Hornchurch 1-0 Folkestone Invicta - Our forwards have got to start scoring goals, that's what they get paid for, says Folkestone Invicta boss Neil Cugley

Tuesday 01st October 2019
Hornchurch 1 – 0 Folkestone Invicta
Location Bridge Avenue, Upminster, Essex RM14 2LX
Kickoff 01/10/2019 19:45

Isthmian League Premier Division
Tuesday 1 October 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Bridge Avenue

FOLKESTONE INVICTA manager Neil Cugley says his forwards have to start earning their money and score goals again after losing their unbeaten start to the season.

Folkestone Invicta went into this game unbeaten at the top of the Isthmian League Premier Division table with 20 points from their eight games, a point clear of second-placed Hornchurch, who claimed the three points courtesy of Lewwis Spence, 31, scoring his sixth goal of the season from central midfield.

“It was a weird game, either goalkeeper hardly had anything to do. Maybe their goalie was busier in the first half,” said Cugley after suffering his first league defeat of the season and their second overall.

“Sam Hasler had a couple of great free-kicks I suppose. I can have a look and see what happened (with their goal) but I don’t think they deserved to score. They got one and that was the difference, the goal really.”

Cugley’s men were unbeaten in 11 league games going into the game, which was played on a wet and windy night at Bridge Avenue.

“It weren’t too bad, the conditions, I’m not going to use that as an excuse.  I thought we were the better side in the 90 minutes.”

Folkestone Invicta created their first chance after 92 seconds following their first of four corners, all of which came within the opening 22 minutes when they were playing on the front foot.

Sam Hasler swung the ball in from the right towards the far post where right-back Josh Vincent tried to score with a hooked finish, the ball coming off his heel and going harmlessly wide of the target.

Hasler, who was playing in behind Jerson Dos Santos and Ira Jackson, who started in the middle before slotting in on the right-wing, called Hornchurch keeper into action inside the opening five minutes.

Hasler drilled a left-footed free-kick over the wall from 30-yards, forcing Joe Wright to palm the ball over the bar as the ball was hit straight at him as Hasler aimed for the roof of the net.

“It was a good save! The wind’s blowing to be fair to Hasler. He had a good game on Saturday and he’s come in here and he’s done well and he’ll be disappointed that he had to come off. He got a whack on his ankle, which restricted movement then, which was a shame really.”

Hasler’s second corner came back straight to him and he whipped the ball into the Hornchurch box from the right and centre-half Matthew Newman flicked his shot over a crowded goal-mouth and past the left-hand post.

Hasler then played the ball into Jackson, who lashed his shot over the Hornchurch bar as holding midfielder Matt Johnson came out to close him down.

Mark Stimson’s side then weathered the Folkestone Invicta opening 10 minute storm and the home side were a threat from set-pieces and on the counter-attack.

Folkestone Invicta were, however, the better side during the opening half of the first half and Hornchurch keeper Wright was twice called into action to frustrate his opponents.

Hasler played a diagonal out to right-back Josh Vincent, who was on the touch-line before poking a first time pass inside to Jackson, who sped past Hornchurch centre-half Arthur Lee to get a shot off, which was pushed around the post by Wright, diving low to his left at his near post.

“I thought Ira looked sharp first half,” added Cugley.

“We have got a problem with scoring goals at the moment. None of our forwards have scored in our last four games now so that’s a bit of a worry, so that’s disappointing.”

Hasler swung in the resulting corner from the right and Wright did well to palm the ball over as the ball dipped towards the top far corner.

Hasler’s quickly-taken throw went to Dos Santos, who slipped in Jackson, whose trickery and pace took him past three defenders and his low shot from 15-yards was parried by Wright and an offside flag went up immediately before Dos Santos could score from the rebound from inside the six-yard box in the 24th minute.

“I could see the flag went up very early so you look across there. It was a good save and it’s just a shame that Jerson was offside.”

