Folkestone Invicta 3-1 Worthing - Credit to our lot, they turned up and we're on the front foot from the beginning and collectively they worked hard - it's a brilliant start, says Folkestone Invicta assistant manager Roland Edge

Saturday 14th August 2021
Folkestone Invicta 3 – 1 Worthing
Location Cheriton Road, Folkestone, Kent CT19 5JU
Kickoff 14/08/2021 15:00

Isthmian League Premier Division
Saturday 14 August 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Cheriton Road

FOLKESTONE INVICTA assistant manager Roland Edge says he was a bit surprised by the dominant manner that his side beat much-fancied Worthing on the opening day of the 2021-22 Isthmian League Premier Division campaign.

Neil Cugley’s men impressed during their comfortable 3-1 win in front of 836 fans at Cheriton Road and are in the top four after their first 90 minutes of the 2021-22 season, leaving Worthing in the bottom four at this early stage.

Folkestone Invicta were the better side during a dominant first-half and former Leeds United and Gateshead keeper Harrison Male, 20, saved a first-half penalty from David Smith.

Folkestone Invicta goalkeeper Tim Roberts then saved a penalty early in the second half to deny Worthing’s Ollie Pearce before Adam Hinselwood’s men grabbed the lead through Pearce’s sublime free-kick.

However, the Kent side swiftly responded through Ian Draycott’s near-post finish following a set-piece to bring Invicta back on level terms just 219 seconds after falling behind.

Draycott, 33, produced an emphatic first-time finish to give Folkestone Invicta a thoroughly deserved lead, before striker Smith recovered from his earlier miss by sliding in a third to give the scoreline a fairer reflection on just how good the home side were today.

“Many a time we’ve stood out here and discussed things and not been happy with certain issues but today you can’t fault the lads,” said Edge, 42.

“You know you’re coming up against Worthing, a well drilled, a good side. We knew we had to be at it on a hot day.  I just thought all of the boys stuck together, stuck to the game plan and executed it brilliantly.

“We’ve made good additions. I mean they’re not new additions some of them to us.  Ryan Johnson, I thought steadied things in front (of the defence), a great replacement for Micheal Everitt, like-for-like.

“I thought Ade Yusuff and David Smith up front were always causing problems and it was nice to see Ian Draycott nice and sharp today with Ronnie Dolan.  I thought they won the midfield battle and Draycs got two very good goals.

“I think even we were a bit surprised because we know what Worthing have got. Credit to our lot, they turned up and were on the front foot from the beginning and collectively worked hard.  You know that you’ve got to do that against Worthing because if someone has a day off, you’re going to get pulled apart.  I thought they all worked really, really hard to close them down to frustrate them and I thought we had a bit of quality.”

Both sides played with three centre-halves and wing-backs and midfield was a congested area but the home side fought tooth and nail to win every loose ball and were certainly up for it during this opening day six-pointer.

Folkestone Invicta created their first of many chances inside the opening six minutes.

Right-wing-back Jordan Wright threw the ball to Ronnie Dolan and he played the ball inside to Draycott, who twisted and turned his man before cutting on to his right-foot before stroking a right-footed drive towards goal from a central position from 22-yards, the ball bouncing once before the diminutive keeper dropped down to his knees to make a comfortable save.

“I thought it was a good effort. I thought he hit one and Ronnie hit one in the first half and I thought the lad in goal for them showed really good feet, got down low and you kind of had a feeling that it was going to take something good today to beat him,” said Edge.

Smith then released fellow striker Ade Yusuff down the right and he put in a low cross for left-wing-back Alfie Paxman to cut across his man at the near post to poke the ball wide from inside the six-yard box.

Folkestone Invicta were starting the game on the front foot and central midfielder Ryan Johnson won the ball inside the Worthing half before slipping in Yusuff but his drilled angled drive bounced off the chest of the busy goalkeeper.

Worthing weathered the early storm and created their first opening in the 12th minute following their first of four corners.

Right-wing-back Dean Cox swung the ball in and Aarran Racine – who plays at the heart of their three-man defence – rose to steer his header over the crossbar.

