Hythe Town 0-2 Folkestone Invicta - I'd like to think we can all come to an agreement about next season's budget , says Hythe Town's player-manager James Rogers

Wednesday 27th April 2022
Hythe Town 0 – 2 Folkestone Invicta
Location Reachfields Stadium, off Fort Road, Hythe, Kent CT21 6JS
Kickoff 27/04/2022 19:45

Kent Senior Cup Semi-Final
Wednesday 27 April 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Reachfields Stadium

HYTHE TOWN player-manager James Rogers says he wants to know what his playing budget will be for next season after securing the cash-strapped clubs Isthmian League South East Division status.

The 37-year-old defensive midfielder took his first managerial job on 23 November after Steven Watt stepped down from the hot-seat following a budget cut.

The Cannons completed their 38 game Isthmian League South East Division campaign in seventeenth-place in the table with 39 points on the board, as Phoenix Sports (33 points) and Whitstable Town (30) were relegated to the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.

A welcomed crowd of 1,019 attended tonight’s Kent Senior Cup Semi-Final against neighbours Folkestone Invicta, who reached the Final for the sixth time courtesy of two first half goals from strike pair Ade Yusuff and David Smith.

Yusuff has scored 27 goals this season, while Smith notched his 34th goal of the campaign to earn a place in the Final where they shall play National League South side Dartford, who beat their league rivals Welling United on penalties last night after the Park View Road clash finished 2-2.

However, the Final is expected to take place in pre-season, as Steve King’s fourth-placed side still have three league games to play as well as the play-offs and Folkestone Invicta completed their league campaign at the weekend.

The Cannons needed penalties to reach the Semi-Finals of the Kent Senior Cup having been held to 1-1 draws by their league rivals in Faversham Town (won 3-2 on penalties), Ramsgate (5-4) and Ashford United (5-4) but they couldn’t pull off a cup upset in their final outing of the campaign.

Folkestone Invicta, meanwhile, finished their Isthmian League Premier Division campaign in sixth-place, collecting 72 points from their 42 league outings, just missing out on a play-off place by four points.

Neil Cugley’s side beat VCD Athletic (3-2 on penalties after a goal-less home draw) and National League South side Ebbsfleet United (3-1) in the Quarter-Finals.

This was Rogers’ 31st game in charge of Hythe Town tonight and he said: “I thought we was unlucky actually. They’re obviously a very good team from the league above. They’ve had a good season themselves and had good cup runs and were unlucky to finish just below the play-offs.

“They’re well drilled and Cugs has got a great little team there and I thought we competed well, especially in the second half.  I thought we created a lot of chances and I thought when we got in certain areas I think that is the difference between us and Folkestone at the moment. Their players make better decisions with the ball in the final third.

“Overall, I thought we were unlucky but they’re a good side.”

Folkestone Invicta assistant manager Roland Edge said: “It has been a very, very long season, in many ways a very successful season for us.  It didn’t end in the league how we’d like it to but sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up and the teams that finished above us, I think they deserved it in the long run.

“Coming sixth is not a bad thing for us. At the start of the season sixth is good and cup runs and a cup final to finish the season is really good.

“It’s the first time that I’ve ever been involved in a cup that (plays the Final) at the beginning of next season with a (Dartford) team that’s left in and they’re still focusing on their league and trying to get promotion so I think it’s only fair.  Ideally, you’d want the semi-final and then the final and then wrap the season up like in most league’s but it is what it is but at least we got there.

“I think the players’ gave us their all to be honest.  I think Cugs (manager Neil Cugley) said this was our 59th game of the season tonight. We started the season really early because of Covid and we wanted the boys in nice and early and we knew they’re tired and I think the season took its toll in the end but they went out there and did a real professional job, I thought.”

Kick-off was delayed for 17 minutes due to crowd congestion and Folkestone Invicta created their first opening inside six minutes.

Left-back Alfie Paxman hung a left-footed free-kick from the right towards the back stick where right-back Josh Vincent’s header bounced into the hands of goalkeeper Sam Hignett at the near post for a comfortable save.

“Those two, Alfie Paxman’s been outstanding this year so they know about each other.  Alfie delivers a good ball, JV (Vincent) is arguably one of the best full-backs in the air in the league,” added Edge.

