Invicta draw comfort against league leaders
Folkestone Invicta held the Ryman Premier League leaders Braintree Town to a 0-0 draw yesterday afternoon at the Buzzlines Stadium, putting in a strong performance against arguably the best side in the division, writes Andy Bown & Tom Marchant - www.folkestoneinvicta.co.uk
In what was always going to be a tough game, Invicta didn’t disgrace themselves at all.
Local midfielder Martin Chandler was recalled to the starting line up for Folkestone after a one match suspension that had seen him ruled out of last Saturday’s defeat away at Maldon Town.
With the departure of former Dover Athletic forward Chris Wright from Cheriton Road earlier in the week, manager Neil Cugley opted to partner Matt Carruthers with Walid Matata in attack.
Striker Joe Neilson replaced left back Paul Lamb on the substitute’s bench, taking a place alongside Everitt brothers James and Micheal, goalkeeper Kieran Mann and James Fraser.
Cugley had stated earlier in the week that yesterday’s match would be a good measure of how far his side has come since their 3-0 loss in the reverse fixture back in November.
The Folkestone boss was extremely pleased with his team’s display. “We were very bad up at their place but today it was very even and we even had chances to nick it!,” he said.
“At times, going forward, you could see why they are top of the league; they hit the bar twice and had a lot of possession but I felt we held our own”.
However, it was Matata that had one of the better opportunities to put the home side ahead when on the stroke of half time forward partner Carruthers nodded the ball on, but Walid was intercepted by Braintree’s Billy Burgess.
Cugley though had no complaints at all about the performance of his side, adding: “I think you saw today that defensively we’ve got a strong unit and we held off Braintree well. The midfield, especially Martin Chandler, had a lot of the ball which is encouraging against a strong side like Braintree and the two up front did look like scoring today – which hasn’t been the case in previous games.”
Recent months has again proved the strength of the Folkestone defence, which has only conceded two goals in the past eight games.
“Braintree have showed this season what a settled defence brings as they’ve been together for a few seasons now,” said Cugley.
“I feel it’s the same with us and one of the reasons why we are so strong is that the lads at the back know each other well and there is some real quality in there”.
Cugley compared the match with the game against promotion favourites Fisher Athletic in February, saying, “It was a little like Fisher the other week with the end to end football and us creating a lot of chances but failing to finish them. But today I felt we got the result that we deserved.”
He added: “As a manager you will always say you deserved more and George might say the same about his side, but I’m happy with a point and we can take this performance forward to next week”.
The ever animated George Borg is an old friend of Neil, with the latter remarking, “We know each other from our days at Maidstone and even then he was a little mad – good player though!
“Although I thought he was pretty quiet today compared to how he usually is, but he didn’t really have much to cheer about. Earlier in the season he was very lively with bottles flying around everywhere! It’s just the way he manages. I suppose you could say he’s highly strung!”
Looking forward to the friendly tomorrow (Monday) night against Ryman One side Ashford Town at the Buzzlines Stadium, there may be a few changes to the starting line up.
Cugley explained, “Walid won’t play Monday (against Ashford) but he should be ok for Saturday (18th March at home against Harrow Borough). We need him fit really as he does cause problems with his pace”.
The former Dover Athletic striker was replaced by youngster Neilson after an hour when he pulled a hamstring. Ex Gillingham midfielder Mark Saunders won’t be available as he is away all week, but Cugley has said that he wishes to give some of the reserves a run out before their important semi-final in the Kentish Observer League Reserve Division Cup against Whitstable Town reserves away on the Tuesday (14th March).