Billericay Town 2 Folkestone Invicta 0
Invicta supporters had been full of optimism after the euphoria of the previous Saturday’s home win over AFC Wimbledon and the arrival from Gillingham of Saunders, together with new assistant manager Mark Patterson.
Saunders had to retire from the professional game due to injury and will need time to re-establish himself. His debut will only be remembered for a first half booking and Invicta will be hoping for many happier days for him in Folkestone colours over the next 18 months.
Neil Cugley’s side had looked typically resolute at the back during a goalless first half.
But it was all to go wrong after the interval as the home side opened the scoring in the 47th minute when striker Tom Poole lobbed goalkeeper Tony Kessell to score with a good finish after latching onto a ball over the defence from Warren Ryan when Stuart Myall gave the ball away as an Invicta attack broke down at the other end.
Billericay were close again in similar circumstances two minutes later when centre forward Nathan Elder fired just over the crossbar when he got in behind the Invicta defence after another ball forward following an Invicta free kick at the other end.
But it was 2-0 after 54 minutes when Matt Game hit a great strike into the net when Elder played the ball in from the left hand side after the ball was headed out of defence to him.
Invicta responded with a triple substitution as Martin Chandler, debutant Stuart Playford and Chris Wright replaced James Everitt, Paul Lamb and Walid Matata.
But this was to be a miserable second half for Invicta and a flurry of second half cards culminated in Flanagan’s dismissal for an ugly 78th minute challenge on Elder right on the touchline in front of the dressing room tunnel.
Billericay went into the game under new manager Matt Jones and with centre forward Danny Hockton having transferred to Margate.
The Essex side had first half chances as Game lost control of the ball and Kessell was able to gather after ten minutes when Elder played the ball out to the right hand side and a dangerous cross from centre half Robin Trott flew just in front of Poole in the middle three minutes later.
Poole then volleyed wide after 25 minutes when Game played the ball in from the right following a move also involving Danny Kerrigan, Leon Hunter and Dave McSweeney.
For Invicta, a Myall shot was blocked by a defender when the visitors’ first corner of the game fell to him outside the box after 27 minutes and Matata fired wide when Flanagan headed on a Myall throw from the right after 44 minutes.
Invicta would have gone in at half time feeling relatively comfortable, but Poole’s goal at the start of the second half was to change all that.
Striker Paul Jones shot on the turn at goalkeeper Ricky Millard from the edge of the box after 52 minutes, but an away side has not yet scored in any of the meetings between these two clubs and Invicta never really looked like changing that particular statistic.
Poole couldn’t quite force the ball over the line from close range for Billericay after 64 minutes when a deep cross from the right was played to Jamie Dormer at the far post.
Elder headed just wide a minute later when Ryan played the ball in from the left. And the home side had two chances after 66 minutes as Elder shot just wide across goal from the left hand side of the box and a Poole header was blocked by John Guest when Dormer played the ball out to Game on the right.
A final chance saw Billericay substitute Ross Wareham curl a shot wide from the edge of the penalty area after 85 minutes as Invicta’s ten-men found themselves stretched.
Billericay Town: Millard, McSweeney, Kerrigan, Sappleton, Trott, Dormer, Game (Henty 87), Hunter, Elder, Poole (Wareham 80), Ryan. Subs: Simmons, Drake, Brightley.
Folkestone Invicta: Kessell, Watson, Lamb (Playford 63), Flanagan, Guest, J. Everitt (Chandler 63), Saunders, Myall, Matata (Wright 63), Jones, Norman. Subs: Fraser, Hurley