minutes in, he’ll bend it in the far stick.  I thought he kind of snatched at it a bit and give the goalkeeper credit as well, he still got fingertips to it and pushed it wide.”

Harlow were shaky in defence during the early stages and failed to keep possession of the ball in other areas of the pitch but with Ibrahima Sonko, 37, who played in the Premier League for Reading, Stoke City and Hull City, a commanding force at the heart of their defence, they settled into the game.

Harlow left-back Christian Scales easily got past Folkestone right-back Jerald Aboagye who played the ball inside to Charles Edwards but the holding midfielder curled his shot harmlessly around the far post from 24-yards.

Ter Horst cut the ball back to Draycott, who had a deep role during the first half, but the striker drilled his shot over the crossbar from 25-yards.

When asked about Draycott’s deep role, Edge revealed, “Not through choice! Not through what we wanted.  He’s a very honest player, so he was actually dropping back and allowing their left-back (Scales), who wasn’t really defensive minded, he was more of a winger playing left-back, to have a bit of an easier time, so at half-time we said we want to have three up front and see what they’re about defensively.”

The opening exchanges were a scrappy affair during the opening 20 minutes before promotion chasing Folkestone Invicta clicked into gear.

Edge said: “I would say that. It was a little bit of a ghost town as well, there wasn’t really any atmosphere. It was very slow for both sides.  I think Harlow are a good hardworking side, that’s their major strength.  They’ve got good cohesion, they come together and they fight for every ball and that’s why every time you play Harlow, you’ve got to be ready for that.”

Striker Ade Yusuff played a give-and-go with Ronnie Dolan at the top of the diamond and made an arrowed 20-yard run before placing a low right-footed 25-yard drive into Hughes hands to get down on his knees to make a comfortable save.

“Their keeper, I don’t want to say he prevented us from winning the game or we were all over them, but he did make a couple of good saves. Ade caught it and he just managed to hold onto it,” added Edge, who saw his club lose 3-2 in Harlow on 16 December 2017.

Folkestone hit Harlow on the counter-attack after two of their players lost possession on the touchline at the other end of the pitch in the 28th minute.

Dolan played the ball into Yusuff, who rolled the ball over to left-winger Kieron McCann, who played left-back Nathaniel Blanks on the outside and his overlapping angled drive stung Hughes’ fingers from 12-yards out.

Edge said: “I think Nat tried to probably square that if I’m honest, I think that was the better option. It just looked like it hit a little bit of a bobble and a strike into the keeper’s hands but I think if you spoke to him off-record I think he was trying to square that!”

The busy Hughes was called into making a vital stop just three minutes later as the home side dominated proceedings.

Ter Horst played the ball inside to Yusuff, whose reverse pass played in the striker and Hughes rushed off his line to make a block, low to his right, to deny Ter Horst from 12-yards.

“Again, I think the keeper did really well there. He’s come out, he’s been quick and he’s made himself big,” said Edge.

“I thought Johan would’ve scored that. It was a nice little bit of link-up play, finally. We’ve waited a long time for it and Johan’s pace got him away and I think he’s got a little bit of a knock during the build-up, which might’ve been on his mind as he went through.

“He didn’t have a lot of time to think but I thought he was going to lift it in the far corner, instead he kept it low and the keeper made a good save.”

Edge felt captain Callum Davies should have buried his free header from eight-yards when meeting Dolan’s corner from the right, which sailed past the far post, leaving the defender’s holding his head in despair.

“That was a shame because Ronnie’s delivery was excellent. It was full of pace, it was flat and Callum’s run was timed to perfection and he actually got above it so I was thinking at least he was going to test the goalkeeper,” said Edge.

“It seems strange sometimes, you’re better off being under pressure rather than having a bit of time and space.  I think Callum took his eye of it a little bit and he’ll be disappointed with that header.  I kind of think he should’ve done better with it!”

Draycott fed Ter Horst in behind Paul Rodgers to reach the right-hand side of the penalty area and he cut the ball back to Yusuff, who swept his first time shot just over the crossbar from 15-yards.

Harlow weathered the storm, however, and a bullet header forward from holding midfielder Sam Clarke went up to Robert Martin, who cut onto his left-foot to let fly from 35-yards, the ball screaming just past the right-hand post and Tim Roberts’ dive.