Rogers added: “I know JV, I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a threat and he’s scored four goals this season at the back stick and I thought Sam Hignett had a good game tonight and he got there comfortably.”

Hythe Town found getting past a well-drilled Folkestone Invicta back-four difficult with their best chance coming from a set-piece shortly afterwards.

Four of the home side’s five corners came in the first half. Alex Brown delivered the ball from the right and striker Tom Walmsley’s far-post flick was cleared off the line by Paxman, positioned beside the far post.

Rogers said: “He was unlucky.  I personally made our team bigger in certain areas because I know set-pieces are important.  We had the header cleared off the line, we were unlucky but their players were alert and that’s why they’re playing at the level they’re at.”

Edge added: “A free header, something that you don’t really like to see. Alfie was alert enough to block it on the line.”

Scott Heard impressed for Folkestone Invicta during the first half and was pulling the strings from the top of the midfield diamond.

Paxman played the ball forward from left-back, David Smith flicked the ball on and Yusuff shrugged off both George Sibley and Ollie Gray within the final third before the ball was played out to Heard on the right, who drilled his first-time angled drive past the near post from 30-yards.

Folkestone Invicta took a deserved lead with 18 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock, however.

Heard clipped a long ball forward from the middle of the park and Yusuff’s header took him past centre-half Gray and goalkeeper Hignett done the splits and stuck out a long left leg but couldn’t prevent Yusuff drilling a low right-footed drive past him and into the back of the net.

Edge said: “Ade and Dave, we’ve got a great return from them. It was a good goal as well. I thought Scott Heard was the difference in the first half. He moved the ball so fast and into good areas and it was pleasing he got an assist for Ade’s goal.”

Rogers added: “Sam in goal, he’s only a young kid, he’s 19 I believe. He’s going to America with a scholarship so that’s his last appearance for us.  He’s played when Henry Newcombe’s been rested and he’s done really well for a lad of 19. He's got great technique, he’s got good distribution with the ball and he’ll go on and improve and I’m sure he’ll come back over here and push up the leagues.”

Paxman stroked a left-footed free-kick over the wall and just cleared the crossbar as he tried to find the top right-hand corner with a left-footed free-kick from 25-yards as Folkestone Invicta dominated.

Folkestone Invicta sealed their passage into the Final with 40 minutes and 40 seconds on the clock and once again Heard was the architect.

Heard played a back-pass back to his goalkeeper Tim Roberts, who launched the ball upfield and Heard hit a long ball towards the edge of the Hythe Town box.

This time it was David Smith who brought the ball under his spell superbly, used his chest and a deft touch took him past last-man Gray before clinically placing a low right-footed drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

Edge said: “I’ve got to say, goal of the season has already been sorted but that was really well taken.  He took it on his chest, he come inside, he’s come outside and he slotted it perfectly into the corner and that’s with his weaker foot and to be fair to Dave, he holds the ball up really well for us and he’s a very good finisher.”

When asked whether the club can keep the prolific pair, Edge replied: “I’d like to think so!  I think our changing room knows how close we were to doing what we ultimately set out to do.  They’re a proud team and the fact that it went a little bit wrong in the end, it did effect quite a lot of us mentally, management and players so I’d like to think they would want to come back next year and prove a point.”

Rogers added: “He’s scored 34 goals this year Dave Smith and as a young kid he came on loan when I was at Margate and he’s improved a hell of a lot as a player. He’s strong, he’s got good distribution and he holds it up well and he’s a threat.

“He’s outmuscled our centre-backs on that goal. Our centre-backs have dealt with him all night quite reasonably well but when you’ve got a player of that quality and that amount of goals that he’s scored, he’s always going to make a chance for himself and when he gets a chance he scores and that’s why he’s got teams looking at him.”

Heard hit a diagonal out to Gillingham loanee Joseph Gbode, who easily cut inside Hythe’s left-back Sibley before drilling a right-footed angled drive past the near post as Folkestone Invicta deserved their two-goal lead at the break.

“Joe’s come in and done bits and pieces at the end of the season and he’s added a little bit of something to us,” said Edge.

“He’s a young lad from Gills, he’s got a bright future. He gets stuck in. He got into good positions and struck it well but struck it wide.”

