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     EASTLEIGH                        3          FOLKESTONE INVICTA             3

A goal seconds from the end of stoppage time denied Folkestone Invicta a famous victory and left the visitors feeling somewhat desolate after they had led 3-0 after just 17 minutes and at half time in Saturday’s breathless Emirates F A Cup Fourth Round Qualifying tie away to National League club Eastleigh at an impressive Silverlake Stadium.

Had Invicta been offered a draw beforehand then they would have been delighted to accept and yet no one could have foretold just quite how this extraordinary afternoon would unfold to leave players, managers and supporters drained at the end of it all.

Even long-serving Invicta manager Neil Cugley will have seen little quite like this inhis 25th season in charge of the Folkestone club after some famous F A Cup runs when in charge at Ashford.

Alfie Paxman gave Invicta a 2-0 lead after just five minutes and Scott Heard then soon made it 3-0.

Eastleigh did not get the first half lifeline they would have wanted / needed but scored in the 57th and 62nd minutes to make it 3-2.

Invicta then held on for dear life and appeared to have done enough before big Gillingham loanee defender Christian Maghoma rescued The Spitfires with the third last kick of the game.

The Folkestone side remains unbeaten in 2021-22 and went into Sunday’s draw for the First Round Proper – away to Boreham Wood would not have suited either club – have a home replay to come and can take huge plaudits for Saturday’s performance. But have they missed their big chance against full-time opposition?

On a sunny afternoon, team news saw Alexis Andre remain in the Invicta goal, with Connor Collins on the bench and Tim Roberts watching from the sidelines.  Defender Josh Vincent also came back into the starting X1 after injury which meant Ryan Johnson reverted to his accustomed midfield role.

On their big day out the Folkestone club was to get off to a dream start.

Having denied Invicta an early free kick for a challenge on Ade Yusuff, referee Wayne Cartmel over-ruled an assistant to award the visitors a throw in on the right hand side that Vincent took, received back and then played the ball into the goalmouth where PAXMAN converted at the far post in the third minute.

A ball from Cavaghn Miley was then intercepted by Heard who played David Smith in and the striker’s shot deflected for the game’s first corner.  Johnson and Smith both had shots blocked following the set piece from the right hand side.

Things got even better for Invicta when PAXMAN sent goalkeeper Joe MCDonnell the wrong way to make it 2-0 with a sixth minute penalty atfer Yusuff had been fouled by Maghome down the left hand side of the area.

It was Paxman’s 100th appearance for Invicta and he had scored twice for a second successive Saturday.

An upset was well and truly on – and even likely - when HEARD made it 3-0 after an 18th minute Ronnie Dolan corner from the left hand side came out to him on the edge of the penalty area.

It was to be a disappointing first half performance from Estleigh who did start to control the game but without creating many clear chances as Invicta remained a threat on the counter.

Invicta goalkeeper Andre made an excellent 30th minute save to touch the ball round the post when Eastleight’s vastly-experienced vice-captain Tyrone Barnett met Vincent Harper’s ball across from the left in a move started by Miley.

Barnett had once been transferred from Crawley to Peterborough for £1 million and can also count Ipswich Town and Cheltenham among his former clubs.

Ryan Hill then cut in from the left hand side a minute later and hit a well-struck shot over the crossbar.

Eastleigh central defender Tom Broadbent surged forward in the 33rd minute but was fouled by Invicta central defender Matt Newman who became the game’s first booking.

Hill hit a 39th minuyte free kick but Andre got behind it and made a comfortable save.

Eastleigh’s Hill was then booked for a 40th minute folu on Yusuff on the left hand side and Dolan hit a well-struck sthot that McDonnell got behind and held.

The Spitfires had to do better during the second half and they did.

The ball was played through to home captain Danny Hollands in the 46th minute but Andre made a save.

Hill was dispossessed by Yusuff in the 49th minute when the Invicta striker took the ball on alone but shot wide of the target.

Smart had been Eastleigh’s main outlet during the first half and remained a constant threat on the right hand side during the second half, with Harper also becoming increasingly influential down the left hand side.

Eastleigh badly needed a goal as Smart combined with Hill on the right in the 50th minute but the subsequent cross was claimed by Andre.

Smart found Hill inside the box in the 52nd minute but the latter was dispossessed by Newman as there remained heroes all over the pitch in Invicta colours.

Invicta captain Callum Davies then made a good tackle on Hill a minute later.

Davies once had a loan spell at Eastleigh whilst at Gillingham where he is a former Gills team mate of Eastleigh manager Ben Strevens.

