Worthing 0-1 Folkestone Invicta - Now the dream is still alive but we know we’ve got a lot of fighting, scrapping and working hard to stay there, says Folkestone Invicta assistant Roland Edge

Saturday 15th February 2020
Worthing 0 – 1 Folkestone Invicta
Location Woodside Road, Worthing, West Sussex BN14 7BH
Kickoff 15/02/2020 15:00

Isthmian League Premier Division
Saturday 15 February 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Woodside Road

FOLKESTONE INVICTA assistant manager Roland Edge says the promotion dream is still on after deservedly winning their top-of-the-table clash at Worthing.

Neil Cugley’s men have closed the gap on leaders Worthing to just two points after striker Ira Jackson, 23, drilled home his 23rd goal of the season past a goalkeeper that has been linked with a move to Spanish giants Barcelona.

Worthing attracted their largest crowd of the season with 1,410 fans braving the rain and wind lashed conditions at Woodside Road, as Adam Hinshelwood’s side suffered their third consecutive defeat.

Cray Wanderers came away with a 2-1 league win last weekend, before Cheshunt won 3-1 in the Velocity Trophy Quarter-Finals.

Worthing had more possession of the football, playing an attractive brand of passing football on their slick 3G playing surface but Folkestone Invicta created more chances and on that they deserved to claim their eighteenth league win of the season.

“Well, to be honest, even on the way up here you know what the game’s going to be about. The weather was going to dictate a lot of it and we were up against a really good side so you know you have to be on the mettle, you have to be on your front foot and you’ve got to work hard or you lose,” said Edge, whose side beat Worthing 2-0 at Cheriton Road on the opening day of the season.

“I thought every one of our players, even the ones who came off the bench, showed what they were about, in tough conditions.

“It’s probably been fair to be a draw despite the fact that they had a lot of the ball, we actually had the clearer chances but I think a draw would probably have been fair but luckily for us we managed to steel a 1-0.”

When asked about the conditions, Edge added: “It was definitely a game of two halves.  They chose to have the conditions in the first half and pinned us back for the majority of it without getting any clear-cut chances and in a way if you go in at 0-0 and you know you’re actually going to have the weather in the second half, it’s quite a good thing but they kind of gambled the game would be possibly be over by that point.”

Worthing started the game on the front foot and midfield playmaker Ricky Aguiar played a free-kick down the left-channel and left-winger Reece Meekums cut into the box and lashed his right-footed shot over the crossbar from 15-yards after running into a pocket of space with five minutes and 28 seconds on the clock.

Folkestone Invicta were to be denied the lead with 12 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock, following a world-class save from Worthing goalkeeper Carl Rushworth.

Rushworth is on loan from Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion and is interesting Spanish giants Barcelona and this save was worthy of dining at the top table.

Scott Heard – one of Folkestone’s three central midfielders – whipped in a free-kick from the right towards the far post where Micheal Everitt buried his header towards the top left-hand corner from six-yards.

However, Rushworth stuck out a strong right hand and pushed the ball over the crossbar for Folkestone’s only corner of the game.  For the record, Worthing won three flag-kicks.

“Well, you know when you read in the paper that’s someone’s being linked to some minnow club called Barcelona, you know he’s going to be good and to be honest he didn’t disappoint,” said Edge.

“I mean, that’s a world-class save. It was behind him going into the roof of the net and somehow he pushed it over.

“I mean, everyone was looking at each other on the bench thinking ‘how’s that not got in’, but it was a fantastic save by the lad.”

Worthing left-back Fin Stevens stole the ball off Heard some 35-yards from Folkestone’s goal before cutting into the penalty area before unleashing a dipping drive just over the crossbar but visiting keeper Tim Roberts was mainly untroubled during the entire game.

Worthing went close to taking a deserved lead in the 24th minute following a 35-yard free-kick from Aguiar.

The central midfielder whipped a quality free-kick towards the near corner and with Roberts scrambling along his goal-line, the ball dipped and flashed just past the foot of the near post.