Edge added: “We just said (at half-time), that’s the sharpest we’ve looked for a while.”

Rogers wanted more from his charges for the second half.

He said: “I just said in possession it wasn’t too bad but I thought our shape out of possession was poor. We were headless chickens at times, not quite that bad but it’s just a phrase.

“At times we were moving them around a little bit with movement in midfield but when the ball broke down we didn’t get our shape quick enough and I brought it up to the boys and I thought second half we competed really well in there and we got the better of the game second half.”

Folkestone Invicta were to be denied a third by the crossbar just 184 seconds into the second half.

Holding midfielder Ryan Johnson fed the ball into Vincent who played a short pass into Smith, who easily turned a pressing Sibley, who was some 35-yards up the pitch.

Smith played a ball along the deck to release Yusuff in acres of space that was vacated by Sibley and the striker cut into the box and from 10-yards his right-footed dink kissed the crossbar and was cleared towards safety.

“They did well at times today, they cut them open. The keeper came out, he was brave and kind of forced Ade to dink it rather than smash it and unfortunately Ade put a little bit too much on it and hit the bar,” said Edge.

Rogers added: “Ade’s scored a lot of goals.  He’s got a great understanding with Dave Smith.  When I’m playing out there you can see the patterns of play that they do and they’re a handful. They’re probably playing well below their level.  They’re good lads, they compete, they’ve got good attitudes and they want to win and when you really want to win and you’ve got that mentality in your minds, it reaps it’s rewards.”

Hythe Town started to get back into the game and created an opening from a set-piece in the ninth minute.

Liam Smith floated in a free-kick from the right and Gray stooped down on the edge of the box and his diving header brought a comfortable save from Roberts.

Rogers said: “He was unlucky there Ollie. I think the pace of the ball wasn’t quite enough for him to direct it into the corner.

“Ollie Gray, George Crimmen and Connor Cheek and we’ve got Liam Smith as well, they’re a threat in the air at set-pieces and at our level set-pieces are huge and we got get chances from set-pieces.”

Edge added: “Tim made some good saves, he’s a good shot stopper.  I think we deserved to win today, don’t get me wrong but when he was needed he was big and brave and he made some good saves.  I’ve got to say to them in the second half I thought they really had a good go at us.”

Hythe Town striker Tom Walmsley has only scored three goals this season and he was denied a goal just before the hour-mark, flicking in a first-time shot into the top right-hand corner of the net – after Liam Smith put over a good cross from the right only for assistant referee Tom George to raise his offside flag.

“I’m not sure if he was offside or not. We believe their first goal was offside so I’m not sure but still, it was a good finish,” said Rogers.

“It sort of summed up our luck in front of goal, not just tonight but throughout the season really. We haven’t really been clinical at important times in games and that’s probably why we’ve struggled a little bit.”

With Hythe Town having a go, Folkestone Invicta missed a glorious chance to kill off the game in the 65th minute on the counter-attack.

Substitute attacking midfielder Ian Draycott broke and split open the defence to put David Smith through on goal (beating the offside trap) before skipping past the advancing keeper but Gray got back to narrow the angle.

David Smith kept composed and cut the ball back to Yusuff whose first time drive was blocked by Liam Smith inside the penalty area.

Edge said: “That was a really good move.  I thought Dave goes flying through.  I tell you if he works how to lob a keeper he might have 65 goals next year! It’s strange from a skilled big lad. If you go through on goal and it pops up, it’s like a gift.  The keeper’s in no mans land, you just tap it over him and away you go.  Dave decided to do the opposite and he came inside and stuff like that.”

Hythe Town’s substitute central midfielder Morgan Williamson switched the play and found Sibley in space in the final third but the left-back cut in and swept his right-footed 25-yards towards the bottom near corner, which was comfortably saved by Roberts in to his midriff down on his knees in the 78th minute.

“Morgan Williamson and George Sibley are both 17 or 18 and they’ve acquitted themselves well tonight and they’ve seen the standard above and what they need to get to and aspire to,” said Rogers.

“I thought when Morgan came on he started spraying the ball about. He’s got great technique and when you get older you still learn out of possession where you should be, track runners, it’s all the basics but it comes from age and those two are going to be great little players.”