Visiting goalkeeper Male was called into action six minutes later when Dolan’s hanging cross from the right was put back into the box by Paxman and Smith turned inside the box and tried to dig the ball out from under his feet before teeing up Dolan who stroked a right-footed drive towards goal from 22-yards, which forced the Worthing keeper to save low down to his right.

However, Folkestone Invicta’s pressure should have produced their first goal of the game in the 23rd minute.

Paxman put in a low cross from the left and both Yusuff and Worthing’s centre-half Alfie Young slid in and Young was penalised for fouling Yusuff and a penalty was awarded.

However, Smith drove his left-footed penalty just left of centre and Male smothered the weak attempt with his legs while getting down low to his right.

“The crazy thing is Alfie Paxman and David Smith stayed out late after training the other day and laid out about 10-20 footballs and took the penalties and whipped them straight into the net and Tim got nowhere near them,” revealed Edge.

“When it gets to the penalty today, you’re thinking to yourself Dave’s got it, he hits a good penalty but by his own standards he probably didn’t hit it as well as he would’ve liked but he shows what we’re about because we just kept going.”

Worthing’s holding midfielder Will Seager produced a brilliant penalty-box block to prevent Dolan from pulling the trigger and scoring at the far post after Yusuff cut into the penalty box down the right and found Dolan unmarked at the far post.

Worthing’s right-wing-back Cox punted the ball down the line and Roberts rushed out of his box to clear the danger in the 37th minute. 

However, Pearce swept his left-footed shot towards an open goal from close to the right touchline, some 35-yards from goal and the ball sailed past the top of the far post of an open goal.

“I think it’s one of those speculative efforts really.  I mean, if that goes in, it’s one hell of a finish,” added Edge.

“Tim knows himself he’s probably better off heading it to the bowling green  (situated behind the main stand) but tried to be a little bit cute and the lad got on to it and luckily for us he swung a wooden foot at it and then it was always wide.

“You can tell from Tim or a goalkeeper’s face when they’re running back to goal if they’re beaten. As he hit it I was quite happy it was going wide.”

Worthing’s first-half tactics didn’t work as Racine often launched balls over the top intended for targetman Shaquille Gwengue and their other two strikers (Reece Myles-Meekums and Pearce) were isolated during the first-half.

Edge said: “I think that’s due to how our team had played. They got tight to every single man that they wanted to, cut off the options that the centre-half had. So when you’re watching the game you’re quite surprised that he’s playing long because everybody’s tight on the pitch.  That’s pretty much his only option, so when they go direct you’ve done what you’ve aimed to do because it’s often head back to the keeper or the keeper collects it and that’s what we set out to do. The boys executed it.  On another day, if you’re not tight, they would’ve played out from the back.”

Folkestone Invicta kept probing and Dolan rose his right arm before whipping in a deep corner towards the far post where right-sided centre-half Josh Vincent panted his header just over the crossbar from six-yards.

Worthing substitute Marvin Armstrong impressed when he came on to the pitch after Seager suffered a knock and he ran forward with the ball at his feet from the halfway line before playing the ball out to left-wing-back Jasper Pattenden, who whipped in a cross but Pearce was in an offside position by the time his diving header produced a fine diving save out of Roberts, diving to his right.

However, it was a surprise that the scoreline was blank going into the interval but you sensed that Worthing would not be as bad after the interval.  They had a good spell of possesion at the start of the second half, however.

Edge said: “It’s one of those, you’ve worked really well, you’ve created great chances and you just want that net to ripple and when it doesn’t you go in at half-time and you’ve created very, very good chances and you have a little bit of a think to yourself ‘is it going to be one of those days?’

“Thankfully, for us in the second half, we continued the same kind of dominance.”

Hinshelwood changed his side’s mindset from within the visitors’ dressing room and started to play out from the back and this helped them with being awarded a penalty by referee Michael Robertson-Tant.

The ball was worked up into the final third to Myles-Meekums who burst into life to feed Pattenden, who cut into the box and Johnson tripped Pattenden within the left-hand side of the penalty area.

Folkestone Invicta goalkeeper Roberts stepped to his right and used both of his fists to punch the ball towards safety to deny Pearce scoring with his right-footed spot-kick with only 127 seconds on the clock.

