Thursday 01st September 2005

Cugley: All the lads did extremely well

Saturday 5th
November 2005
FA Cup
First Round
Richard Murrill reports from the Saunders Honda Stadium
Chester City 2 Branch 55 (pen),
Lowe 71
Folkestone Invicta 1 Flanagan 10

Folkestone Invicta’s big F A Cup day out ended in gallant defeat as they went down 2-1 away to Division Two side Chester City in Saturday’s First Round tie at the Saunders Honda Stadium after threatening an upset by leading 1-0 at half time following an early goal from Adam Flanagan, writes Richard Murrill.

Invicta’s four coachloads of supporters made themselves heard throughout the game in a 2503 crowd and the players responded with a stirring performance that had the visitors dreaming of winning at least a replay.

As it was, Chester equalised thanks to a Michael Branch penalty after 54 minutes and won the game thanks to an excellent strike from Ryan Lowe after 70 minutes.

Invicta’s players can be proud of their efforts on Saturday but left the field disappointed that they had not been awarded a free kick for an infringement on Steve Norman immediately prior to the penalty decision when James Everitt brought down the dangerous Ben Davies.

The equaliser came at a good time for the home side and gave Keith Curle’s side plenty of time to press for a winner as Chester improved to turn the game around after the interval following what had been a wretched first half for the Coca-Cola League side.

Invicta could not have wished for a better opening 45 minutes as they opened the scoring and defended resolutely to turn up the heat on a Chester side which was booed off the pitch by home supporters at half time.

Neil Cugley’s side opted for an unchanged starting line up on what was a good playing surface on what was a windy afternoon.

Midfielder Martin Chandler signalled  Invicta’s intent with an audacious 30-yard chip which threatened to take goalkeeper Chris MacKenzie by surprise with the first effort on goal in the fifth minute.

And Invicta’s confidence will have risen when a Davies free kick from a dangerous position on the right hand edge of the box came to nothing after eight minutes when centre half John Guest brought down Lowe following a slip from Norman.

Invicta were then in dreamland after ten minutes when Chester goalkeeper MacKenzie made a mess of dealing with Paul Lamb’s free kick from the right and the ball bounced off his chest and cannoned into the net off Flanagan.

It might not have been the prettiest of goals but it is one that will go down in Invicta folklore and one that was enjoyed again by supporters watching Match of the Day in Stripes Club upon their return to Folkestone after a six-hour journey home.

Chester were at sixes and sevens and a stretching James Dryden couldn’t quite get on the end of a deep left wing cross from Lamb after 16 minutes.

Everything was going Invicta’s way and Lowe shot well wide for Chester when put through after 20 minutes as the Folkestone side came out on top of what manager  Cugley had said would be an important opening period to the game.

Chester won the game’s first corner after 27 minutes when Chandler headed away from close to his own goal line when the ball came across from the right.

And from the subsequent set piece, Invicta goalkeeper Tony Kessell made an excellent acrobatic one-handed save to keep out a Marcus Richardson header when Davies played the ball in.

But Chester hearts were in their mouths again after 32 minutes when Invicta forced their first corner of the game when a Stuart Myall free kick from the left just eluded James Everitt in the middle.

Chandler became the first of five Invicta bookings for taking a throw in awarded to Chester after 32 minutes and striker Paul Jones was cautioned two minutes later for catching David Artell.

Captain Branch cut in and shot wide for Chester from the edge of the box after 36 minutes, but the half ended with another error from MacKenzie as the home goalkeeper came out of his penalty area but gave the ball straight to Jones.

The second half began with a couple more bookings as first James Everitt went into referee Steve Dorr’s notebook after 49 minutes and Branch then received a yellow card for a nasty challenge on Lamb two minutes later.

Chester simply had to improve during the second half and they were level after 54 minutes when James Everitt lunged in at Davies and former Everton, Wolves and England Under 21 international forward Branch stepped up to beat Kessell from the penalty spot.

The pressure was now on Invicta and Stewart Drummond headed wide following a cross from the right after 58 minutes.

At the other end, Dryden took the ball on and hit a low shot from outside the penalty area which was comfortably dealt with by MacKenzie after 64 minutes.

Chester were now the more likely winners and Kessell claimed a Carl Regan free kick from the left at the second attempt on his goal line after 68 minutes.

The winning goal came after 70 minutes when Artell headed the ball forward out of defence to allow Lowe to race clear of the defence down the middle and blast an unstoppable shot past Kessell.

Invicta responded by bringing on a third forward Joe Neilson in place of left back Lamb, but captain Micheal Everitt was to become the next booking after 76 minutes.

Chester could have added to their lead after 81 minutes when Kessell made a great save with his feet to deny substitute Abdou El Khoti when Davies played the ball in from the right hand side as Chester broke following an Invicta corner at the other end to leave the visiting defence stretched.

Invicta brought on teenager Ben Sly to replace James Everitt in the closing minutes as they finished the game with three at the back and four in attack as they tried to force a lucrative replay.

A third Chester goal would have been cruel on the visitors and Lowe shot over when the Invicta defence was stretched again during stoppage time.

There were late bookings for Invicta’s Flanagan (scything tackle after 85 minutes) and Chester’s Thomas Curtis (90 minutes).

Local MP Michael Howard joined chairman Bob Dix on the pitch to recognise the Invicta players’ efforts after the game.

Chester’s reward is a home Second Round game against either Nottingham Forest or Weymouth, the last tie to be drawn out on Sunday’s televised draw.

Invicta boss Neil Cugley told the Non-League Paper: "I thought all the lads did extremely well.

"We knew in the second half they would come strongly at us, and that's certainly what happened.

"I was disappointed with both the goals we conceded.  The lad dived in for the penalty they got.  It probably came a little too early in the second half for us.

"Then we gave them a free header which led to their second goal."

Chester City:  MacKenzie, Artell, Lowe, Davies (Vaughan 86), Branch, Dimech, Regan, McNiven, Richardson (El Khoti 65), Curtis, Drummond.  Subs: Brookfield, Hessey, Bolland.

Folkestone Invicta: Kessell, J. Everitt (Sly 88), Lamb (Neilson 75), Flanagan, Guest, Chandler (Lindsey 79), M. Everitt, Myall, Dryden, Jones, Norman.  Subs: Bower, Mann. 

Attendance: 2503.