Barnett got a well-struck shot in after the ball had ricocheted off Milry but Andre got behind it in the 54th minute.

It was still the travelling Invicta following doing all of the singing.

But two goals in a six-minute spell brought Eastleigh right back into the tie.

Eastleigh’s first goal came via a 57th minute HILL penalty after a good run by Harper down the left hand side led to a foul by Davies.

The home side went forward again on the hour mark when Smart played the ball in to Miley whose well-struck shot was palmed away by Andre.

It was 3-2 in the 62nd minute after a good turn by Smart on the right hand side after he had received the ball from Maghoma and Smart’s subsequent cross was headed in by BARNETT on his return to the side.

All three of the game’s possible outcomes were now possible.

Barnett then shot well wide when Jake Hesketh played the ball in to him a minute later.

Following a folu on Harper and a short free kick, a 67th minute shot from Hill then flashed wide of the far post across goal.

Invicta’s defence then scrambled the ball away a minute later when Hill played a one-two and found Smart on the right hand side.

Smart got past Paxman in the 69th minute when the latter was reduced to an air kick but the ball in was headed away by Newman.

Eastleigh’s Hesketh was then booked for simulation as he went down on the left hand side of the penalty area seconds later.

Invicta’s only substitution saw a surprise return for Kieorn McCann (after a recent operation) in place of Smith, with striker Heard pushed further forward.

Both McCann and Yusuff had been part of the Cray Valley (PM) side that had come back from being 2-0 down to win 3-2 away to National League club Maidenhead in last season’s Fourth Round Qualifying.

A double Eastleigh substitution saw the introduction of the highly-rated Ben House and Tom Whelan.

Miley found Smart on the right hand side in the 73rd minute and the ball in evaded House and carried to Andre.

Smart then received the ball from Maghoma and played it in to House inside the penalty area a minute later but the substitute could not get the ball under control.

Whelan and Maghoma combined to find Smart on the right hand side again in the 76th minute when the ball in was cleared by Newman.

The clock was ticking ... Invicta were hanging on ... had they weathered the storm? We were into the final 15 minutes (plus what was to be the fateful stoppage time).

A 78th minute cross from the left was met by a Barnett header that was bundled away.

Maghoma was booked for hauling Yusuff down by the touchline in the 79th minute to give Invicta some respite.

Fellow Eastleigh defender Broadbent was then replaced by Danny Whitehall as the home side threw on another striker.

Eastleigh’s Harper was booked for dissent after a foul on Jordan Wright.

Invicta had a chance in the 83rd minute when Yusuff broke down the left hand side and shot against the outside of the post in a move started by Johnson and Heard.

At the other end, Whelan and Barnett combined to find Whitehall in the box who went down under challenge from Newman in the 87th minute but no penalty was awarded – it would have been a soft one.

Invicta defender Davies was then booked a minute later for a foul on Harper and Whelan’s free kick deflected off Davies but Andre kept it out.

The second half had been like an attack v defence session at times and Smart got another good cross in when found by Hesketh on the right but Invicta held firm in the 90th minute.

Hesketh drilled the ball across the Invicta goal from the left hand side during stoppage time when a stretching House came agonisingly close to converting at the far post.

Invicta then had a chance to increase their lead when Yusuff headed the ball on but Heard scuffed his shot wide of the target.

Barnett headed down another ball into the Invicta box whenHouse found Smart but it came to nothing.

Eastleigh had been measured in their build up even when trailing during the first half.

But a long ball out of defence from Michael Kelly led to their last ditch equaliser as substitute Whelan headed the ball on, House found Whitehall who played it back to Congolese international MAGHOME who applied a precise finish to break Invicta hearts.

There had been a minimum of four minutes added on and the goal came after four minutes and two seconds.

Invicta kicked off by playing the ball back and one touch forward later and it was all over. The visitors had come that close.

Player-coach Micheal Everitt watched this one from the sidelines on his 39th birthday.

EASTLEIGH: McDonnell, Kelly, Miley, Broadbent (Whitehall 78 mins), Smart, Barnett, Hill (House 69 mins), Hesketh, Hollands (Whelan 69 mins), Maghoma, Harper.  Unused subs: Flitney, Hare, Pritchard, Low. 

FOLKESTONE INVICTA: Andre, Vincent, Wright, Newman, Davies, Johnson, Heard, Dolan, Smith (McCann 69 mins), Yusuff, Paxman.   Unused subs: Freeman, Sterling, O’Mara, Everitt, Collins.

Corners: Eastleigh 2 Invicta 3

Attendance: 1009.