“I think he’s a very good manager of Worthing. I think he does a brilliant job so you know at half-time he wasn’t going to necessarily throw the hairdryer at them and stuff like that but he would say to them ‘you’ve got to do this to make things work’ and they slightly changed how they worked in the midfield and got joy in the first 10 minutes,” said Edge.

“I’d like to see the penalty again. I think RJ (Johnson) looked like he was going for it and I think he pulls out and the lad uses it as an opportunity to go down, like they down, like you have to and he got the penalty and ell done Tim for saving it. Two penalty saves, it had 0-0 written all over it.”

Worthing snatched the lead with six minutes and 19 seconds into the second half.

The referee penalised Folkestone’s centre-half Callum Davies for sliding in hard to bring Pearce crashing to the ground from just outside the D and it proved to be a costly mistake as Pearce got up and stroked his right-footed free-kick past Roberts from 22-yards, the ball nestling into the net at head height to the keeper’s right.

“That was the only frustrating part of today for us because I think by the players’ reactions they felt it was a harsh penalty, next thing you know there’s two silly fouls and you should be so happy that you’ve saved the penalty and then you shore things up and get going again,” said Edge.

“I feel our mind was more on the miss-justice of the penalty and we gave away two sloppy fouls where we should’ve got the ball right up the other end.

“I think the boys are honest enough, they said that as well, so when Callum Davies does the foul on the edge of the box and he smashes it over the wall and in, we kind of credit that ourselves just through a little bit of anger rather than being focused.”

Teams are usually vulnerable immediately after scoring and Folkestone Invicta showed true character to immediately bounce back.

Dolan swung in a corner from the left towards the near post where Draycott found a pocket of space and stuck out his right leg to flick the ball across a crowded box into the bottom far corner from the corner of the six-yard box.

Edge revealed the move was worked on in training.

He said: “Credit that to Mev (Micheal Everitt and yes his first name is spell that way).  He got the boys in before and went through a couple of options on the set-pieces and the ball and the movement from Dracys and the finish was executed brilliantly and it’s lovely for a set-piece that you’ve worked on to get you back into the game.”

The goal knocked the stuffing out of Worthing, who failed to live up to expectations on a warm and windy day on the Kent coast.

Disappointing Worthing did go close to equalising in the 64th minute when Racine stayed up for a set-piece.

Former Bromley winger Myles-Meekums cut past Wright down the left and put in a cross which was met by Racine, who flicked his header across Roberts and just past the far post, as they become more of a threat as soon as Pattenden woke up down the left.

Folkestone Invicta deserved their lead when it arrived in the 67th minute, however.

Draycott initially fed Yusuff down the left channel before the raid broke down and in the second phase of the attack, Paxman put in a great cross from the left, Wright, who was lurking on the edge of the box, laid the ball inside to Draycott, who drilled a first-time right-footed shot into the top right-hand corner from 22-yards.

“You know it was a real nice move, I thought from Alfie and Jordan,” said Edge, who praised both of his wing-backs for their part that they played in the goal.

“It’s a horrible position,. Anyone that’s played wing-back knows that it’s the worst and the most demanding position on the pitch.  I thought they both worked tirelessly and really, really hard and as it came in he’s got a lovely left-foot Alfie and he’s put it in and it’s been laid off and you’re looking at the number and it’s come back to Dracys and you think out of most of the people in your team you want to fall to its Dracys – what a brilliant finish!”

Folkestone Invicta killed the game off by notching a third just 248 seconds later.

Yusuff was inside the Worthing half when he threaded a through ball along the deck to split open last defender Young to put Smith through on goal. 

Smith’s first attempt was superbly clawed out by Male but Smith showed desire to head the ball towards goal. Both Smith and Young slid in just before the goal-line in an attempt to get to the ball first and Smith just won the race to poke the ball over the line.

“Last year when Dave went through like that he finished nicely and slotted them into the bottom corner but it’s not always going to be like that,” said Edge.

“I thought their keeper did ever so well. The only problem they’ve got Dave is about as strong as 10 men so the minute he hit the shot and it’s like a shoulder charge into the goal he was only going to put it in the net so well done for him for persevering. His first shot was saved but he followed it in and put it in the net.”