Edge added: “Listen, they’ve got quality in their team.  You can’t write them off.  People have come to Hythe from higher levels, their manager for one. He was getting on the ball and making things work. 

“If you were a neutral watching it or a Hythe fan, you’d be quite happy because they got on it, they moved it from side-to-side, they found little gaps but they didn’t really create too much other than from set-pieces.”

Sibley played a back-pass back to Hignett, who sliced his clearance and the ball fell kindly to the unmarked Paxman, who drove a low left-footed drive across the keeper and flashing past the foot of the far post from 35-yards.

The Cannons kept plugging away and Rogers has to address the lack of goals next season, after scoring 39 in the league this season.

Rogers slid in to win the ball cleanly on the halfway line.  Williamson delivered a deep cross from within the centre-circle and Walmsley slid in to poke the ball to Riley Alford but the 10-goal striker plucked out of the Kent County League with tenants Ashford FC hit a first-time rasping drive from 22-yards, which was plucked out of the air by the visiting goalkeeper.

Edge said: “I don’t care how you get (a clean-sheet).  In every game you play they’ll always be a chance for the opposition and it’s often down to bravery and being aware of the danger that stops it from being a goal so I’m happy, any clean-sheet is good.”

Looking ahead to facing holders Dartford in the Final, Edge said: “They are the holders and there’s a reason for them being the holders, they play good football don’t they? 

“They’ve got to finish their campaign, they’re chasing promotion, so good luck to them. They play nice football. What will be will be. We’re in the final. It may be a nice way to start the next season."

Folkestone Invicta have suffered Kent Senior Cup Final heartbreak having 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).

When it was pointed out to Edge that Folkestone Invicta have yet celebrated winning the Kent Senior Cup, he replied: "That doesn't surprise me. There's some big names in this trophy.  We have been to the final before, it was probably the worst penalty taking experiences that I've ever been apart!

"You've got to beat the likes of Bromley and Maidstone, all of those sides to get there. It's not an easy cup.  It doesn't surprise me we haven't won it, but we're in there to have a go.  

“I think everyone now needs to go away on holiday, forget football for a couple of weeks or a month, relax, refresh and come back ready to go.”

Rogers, meanwhile, revealed Cugley has been giving him advice during a tough five months in charge, which has seen Hythe Town win six, drawn 10 and lose 15 games in all competitions.

Rogers said: “Folkestone are a well-supported club now and they’re a club on the up and a lot of that is down to Cugs and the team that he’s put together and the hard work that he does.  I can’t speak highly enough of Cugs. He’s been on the phone a lot to me and giving me advice. He’s been great, he’s a great bloke.”

When asked whether he will be staying at Reachfields Stadium next season, Rogers replied: “There’s a supporters’ meeting tomorrow which I’ll be going to and we’ll take it from there.  I can’t really answer that at the moment because I don’t know.  I’d like to think so. I’d like to think we can all come to an agreement. It’s all about budgets.

“I like this football club, I’ve been here three years now, it’s a good football club, it’s run by good people so in an ideal world yes, I’d like to stay as manager and we’ll push on next year.  Until the budget talks have been spoken about and what’s going to happen next year, I can’t really answer that at the moment.”

Hythe Town: Sam Hignett, Liam Smith, George Sibley (Tom Wynter 90), James Rogers, Ollie Gray, George Crimmen, Jordan Sarfo, Jacob Gilbert (Morgan Williamson 72), Tom Walmsley, Riley Alford, Alex Brown.
Subs: Connor Cheek, Henry Newcombe

Booked: Jordan Sarfo 8, James Rogers 67

Folkestone Invicta: Tim Roberts, Josh Vincent, Alfie Paxman, Ryan Johnson, Callum Davies, Matthew Newman, Joseph Gbode (Ian Draycott 61), Ronnie Dolan, David Smith, Ade Yusuff, Scott Heard.
Subs: Micheal Everitt, Henry Baxter, Connor Collins

Goals: Ade Yusuff 19, David Smith 41

Booked: Ade Yusuff 67, Callum Davies 89

Attendance: 1,019
Referee: Mr Gerry Heron
Assistants: Mr Steven Goldup & Mr Tom George
Fourth Official: Mr Daniel Doyle