“They’ve got very good technical players and if you give any fouls in those areas you’re in trouble,” said Edge.

“I think he hit it really well and possibly the conditions are the reason it didn’t nestle in the top corner.”

Worthing continued on the front foot and another chance was created from distance with Aguar’s right-footed driven low free-kick from 30-yards being comfortably gathered by Roberts down on his knees.

Folkestone Invicta weathered the storm and caught Worthing on the counter-attack on the half-hour mark.

Heard played the ball out to left-winger Tyler Sterling, who ran down the left channel before whipping a left-footed cross-shot across the keeper and past the far post from 30-yards.

Edge said: “Tyler’s a great lad, obviously he’s young and he’s got a lot to learn, more to do with levels. 

“Worthing are very much like a Dulwich side, you’ve got a lot of defensive responsibilities and I think he worked really, really hard. The conditions were difficult really, the style of player he is. We’re very happy with him.”

Meekums was released down the left channel and he cut the ball back for Aguiar to slice his right-footed shot across Roberts and harmlessly past the far post from 25-yards.

Despite Worthing dominating possession and shooting from distance, Folkestone Invicta created a real goalscoring chance in the 35th minute.

Worthing’s left-centre-half Aarran Racine – who was comfortable with the ball at his feet and playing out from the back – was guilty of a big mistake when his poorly hit back-pass let in Folkestone striker Jerson Dos Santos, who cut into the box, skipped past the advancing keeper and was forced into a tight angle and from the right by-line he slid his shot past the near post from an impossible angle.

“We’re directly behind it, Jerson’s harassed him, Racine’s given a short back-pass and Jerson’s latched onto it.  The keeper’s angles are great, kind of made Jerson’s mind up for him.

“I would’ve loved him to have struck it, I’m not saying he would’ve scored but I would have liked him to have actually tested the keeper and when he went round him, credit where credit’s due, the keeper did enough to send him so far wide that he couldn’t score so it’s one of those things.

“You always expect a forward to score when he goes through one-on-one but the keeper couldn’t have made it even harder for him.”

Heard lost possession of the ball deep inside Worthing’s half of the field to Alex Parsons and the right-winger charged forward with the ball at his feet, running some 50-yards before dragging his shot across Roberts and past the far post from 20-yards.

“If you watched it, it’s very much like a Man City game where they looked very comfortable, they moved it, they played it all the way around the pitch but I don’t really think they got a clear-cut opportunity,” highlighted Edge.

“Even though he’s dragged it, he’s still got a lot to do to beat Tim. He dragged it because he knew he still had to hit it well.”

Worthing handed Connor Hunte his debut, having snapped him up on loan from National League South side Dulwich Hamlet but he lasted 55 minutes and was forced to drop deep from his number 10 role into central midfielder and didn’t harm Folkestone at all.

When asked about Hunte’s performance, Edge replied: “I thought he was really solid and comfortable on the ball, like a typical Dulwich footballer. 

“I’ve got to give Scott Heard, Kieran McCann and Johan Ter Horst credit, they’re fit lads and they harassed him from the first minute to the last.”

When asked for his thoughts at the interval, Edge replied: “Pretty much the same as the start.  You know what you’ve got to do so you’ve got to be a unit.  You can’t be individual, get together, squeeze at the right times, squeeze with a purpose and if I’m honest the other thing was we knew we’d get opportunities by the way they kind of over play.

“We tried to emphasise the importance of when we actually won the ball we were quite wasteful. When we actually broke them down and we were on the counter-attack, the next pass was poor, where a little bit of care we could’ve got in and created more clear-cut opportunities.”

Cugley clearly rallied his troops as they came out with all guns blazing and created three chances inside the opening 241 seconds.

Heard played a diagonal pass out to Sterling, who cut in from the left to control a bouncing ball before the ball rolled back to Heard in the centre before he fed the ball back to Sterling, who hit a left-footed angled rasping drive towards the top near corner from 25-yards, which was plucked out of the air by Rushworth after only 28 seconds.