Edge was full of praise for Yusuff, 27, who has played for Dulwich Hamlet, Tonbridge Angels, Dover Athletic, Cray Valley and Braintree Town since he scored 51 goals in 97 games for Folkestone Invicta in this division between 2017-2019.

“I know that Ade didn’t score today but his work rate and the trouble that he caused was brilliant,” added Edge.

“Everyone we’ve played all the way through pre-season albeit this tier, the tier above have all said those two (Yusuff and Smith) are going to be a handful and we know that we’re lucky to have them.  They just need to just work a little bit better together as a pairing and I think they’ll be very, very hard to beat.”

Folkestone Invicta were to be denied a fourth goal by Male inside the final two minutes when Johnson won the ball inside Worthing’s half and slipped the ball into Tyler Sterling, who showed composure to feed fellow substitute Kieron McCann, who stroked his right-footed shot across Male towards the bottom far corner from 12-yards, which forced the keeper to dive to his right to smother the ball at the second attempt.

Edge said: “Great move. Tyler is a young lad, he’s coming on and he’s learning what we want. It’s nice for him to get a bit of time in a competitive game especially against Worthing and I thought he came on and stuck what he needed to do in the 14 minutes that he got on and that’s the nice thing with Tyler, he’s got that little bit of quality because the actual pass to Kieron is a great ball and I don’t think Kieron could’ve done too much more.  The keeper made a good save.”

The promising Sterling, playing wide-right, tried his luck with a right-footed free-kick from 35-yards, having scored twice from long range during pre-season.  However, on this occasion, the ball bounced just past the foot of the left-hand post with the Worthing keeper scrambling across his line.

Edge admitted he felt the youngster was going to drill his free- kick towards the supermarket adjacent to the stadium.

Edge added: “I think that was a speculative one to be honest. Cugs and I wouldn’t have minded if it hit the Morrison’s sign to be honest. He’s hit it, the keeper’s a little bit panicked, goes behind for a goal-kick. Why not? The boy possesses a shot that most people haven’t seen.”

Folkestone Invicta return to league action with a trip to Corinthian-Casuals next Saturday, 21 August (15:00) – a side in seventeenth-place after their 3-1 defeat at Potters Bar Town this afternoon.

Edge, meanwhile, is keen to make Cheriton Road a fortress this season and wants similar crowds for every home game this season to watch his part-time team in action.

“It’s a brilliant start, it’s all you can ask for,” said Edge.

“The main thing is we want to try to make this a little bit of a fortress.  People coming here now look at the ground and go ‘wow, what a transformation.’ It looks lovely, it’s well set up and it’s set-up for the style of football that we want to play.

“If we can get crowds like that all year we’ll be alright, our chairman would be quite happy. Honestly, I think Worthing especially play a real nice style of football. I think the league itself tries to play a nice style of football and it’s actually nice to watch. It’s reasonable money, so what’s the point in jumping on a train, especially at this moment in time (with Covid-19 still lurking in the background) risking certain things.

“Come to your local club and support them and have a good day out.”

Folkestone Invicta: Tim Roberts, Jordan Wright, Alfie Paxman, Callum Davies, Matthew Newman, Josh Vincent, Ryan Johnson, Ronnie Dolan (Kieron McCann 74), David Smith (Tyler Sterling 76), Ade Yusuff (Micheal Everitt 90), Ian Draycott.
Subs: Finn O’Mara, Connor Collins

Goals: Ian Draycott 55, 67, David Smith 71

Worthing: Harrison Male, Dean Cox (Dayshonne Golding 68), Jasper Pattenden, Aarran Racine, Joel Colbran, Alfie Young, Will Seager (Marvin Armstrong 33), Danny Barker, Shaquille Gwengwe (Thomas Chalaye 68), Ollie Pearce, Reece Myles-Meekums.
Subs: Pat Webber, Mo Diallo

Goal: Ollie Pearce 52

Booked: Alfie Young 23, Joel Colbran 90

Attendance: 836
Referee: Mr Michael Robertson-Tant
Assistants: Mr George Lowe & Mr Ryan Chantrill-Smith