Cray Wanderers 0-1 Folkestone Invicta - It's about a seven game season now and showing me as a group how good they are and how much they want to stay at this football club, says Folkestone Invicta boss Andy Drury

Sunday 24th March 2024
Cray Wanderers 0 – 1 Folkestone Invicta
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 24/03/2024 15:00

Isthmian League Premier Division
Sunday 24 March 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

FOLKESTONE INVICTA manager Andy Drury says hard work and desire from his players ensured they grabbed a victory at Cray Wanderers which virtually retains the club’s Isthmian League Premier Division status.

Striker David Smith, 24, settled a cagey affair at Hayes Lane with his 13th goal of the season, as Invicta leapfrogged over Canvey Island into sixteenth-place in the table with 42 points (11 wins, nine draws and 15 defeats) from their 35 games.

The club are now 16 points clear of the relegation zone, that contains Margate, Haringey Borough, Kingstonian and Concord Rangers.

“I think it was a bit of a scrappy affair,” admitted Drury, who has won 6, drawn 5 and lost 10 of his 21 games in charge since taking over at Cheriton Road.

“I think we won the game on hard work and desire today.  I thought what we saw out there was probably two midtable teams cancelling each other out a little bit.”

Reflecting on his work since taking over from Roland Edge and Micheal Everitt on 25 November 2023, the 40-year-old added: “It’s been busy. We had a turnaround of players which is what we had to do for us to have success in the second part of the season.

“It’s been a process bringing players in who haven’t been playing too much football and we’re having a pre-season during the season, which is never ideal but I feel like we had to do it and you can see the rewards.

“We’ve won three of our last four and every single player out there is working for each other, working for me and working for the club, which wasn’t the case earlier in the season and I’m delighted with the players’ today.”

Margate travel to Cheshunt on Tuesday night, the side immediately above Mark Stimson’s side and 10 points adrift of safety – but today’s win in Bromley will keep Folkestone Invicta in the seventh-tier next season.

“I think we’re safe. I don’t think we were every going to go down.  Once we got the players in around December-January time, I don’t think we were ever going to go down,” added Drury.

“It’s just making sure we got those points that we didn’t go down but for me now it’s about – I said to the players in there – it’s about a seven game season now and them showing me as a group how good they are as individuals, how good players they are and how much they want to stay at this football club.”

A crowd of 267 witnessed both sides cancel each other out during the first half, with Folkestone Invicta creating their first opening in the 16th minute.

A driving run from resilient centre-half Jason Fregene – who plays on the right of a three man central defence – saw him go on a 40-yard run with the ball straight down the middle before feeding Seidou Sanogo – who plays on the right of the midfield diamond – and his right-footed drive from 22-yards arrowed past the top of the far post.

“We tried a new shape as well today, we’ve gone to a diamond,” revealed Drury.

“It worked in spells. We’ve got a couple of good players in the middle of the pitch and if they (Cray Wanderers) dictate the play and we can struggle and we wanted to crowd them out today in the middle of the pitch to stop that happening and I felt it worked in spells.

“They were always going to get a bit of joy when they were going for it a little bit (later on in the game) to get back into the game.

“On the whole it was two midtable teams at this level kind of cancelling each other out.  I thought we just got through with hard work and desire.”

Cray Wanderers – who have now suffered back-to-back home defeats having lost 2-1 at home to Potters Bar Town on Wednesday 13 March – created their first opening in the 24th minute.

Frankie Raymond and Sam Wood linked up on the left before winger Ellis Brown darted forward with the ball before left-back Wood tried to score with the outside of his left-boot, the ball sailing just over the top of the far post from 22-yards.

Folkestone Invicta were denied the lead in the 26th minute, courtesy of a headed goalline clearance from recalled Cray Wanderers’ centre-half Cameron Black.

Fregene drilled a first time long ball out of defence and Cray Wanderers’ goalkeeper Shaun Rowley came out of his penalty area and headed the ball away, straight to Sanogo, who took a touch before chipping a right-footed shot towards goal from 35-yards, but Black got back on his line to head the ball behind for the away side’s second of three corners.

