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Leafe hardly blown away as Invicta ride their luck to reach second successive home play-off final

FOLKESTONE INVICTA 2

WHYTELEAFE 1

(after extra time)

Folkestone Invicta made it to the Ryman League Division One South Play Off Final for the third time in the last five seasons at that level with a hard-earned extra time win over an aggressive Whytelafe side at The Fullicks Stadium.

For the second successive season it was an extra time own goal that Invicta into the final.

Neil Cugley’s side were never at their best here but won the tie as Whyteleafe captain Jason Thompson turned a Jordan Wright volley into his own net during the first half of extra time.

And the hapless Thompson blasted a penalty over the crossbar at the other end minutes later.

The home side had gone ahead just before half time through top goalscorer Ian Draycott (pictued above) after the visitors had been the better side during the first half.

Invicta improved after the interval but conceded an equaliser to Whyteleafe’s leading marksman Roscoe D’Sane 11 minutes  into the second half.

There was a big match atmosphere at the ground as Invicta went into a fourth successive play-off appearance with an unchanged starting side.

Draycott shot wide for Invicta with the game’s first chance very early in the game.

But it was Whyteleafe who made a positive start.

The vastly experienced D’Sane blasted wide with the visitors’ first opening in the tenth minute after a Jason Henry touch and the pair were to cause the home defence problems.

Sam Clayton took the ball on but shot well wide three minutes later.

Leafe keeper Sheikh Ceesay got down to comfortably save a low 26th minute Ronnie Dolan shot from outside the penalty area.

But Whyteleafe were looking dangerous as Dean Hamlin found Henry on the right who played a tempting cross that Ryan Fowler could not quite reach at the far post two minutes later.

The Leafe gained the first corner of the game in the 36th minute when a Thompson ball put the dangerous D’Sane in behind Liam Friend but the Invicta captain got back to avert the danger.

There was a big moment in the 38th minute when Jensen Grant ran on dangerously and played the ball to Fowler on the left.

His shot across goal was partially saved by home goalkeeper Tim Roberts but D’Sane shot against the outside of the far upright when it looked easier to score.

Whyteleafe threatened again two minutes later when D’Sane found Henry who showed good feet to create space and his low shot flashed narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area.

But it was Invicta who opened the scoring from their first corner of the game gained when Nat Blanks played the ball up to Wright whose shot was charged down and a Dolan strike from distance was deflected wide.

Dolan’s subsequent 42nd minute corner was met by a Frankie Chappell header at the far post and DRAYCOTT headed in.

This was goal number 43 for Draycott in 56 Invicta appearances.

And it was his sixth in the last four games and his 14th in the last 13 matches.

But Whyteleafe were level on 55 minutes when D’SANE got in behind Chappell after Ceesay’s route-one clearance and rolled the ball into the net.

D’Sane is still a quality player at this level after a distinguished career that has included spells with Southend, Woking, Aldershot, AFC Wimbledon, Accrington Stanley and Torquay United.

Invicta responded as Dolan took down a Blanks ball well three minutes later but the midfielder was crowded out and his shot blocked.

Richard Atkins headed on a 65th minute ball to Draycott but centreback Osa Obamwonyi got in in the way and things were still not going to plan for the home side.

The introduction of Jon Pilbeam on his 25th birthday had the potential to offer Invicta something different.

Midfield dynamo Micheal Eveirtt shot over from the right edge of the penalty area in the 82nd minute.

Whyteleafe then replaced D’Sane with Greg Andrews.

There were chances at both ends in the 90th minute as Josh Vincent’s cross was headed on by Atkins to Wright whose shot took a touch off a defender and carried to Ceesay.

Leafe substitute Andrews found himself in space on the left of the box a minute later and played the ball back to Henry whose shot deflected at Roberts.

Invicta had a chance to win it during stoppage time when Obamwonyi was booked for fouling Atkins.

Blanks stepped up to take the inviting free kick but blasted the ball way over.

The home side went forward through Pilbeam at the start of extra time and Ceesay saved Atkins’ shot at the expense of a corner.

And it was 2-1 to Invicta as Wright (pictured) showed good technique to hit a 93rd minute volley that was turned into his own net by THOMPSON.

Last season it had been unfortunate Hastings substitute Nathan Ferguson who had put into his own goal from outside the penalty area to give Invicta extra time victory.

Twenty-year-old Wright (pictured) has been denied four goals to own goals this season but had made another telling contribution in his first year at this level after coming out of local football last summer.

Whyteleafe soon had the perfect chance to equalise when Blanks pushed Henry as he tried to meet big Obamwonyi’s cross from the left virtually on the goa-line.

But Thompson’s night was to get worse as he blasted the 96th minute penalty high out of the ground.

Matt Newman got in a tackle during stoppage time of the first period of extra time as Henry tried to dribble his way through the penalty area.

Whyteleafe defender Sol Patterson-Bohner was booked for a foul on Invicta substitute Ashley Miller at the start of the second period of extra time.

Miller’s subsequent free kick from deep on the left was then touched onto the juncture of post and bar by Ceesay, an excellent shot-stopper.

Supporters on the Fullicks open terrace where the seats used to be thought that it was in but the lack of reaction from the vocal majority behind the goal told that it wasn’t.

Invicta had a chance to seal it in the 128th minute when Everitt’s clever ball over the Leafe defence sent Pilbeam racing away.

But the wide man went alone despite having fellow sub Miller unmarked alongside him and his effort went harmlessly out of play for a goal kick for his efforts.

This wasn’t pretty but it was tense and Invicta got the result that they wanted.

What would Saturday’s final bring?

Like Folkestone themselves, Whyteleafe – a club on the outskirts of Croydon – had lost just four times away from home in the regular league season, and, truth be told, we pretty unlucky to lose this one.

FOLKESTONE INVICTA: Roberts, Vincent, Blanks, Friend, Chappell, Newman, Wright, Dolan (Pilbeam 79), Draycott, Atkins (Miller 99), M Everitt

Subs not used: Wraight, Austin, Fender  

WHYTELEAFE: Ceesay, Hamlin, Bird, Patterson-Bohner, Obamwonyi, Thompson (Pratt 122), Fowler (Graham 96), Grant, DSane (Andrews 86), Clayton, Henry.  

Subs not  used: Smith, Penfold 

Attendance: 788.

Corners: Invicta 3 Whyteleafe 2