Edge said:  “I mean they come away with a point and a well-deserved point but if you actually go through it, I think they had two chances. Well one obviously went in but that one, I thought that was going in as well.  They were nearly carbon-copies. He turned and swivelled and tried to bend it in the far corner and it went wide.”

The outstanding Hughes pulled off another great save to frustrate Folkestone in the 42nd minute.

Matthew Newman (holding midfielder) and Josh Vincent (central defender) linked up and McCann teed up Ter Horst on the edge of the box with an inside pass and his shot on the turn was pushed over the bar by the left-hand of the diving keeper.

Edge said: “A little lay-off, Johan’s back to goal, swivelled quickly, instinctive strike, maybe didn’t get the power he wanted but he definitely had the accuracy to get in the top corner and their keeper made a very, very good save.”

With 10 goals in Folkestone’s amber and black, Ter Horst has been made welcome back to Cheriton Road after spells at Hull City and Maidstone United.

Edge said: “Well, firstly it’s lovely to have him because he shows intent.  When you get a player of his calibre back, it’s like we are making a push but don’t let anyone think that we’re quite intent to just stay in this league and if I’m completely honest he’s better than this standard.

“It wouldn’t surprise me by the end of this season he gets himself another eight and next year it gives him another opportunity to get a full season and score a hell of a lot of goals.”

Folkestone’s 24-goal striker Yusuff cut into the Harlow penalty area from the left and his right-footed angled drive was held by Hughes comfortably at his near post.

Harlow Town grabbed the lead, totally against the run of play, with 43 minutes and 4 seconds on the clock as Read scored his seventeenth goal of the season with a sublime strike.

Martin received the ball on the edge of the Folkestone box and played the ball out to Read, who was playing wide left.

He easily cut inside Aboagye and from 20-yards curled a beautiful right-footed drive past the diving Roberts into the top far corner.

“That’s funny with football,” said Edge.  “It often can be a great opportunity or a slight bit of misfortune, they go straight up the other end and I think Jerald did brilliantly at right-back today, I thought he was very, very strong, gets left one-on-one with the lad. He’s done a little shimmy, dropped his shoulder, come in and just hit it straight in the top corner! 

“There’s not a lot you can do! They were clinical with their chances, with their two they scored one of them, which is a good ratio, but I mean that’s football!  You’ve gone up one end and not quite seen it ripple in the net and they’ve gone up the other end and took a one-goal lead.”

Edge added: “What was going through my mind at 1-0?  It was I can’t wait for half-time because myself and Cugs both needed to have a little bit of a chat with our lads!

“I felt we didn’t show Harlow a game this season.  I thought we were sluggish, I thought we were a little bit slow.  On our day we’re a very hard team to beat but too often this season we’ve come up against the lower tiers and no disrespect to them that’s just where they are in the league and haven’t shown these sides what we’re about.

“We had to increase the tempo but make a tempo!  I think Harlow were happy with that, they came here and got a point, that’s brilliant for them in their fight to stay in the league.

“For us, we had the opportunity to push up the league and I don’t think we showed that desire in the first half.  I’m not questioning the players because I know they’re great lads but you’ve got to approach a game for all three points and I don’t think we had a tempo.

“I thought we played like we were going to win without having to roll your sleeves up and that doesn’t happen in this league.” 

Folkestone Invicta weren’t very good during the early stages of the second half as passes failed to find their men and Harlow’s players were timewasting.  Folkestone’s fans were vocal and banging drums and urging their team on.

Harlow Town wasted a chance to double their lead on the hour-mark.

Scales floated in a corner from the right and Sonko met it with a free downward header which was gobbled up by Roberts with ineffective striker Foy in front of him.

Edge said:  “Sonko at the back for them is a big powerful player whose played at a high standard.  If the ball’s good, you’re not going to beat him but the one thing I will say we did well defensively. He actually had a clear header and we did enough to put him off so he didn’t have a good connection on it so I thought we defended that quite well.”

Folkestone Invicta rescued themselves with an equalising goal with 19 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock.

Davies clipped the ball out of defence and McCann did well to bring the bouncing ball under control on the left-hand side.  He got the better of Rodgers and whipped in a low cross across the face of the six-yard box and Draycott couldn’t miss, tapping the ball in at the far post with a first time shot from six-yards.