“The keeper’s come out and to be fair to the defender, he’s done well to react to get back there,” added Drury.

Folkestone Invicta scored the only goal of this disappointing Kent derby with 30 minutes and 4 seconds on the clock.

Kavanagh – who was forced off with a dislocated right shoulder after picking up a yellow card for sliding in to foul Wood inside the Cray Wanderers half – played the ball in from the right towards the edge of the penalty area.

Tom Derry teed the ball up to David Smith, who swept a left-footed shot towards goal from 16-yards.  However, the ball charged off a pressing Jack Holland and dinked over a diving Rowley and trickled apologetically over the goal-line.

“I think when you look back at us from the start of the year, a lot of our goals come from crosses and we’ll always try to work on getting crosses into the box,” said Drury.

“A lot of goals are scored from crosses in the box and a lot of our goals are scored from crosses into the box, so that’s something that we’re always on at them and it was a cross that does it.

“If you get the ball in the box, at this level, the defenders can’t deal with it, not a lot of defenders can anyway and a couple of ricochets, we scored a bit of a scrappy goal really, which doesn’t really happen for us.  We normally have to work ever so hard to get a goal.

“I think if David can get 17-18 goals, he’s had a relatively ok season. He will always get you goals. The thing for Smithy, since I’ve taken charge, is his work-rate and you can see with the stats, he’s running more every single game.”

When asked about Kavanagh’s injury status, Drury revealed it is likely to be his last outing for the club, with his loan deal from league rivals Horsham coming to an end after Easter.

“I haven’t spoken to him yet but I think he’s dislocated his shoulder.   He had another two games left for us, so I think that will be him done for us,” revealed Drury.

Cray Wanderers manager Neil Smith did not attend the post-match press conference.

Drury said: “We sorted out a few problems (at half-time).  When they’re playing out from the back with the press, they were getting the left-back out too much. We dropped the striker in and kept our right-sided diamond player at home to kind of stop the left-back coming out and I think that worked second half.  They didn’t get too much joy out of that.”

Folkestone Invicta’s front two combined and missed a glorious chance to double their lead with four minutes and 21 seconds into the second half.

Former Wands striker Derry reached the by-line on the right and hung over a cross towards the unmarked Smith but the former Bromley striker guided his diving header across Rowley and past the far post from the edge of the six-yard box.

“That’s what every striker wants really.  It’s just gone past the far post and was wone of the chances and it was good work from Tom again,” added Drury.

Cray Wanderers manager Smith played George Porter as his lone striker (before being partnered by Gary Lockyer six minutets into the second half) and the 31-year-old missed a chance from the left-hand side of the penalty area.

Wood played the ball along the deck to Tom Beere, who fed Porter, who placed his left-footed shot across the diving keeper and just past the foot of the far post from 15-yards.

The introductions of 11-goal striker Lockyer and attacking midfielder Anthony Cook was the shot in the arm that the home side needed.

Cook floated a cross towards the back post where an unmarked Porter flicked his header past the left-hand post from six-yards.

Folkestone Invicta missed another glorious chance to put the game to bed in the 57th minute.

Centre-half Callum Davies had time and plenty of space to hit a long ball out of defence and Wood opened the gate to let in Smith, who swept his right-footed shot towards the bottom near corner from just outside the corner of the six-yard box, which was blocked by Rowley’s legs at his near-post.

“I think he had more time than what he thought. He could’ve actually cut back on his left, but he swung with his right and the keeper made a save,” said Drury.

“But for me you can have those days as a striker. He’s still getting those chances.  He’s still getting away with three or four chances.  Smithy could’ve had three or four in the second half, which was disappointing. It could’ve killed the game off.”

Cray Wanderers bossed the rest of the half with Davis, Fregene and Ian Gayle maintaining the away side’s third clean sheet in their last five outings.