Not scoring at that point of the game seemed to knock the stuffing out of Folkestone Invicta and the game turned into a scrappy midfield battle with the wind and rain making conditions difficult for both teams.

Ronnie Dolan’s sliced clearance was collected by Hornchurch winger Daniel Uchechi down the left and he ran on the outside of Vincent to reach the by-line before putting in a low cross which was hit first time at the near post by Rickie Hayles, which screamed past the left-hand post.  The centre-half was originally up for a set-piece.

Folkestone Invicta’s momentum also diminished as soon as Hasler was forced off with an ankle injury just before half-time.

Hornchurch went close to grabbing the lead on the stroke of half-time following their third corner of the night.

Spence swung the ball in, left-footed, from the right and striker Chris Dickson’s acrobatic hooked shot, with his back to goal, whistled across the keeper and dropped agonisingly wide of the far post.

“It was one of those things, we thought (set-pieces) might be a danger but I think generally we dealt with the corners really, really well to be fair,” added Cugley.

This top-of-the-table clash had a one-goal or a goal-less draw feel to it and Cugley agreed that was the case, when he rallied his troops during the warmth of the visitors dressing room.

“I said just keep plugging away, don’t give anything away. If we get a result here tonight we’re still top of the table. Basically, just keep plugging away and do the right things,” said the Invicta boss, who agreed this battle was going to be settled by just the one goal.

“Exactly what I said to (my assistant manager) Roland Edge, you could just sense it.”

Hornchurch started the second half on the front foot and were to be denied the lead inside the opening six minutes.

Everyone expected long-throw specialist Johnson to launch the ball into the box but he threw the ball relatively short to winger George Saunders before Johnson hung over a dipping cross from the by-line, which was destined to drop into the top far corner, only for Tim Roberts to use his outstretched right-hand to push the ball over the crossbar at the very last moment.

Cugley said: “I thought Tim played well really in not easy conditions for goalkeepers. My biggest complaint, we never really saw what their goalkeeper was like.  To have so much possession and not really hurt them was disappointing.”

Roberts received a slice of luck when he dropped Spence’s deep corner at the far post and watched the ball trickle along his goalline before rolling around the foot of the other post and behind for another flag-kick.

Former Gillingham striker Dickson, 34, endured a frustrating evening, being caught off side on five occasions but he played his part in Hornchurch’s winning goal, which was timed at 16 minutes and 45 seconds on the clock.

Winger Saunders was positioned on the half-way line and inside the pitch and  he split open the Folkestone Invicta defence to put Dickson in on goal behind Newman, who lost a footrace along with Callum Davies as Dickson cut into the penalty area down the right.

Dickson noticed that no one had tracked Spence and cut the ball over to his team-mate, putting it on a plate for the unmarked Hornchurch captain, who drove his left-footed drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

“We had a bit of a debate, we’ll have to see that on the video to see if somebody stepped up to keep him onside. It was a poor decision to try to play the offside in that situation, we felt there was no need to.” admitted Cugley.

“The disappointment was actually we’re attacking just before that and got caught offside and half a minute later they don’t get caught offside because their runs are better and a good ball in and the lad has put it in and that’s the difference really.”

The wind got heavier and Hornchurch’s defence shut the door with Hayles and Lee putting in a resilient performance at the heart of their back four.

“I’ve got to say I thought both centre halves on both teams were excellent, really top quality,” praised Cugley.

“I thought Matt Newman and Callum Davies were brilliant and I’ve got to say I thought their two (Hayles and Lee) were brilliant as well.  It meant there weren’t that many chances.  I think both sets really played well in difficult conditions, what you think might suit forwards but I thought both centre-halves done well.”

Folkestone Invicta took 28 minutes to create their first opening when Vincent played the ball down the line to Dos Santos, who cut in from the touchline into a pocket of space before drilling a right-footed angled drive from 30-yards, which was comfortably caught by the former Enfield Town goalkeeper.

“After they scored there was a lot of huffing and puffing. I was a bit disappointed with our players in the final third and that they didn’t cause them enough problems,” admitted Cugley.