“That was a pleasing goal because we stuck to what we actually wanted us to do, i.e. Dracys being out on the right arriving back stick,” said Edge. 

“Kieron was creative all second half, getting on the ball and beating players and finally he made a good delivery and Dracys was there to tap it in.  It’s a simple goal in football terms but we didn’t really do enough of it!”

Harlow Town could have snatched only their second league win on the road this season inside the final 15 minutes.

Scales’ corner, their fifth and final on the game, failed to beat the first defender and was cleared out to Martin, who floated in a cross back into the box from the right towards an unmarked Edwards, who glanced his header across goal and past the far post from 12-yards.

The last chance of the game fell to Draycott and he should have buried it!

Dolan pinged a quality diagonal long ball which sailed over Scales’ head to put Draycott through on goal and after cutting into the box he drilled his shot in to the base of the side netting when he only had Hughes to beat.

Edge said: “When he goes over the back of him and Dracys is on it, I honestly thought ‘brilliant! It couldn’t fall to a better person in space and time.’

“I thought he could take it on another touch, I thought he hit it a little prematurely because of the distance.  I thought he had to put too much power on it and that’s why he kind of skewed it wide.

“That’s the thing, I sound like I’m being really critical, it’s just he is that good a finisher you expect him to at least test the keeper!”

Harlow defended deep during the final knockings of the game but Cugley’s men didn’t have the quality to get past a back-four well-marshalled by Senegalese born Sonko.

This was one of two Bostik Premier Division games as third-from-bottom side Worthing pulled off a 2-1 home win over big-spending leaders Billericay Town, who have now lost four games on the spin.

Billericay Town are top of the table with 67 points from 29 games while Margate (66 points from 35 games), Dulwich Hamlet (65 points from 33 games), Folkestone Invicta (64 points from 35 games) and Hendon (60 points from 33 games) are putting the pressure on in the play-off zone.

Cugley is doing an excellent job to keep on the coat-rails of the big three clubs in the division.

“I don’t think we came here in the right frame of mind really,” admitted Edge, who saw his side beat Billericay Town 2-1 here on 21 February.

“It’s hard when you see the likes of Billericay turn up.  You look at the players, you don’t really have to say anything, you can just leave that room, the game generates the enthusiasm and today it‘s a really big game for them. I just don’t think we went at them first.  I just thought we were a bit switched off and we went 1-0 down and we showed what we’re about in the second half.

“I thought with a bit more quality we could’ve won the game, even though I don’t think we deserved to win it.”

With Folkestone five points clear of sixth-placed Staines Town, Edge added: “You go to every club and every team that we face, we’re the surprise package for this year for where we are.  It’s not a surprise for us. It will just be a shame if we don’t maintain it through playing against the teams at the bottom through showing a little bit of disrespect.”

Folkestone Invicta host fourteenth-placed Kingstonian on Tuesday night, while Harlow’s point here puts them on 31 points from 36 games, three points clear of basement side Burgess Hill Town, who now have three games in hand.

Folkestone Invicta: Tim Roberts, Jerald Aboagye, Nathaniel Blanks, Matthew Newman (Sam Hasler 66), Callum Davies, Josh Vincent, Kieron McCann, Ronnie Dolan, Johan Ter Horst, Ade Yusuff, Ian Draycott.
Subs: Joe Taylor, Jordan Wright, Ethan Madden, Joe Coleman

Goal: Ian Draycott 65

Booked: Sam Hasler 73

Harlow Town: David Hughes, Paul Rodgers, Christian Scales, Sam Clarke (Fabion Simms 54), Ibrahima Sonko, Audrius Laucys, Jared Small (Craig Pope 86), Charles Edwards, Matthew Foy, Robert Martin, Alex Read (Syrus Gordon 61).
Subs: Josh Pollard, Jordan Norville-Williams

Goal: Alex Read 44

Booked: Sam Clarke 35, Charles Edwards 42, Christian Scales 90

Attendance: 475
Referee: Mr John Pike (Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex)
Assistants: Ms Kirsty Dowle (Canterbury) & Mr Stuart Marriott (Ashford)

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