Central midfielder Frankie Raymond swung in a quality delivery from the left and Derry displayed his defensive duties by nodding the ball just past his own post from within a crowd of players before the home side created their best chance of the second half following their third and final (the resulting) corner in the 77th minute.

Raymond swung the corner in from the left and the ball was headed clear towards the edge of the box where substitute midfielder Josh Hallard set the ball back to Wood, who unleashed a left-footed drive from 35-yards, which was clawed out by goalkeeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle, high to his left.

“I don’t think they had too many clear-cut chances, they were only half-chances really. I thought we defended quite well,” added Drury, who reflected on another clean-sheet, having beaten Canvey Island 1-0 at Cheriton Road on 16 March, before losing 3-2 at Cheshunt in midweek.

“Two clean-sheets out of three now, two 1-0 wins, which is always pleasing.  We haven’t always done that, clean-sheets this season.

“The only problem was we caused our own downfall sometimes when we were in possession, we didn’t keep the ball.”

Hallard lost composure when outside the Folkestone Invicta penalty area when he was released through on goal, dragging his left-footed shot across McKenzie-Lyle and past the far post, as the home side kept knocking on the door.

The Wands created their final chance in the 85th minute when Raymond’s long ball found Lockyer just outside the corner of the penalty area but he drilled his right-footed angled drive into the base of the side netting, as a poor game came to an end.

Fifteenth-placed Cray Wanderers (45 points from 35 games) welcome second-placed Chatham Town to Hayes Lane on Good Friday, before travelling to Margate on Easter Monday.

Tony Russell and Joe Vines were in the crowd today as their Lewes side play Folkestone Invicta at Cheriton Road on Friday, before Drury takes his side to Hastings United on Easter Monday.  All four games kick off at 15:00.

Lewes are sitting in eleventh-place with 51 points from 34 games, while Hastings United are in ninth with 53 points from the same number of games.

“Two tough games, two footballing teams, where we’re going to have to be on it off the ball and then when we get the ball we’ll have to be a little bit better than what we was today in possession,” admitted Drury, who was without left-back Chris Sessegnon with a hamstring injury.

“Two big games. Lewes won’t like coming to play on our pitch, so that will be a bonus for us.

"Look the main thing that you can see out there is every single one who came off the bench and the people started, the desire and their work-rate was really good today and when you’ve got a team that’s working like that for each other, then you’ve always got a chance of winning games.”

With safety now secure, Drury was asked what he wants from his side for their last seven outings.

“Just to win as many games as possible really. We want to try and get into the next batch of teams with Whitehawk and Cray, Hashtag are up there.

“It’s just about getting high up the table as we can and obviously getting away from the bottom four now and just seeing as a group how far we can go up the table.

“I think we’ve been on a decent enough run since January first since we beat Margate (2-0 at Hartsdown Park), so that was always the key, was making changes.

“We knew we were going to suffer in the first few games but we had to make those changes to see these performances out there today.”

Cray Wanderers: Shaun Rowley, Emmanuel Kwatchey, Sam Wood, David Ijaha, Jack Holland, Cameron Black, Ellis Brown (Gary Lockyer 51), Frankie Raymond, George Porter, Tom Beere (Josh Hallard 75), Rhys Murrell-Williamson (Anthony Cook 55).
Subs: Alfie Evans, Enoch Muwonge

Booked: Jack Holland 71

Folkestone Invicta: Kai McKenzie-Lyle, Tom Kavanagh (Cameron Brodie 39), Michael Kedman, Ian Gayle, Callum Davies, Jason Fregene, Seidou Sanogo, Dean Rance (Toby Byron 79), Tom Derry, David Smith (Louis Collins 71), Eddie Allsopp.
Sub: William Moses, Joe Coleman

Goal: David Smith 31

Booked: Tom Kavanagh 38, Dean Rance 76

Attendance: 267
Referee: Mr James Keane
Assistants: Mr Jake Symes & Mr Belin Demirov
Observer:  Mr Rob Baker