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INVICTA FACE TOUGHEST TEST SO FAR THIS SEASON IF THEY ARE TO REACH FIRST ROUND PROPER FOR A SECOND TIME

No-one should be fooling themselves into thinking that Folkestone have anything other than their toughest assignment so far this season on Saturday when they are one game away from a place in the First Round Proper of the Emirates FA Cup for just the second time in Invicta’s history.

For the first time (we believe) ever they take on Slough Town, currently sitting second in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division behind leaders Kettering Town.

The Berkshire outfit closed the gap at the top to just one point after an astonishing 5-4 last kick victory away to Merthyr Town in South Wales on a Tuesday.

Showing just two changes – both at the back – from the side that beat Biggleswade 2-1 on their own 3G pitch at the Arbour Park Stadium last weekend, The Rebels found themselves 4-0 down inside the first 18 minutes.

And though they didn’t start to make inroads in the Welsh side’s commanding lead until five minutes into the second half, Slough then grabbed four more goals in the space of 43 minutes to win 5-4 in stoppage time at the end.

Attacking midfielder James Dobson, left, (once with Invicta’s jinx FA Cup and FA Tropy side North Leigh -  though he had long since left the Oxfordshire when we played them!) grabbed two goals in four minutes to complete that remarkable comeback

It’s hard to judge the standards of different leagues at times, but theoretically the Evo-Stik Southern Premier is the same level as Folkestone in the Bostik Premier.

At Arbour Park, Invicta fans will be visiting an almost brand new stadium, built at a cost of £7.9Million with the support of Slough Borough Council, and only opened, officially, last June, by ex-England and now Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson.

The football club had returned to the town of Slough after a gap of 13 years at the start of the 2016/17 season, winning their first game back 2-1 against Hayes & Yeading in front of a joyful crowd of 1,401.

Conference

Founded as Slough FC way back in 1890, the Rebels were a respected force in the 1980s when they won the Isthmian League championship twice, the second time gaining promotion to the then Football Conference where they stayed for four years before going back down.

But they bounced back 12 months and enjoyed three more years at Conference level until slipping back into the lower divisions for quite a while.

In 2003 a financial row with the owners of their ground at The Wexham Stadium, where they had played for 30 years, forced them into groundsharing agreements, first at Windsor & Eton’s Stag Ground (near the wonderful Stag pub), well known to many Invicta supporters and latterly at Beaconsfield, before moving into their brand spanking new home at Arbour Park in August 2016.

This is now Slough’s fifth season in the Southern Premier Division level having gained promotion from Kwik-Fit Southern Division One Central via the play-offs at the end of season 2013/14 beating their great rivals Kettering – in Northamptonshire –   in front of a crowd of 2,500 3-2 in the final after trailing 2-0 at half-time.

The club finished 16th in their first season back at Premier level, climbing one place higher in 2015/16 then climbing to a more than respectable fifth last year with a solid 85 points from 46 games and scoring 84 goals against 56 conceded.

In the FA Cup this season, they have won 3-1 away to Berkhamsted in the First Qualifying Round early last month, then overcoming the always formidable Dulwich Hamlet 3-2 at home after trailing twice at various stages of a lively game.

In the third qualifying round, while Invicta were edging past Slough’s relatively near neighbours Aylesbury United, the Rebels beat National League South strugglers Poole Town 2-1 with goals from ex-Gosport Borough and Basingstoke striker Chris Flood and fullback George Wells, signed last summer from Kingstonian.

Force

Invicta boss Neil Cugley commented: “From the goals that they’ve scored and their position in their league, they’re clearly a force to be reckoned with – but then so are we on our day, and maybe that day will be this Saturday.”

Should the tie at Slough end with scores level, the replay will be at Invicta’s Fullicks Stadium on Tuesday next, October 17 (kick-off 7.45pm).

Otherwise, and as long as the tie at Hartsdown Park between Bostik Premier rivals Margate and Leatherhead does not require a replay, Leatherhead visit Invicta for what is one of only two scheduled home league games during the month of October.

* Tuesday’s 5-4 win at Merthyr was the second time that Slough have been involved in a nine goal ‘epic’ this season, having beaten bottom of the table Dunstable 8-1 early last month.

* The town of Slough has a population in excess of 160,000. Slough Town's average attendance so far this season is 673 with the highest so far 786 who watched them ram in seven goals in the second half of that game against Dunstable where the Rebels were lucky to be level at 1-1 at half-time!

Slough Town have played at their new £7.9Million Arbour Park Stadium  since August 2016, but it was only formally completed and opened in June this year (2017).