Newman found space to hang in a cross from the right, the ball was poorly headed away by Hayles but Dos Santos hooked his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Cugley finished the game with Jackson (right), Dos Santos (centre) and substitute Ian Draycott (left), with another substitute Johan Ter Horst playing wide on the left and all four found it tough during the second half.

“My biggest moan, I think players have got to take things on themselves more and make things happen,” said Cugley.

“I think, especially the last few games, I think players’ are waiting for somebody else to go and do something.

“I’m sorry, you’re a forward, you’re the ones that have got to make something happen.  They’ve got to get at people and cause problems and we didn’t do that.

“I know it wasn’t an easy night for getting the ball down but I thought some of our passing was a bit disappointing, if I’m honest.”

Dickson beat the offside trap and broke with pace down the left, cut into the box and his low shot was spilt by Roberts, who saw substitute holding midfielder Finn O’Mara sweep up and clear their lines.

Cugley revealed that he couldn’t afford to bring Dickson to Cheriton Road.

“Chris Dickson always gets on the last man, that’s what they do. He’s a quality striker. Sometimes there not ones you can afford. You’d like someone like that in your team.”

Draycott floated in a cross from the right which was met by a free-looping header from Folkestone’s left-back Alfie Paxman on the edge of the penalty area, which was comfortably caught by the Hornchurch keeper.

Both sides created a chance each during the final couple of minutes.

Hornchurch cleared their lines and broke through Dickson down the left. His pace took him past Newman but he dragged his shot across the advancing keeper and watched the ball roll past the far post.

It was a night for shooting at distance and Folkestone Invicta were denied a last-gasp equaliser when left-winger turned central midfielder Kieron McCann found space to unleash a dipping drive from 30-yards, which bounced in front of Wright, who gathered the ball to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom right-hand corner.

Nine league games in and Hornchurch lead the Isthmian League Premier Division table with 22 points on the board.

The play-off places are occupied by Horsham, Enfield and Folkestone Invicta (all on 20 points) and Haringey Borough on 16.

Folkestone Invicta welcome fourth-from-bottom Brightlingsea Regent to Cheriton Road on Saturday (15:00), whom have eight points from 10 games.

“I didn’t think we deserved to lose (tonight). I’m not saying we deserved to win. A bit like you, I thought it was going to be a 0-0 or a 1-1 or 1-0. I just felt I didn’t think they really caused us any problems and that’s my argument in there with the lads.  We’ve let them go top of the league and that’s disappointing.

“Our forwards have got to start scoring goals, that’s what they get paid for isn’t it?

“Whichever one we’ve tried, we’ve got four forwards out there and you’re wishing one of those forwards finds a little bit of form and put a couple of chances away and the whole thing changes, goals change games.

“I think there’s no easy game in the league, every game is hard. You’ve only got to see the results on Monday night.  I haven’t looked at tonight but you’ve got to work really hard and whoever you play against, do the right things.”

Hornchurch: Joe Wright, Mickey Parcell, Remi Sutton, Matt Johnson, Rickie Hayles, Arthur Lee, George Saunders, Lewwis Spence, Chris Dickson (Marvin Morgan 90), Joe Cristou, Daniel Uchechi (Ronnie Winn 87).
Subs: Jordan Clark, James Goode, George Winn

Goal: Lewwis Spence 62

Folkestone Invicta: Tim Roberts, Josh Vincent, Alfie Paxman, Micheal Everitt (Finn O’Mara 77), Callum Davies, Matthew Newman, Kieron McCann, Ronnie Dolan (Ian Draycott 77), Jerson Dos Santos, Sam Hasler (Johan Ter Horst 41), Ira Jackson.
Subs: Nathaniel Blanks, Henry Newcombe

Attendance: 247
Referee: Mr Karl Sear (Chelmsford, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Peter Wilson (Chelmsford, Essex) & Mr Lukas Wood (Chelmsford, Essex)