“I know when he hits a rasping drive and it was a kind of an in between. He can hit a ball that boy. He was never going to trouble the keeper with that effort,” admitted Edge.

Jackson’s low 20-yard pass put Dos Santos through on goal, in behind left-back Stevens and centre-half Racine but Rushworth rushed out to the edge of his box to make the stop with his chest before gathering the ball.

Edge added: “I think if you ask Jerson about that, it’s a good bit of play, Ira’s put him in, it was a good run. He didn’t really strike if as true as he would’ve liked. It bobbled up, the keeper saved it but I think if you ask Jerson, he would’ve felt he could’ve struck that a bit better or should’ve done better.”

Heard pressed Hunte in midfield before playing the ball up to central striker Dos Santos, who swept a pass into Jackson’s stride and he drilled his right-footed shot past the foot of the right-hand post from six-yards.

“I think we pressurised them and got the ball and I think he was a bit wasteful,” added Edge.

“I think there should’ve been a goal out of those opportunities. Ira’s thumped it, should’ve thumped it across goal really and it’s ended up with the keeper didn’t even have to make a save, which is quite surprising because he’s in good form.”

Folkestone Invicta centre-half partnership of Matthew Newman and Everitt were outstanding for the entire game.

Considering Everitt usually plays as a holding midfielder sat in front of the back four, Edge was full of praise for the 37-year-old player-coach.

“Who would’ve thought we’ve been playing Mev in the wrong spot for the last thousand games but that’s this club. When the chips are down you need someone,” said Edge.

“We needed a centre-back and he dropped back there and you know what you’re going to get out of Mev. He’s awkward, he knows it, he’s commanding and I thought him and Matthew Newman were both solid.”

Worthing failed to get in behind the pair too often and when they did, Folkestone Invicta got lucky.

Expecting Aguiar to float the free-kick into the Folkestone box, this time it was down to Hunte, who chipped a brilliant ball into the corridor of uncertainty but Racine stretched and failed to make any contact with the ball, which flashed just past the far post.

Folkestone Invicta were a well-organised outfit and packed the edge of their penalty area and otherwise quiet 15-goal Worthing striker Ollie Pearce cut the ball onto his left-foot before unleashing an angled drive which flashed across Roberts and past the far post from 35-yards.

The wind picked up during the final quarter of the game, making conditions even more difficult for both sets of players.

Cugley brought on striker Ian Draycott in the 66th minute and he played down the centre with Jackson moving over to the right-wing.

Just three minutes and 51 seconds after coming on, Draycott found a pocket of space in front of the Worthing centre-halves before cutting the ball onto his right-boot and dragging his shot comfortably past the far post from 35-yards.

Folkestone Invicta’s central midfielder Kieron McCann played the ball out to Jackson on the right and he easily cut inside Stevens before drilling his left-footed shot past the near post from 22-yards.

Sterling, 17, who appeared to have suffered a knock to his right-knee, was substituted for Nathaniel Blanks with 11 minutes left and Folkestone Invicta enjoyed another spell on the front foot.

“We knew what the game was about. We knew it was going to be windy, it was going to rain and I just felt, I wouldn’t say I felt comfortable but Worthing go to the very, very end and they’ve got a lot of quality but I felt we frustrated them, so I was quietly confident,” said Edge.

Draycott drew a foul from Racine 28-yards from goal and Jackson whipped his right-footed free-kick past the near post – in a similar position and outcome to Aguiar’s attempt earlier on in the game.

Edge said: “The free-kick was very similar to their one. He’s at the lower corner and their one was at the upper.  A free-kick in this weather, you’re thinking it’s got to be quite special to beat their lad.”

Worthing tried to get in behind Everitt a couple of times with some low through balls but on both occasions Roberts came off his line and smothered the ball by diving low to his right, without being pressed.

Folkestone Invicta claimed the deserved victory with Jackson scoring with 41 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Finn O’Mara advanced into the final third and slipped a delightful through ball for Jackson, who controlled the ball and shifted the ball on the outside of Stevens before drilling his right-footed shot into the back of the net from eight-yards, despite Rushworth getting his right-hand to the shot but he couldn’t stop the ball crashing into the net.

“We got in behind them and with Ira he’s got a hell of a strike on him,” said former Gillingham defender Edge, 41.

“He’s just focused to try to drill it as hard as he could across goal and there was an element of fortune in it. It’s on target anyway but it takes a slight nick and then if the goalkeeper would’ve saved that, I’m giving up! He’s still got a good hand to it but he was only able to push it onto the post and in.”

Worthing went close to grabbing a draw with 44:57 seconds on the clock, following another set-piece.

Draycott committed the foul; Aguiar raised his left arm before floating his right-footed free-kick in from the right. Newman capped off his outstanding performance by heading the ball clear and substitute Kieron Pamment cracked a right-footed hooked volley from outside the D which screamed just past the foot of the left-hand post.

“To be honest, the only shot they had that actually worried me was the volley,” admitted Edge.

“A great volley, he caught it so well but all of their strikes really were from a distance that you would say you’ve done your job defensively. We forced them to shoot from areas where you’re more than likely not to score.”

Sixty-one seconds into stoppage time, Jackson showed good skill by skipping past three Worthing players before unleashing his right-footed shot from 16-yards, which was spilt by Rushworth, who recovered to pick the ball up before it rolled into the bottom corner.

This was a massive win for Folkestone Invicta and with 12 league games left to play, the dream of playing Vanarama National League South football for the first time next season could well be a reality for Cugley and his men.

Worthing occupy the sole promotion spot with 63 points from their 30 league games.

Folkestone Invicta remain in second-place with 61 points, while Carshalton Athletic are up to third with 55 points and Cray Wanderers slip down a place with 55 points, while Hornchurch have a game in hand on all the sides above them and are just one point behind Tony Russell’s side.

Folkestone Invicta travel to Basildon United on Tuesday night (19:45) in the Velocity Trophy Second Stage, before second-from-bottom side Wingate & Finchley visit Cheriton Road next Saturday (15:00).

Essex side Basildon United are in the bottom four in the Isthmian League North Division table with 23 points from as many games.

Having beaten Vanarama National League South relegation threatened side Tonbridge Angels 3-1 to reach the Kent Senior Cup Quarter-Finals last time out, Folkestone Invicta are on course of a unique treble.

“I wouldn’t go there!  I wouldn’t put your money on that,” said Edge.

“Folkestone are a honest club and we’ll put our all into everything, cups and the league and see where we end up.  We did ourselves no harm today, there’s still a long way to go.

“It means that we’ve faced a very tough month of games and we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance.  There’s a long way to go, we know we can possibly be better really even though we’ve picked up great results.

“We just need to keep our heads focused on the next game and the next game and the next game and see where it finishes.

“I mean, you lose here it’s eight points and all off a sudden you’re thinking where are we?  What are we focusing on now? Now the dream is still alive but we know we’ve got a lot of fighting, scrapping and working hard to stay there.”

Worthing: Carl Rushworth, Joel Colbran, Fin Stevens, Danny Barker, Aarran Racine, Alfie Young, Reece Meekums (Marvin Armstrong 55), Ricky Aguiar, Ollie Pearce, Connor Hunte (Lloyd Dawes 55), Alex Parsons (Kieron Pamment 76).
Subs: Darren Budd, Jasper Pattenden

Booked: Alfie Young 61

Folkestone Invicta: Tim Roberts, Finn O’Mara, Jordan Wright, Scott Heard, Micheal Everitt, Matthew Newman, Tyler Sterling (Nathaniel Blanks 79), Kieron McCann, Jerson Dos Santos (Ian Draycott 66), Ira Jackson, Johan Ter Horst.
Subs: Henry Newcombe, Ronnie Dolan, Kieran Jones

Goal: Ira Jackson 87

Booked: Micheal Everitt 23, Jordan Wright 56, Scott Heard 73

Attendance: 1,410
Referee: Mr Andy Bennett
Assistants: Mr Thomas Berry & Mr Liam White