“Football, bloody hell”. Invicta snatched a point at the death of our opening home fixture of the season, only to see it snatched away moments later by a Chatham Town side that have taken the challenge of Isthmian Premier Division football in their stride.
The sun was dropping over the Remland Stand as 758 spectators filled the terraces and the teams took to the field. Invicta made a single change from the XI that won at Wingate & Finchley on Saturday with Will Moses making his first start for the club in place of Andy Drury. Elliott Moore & Lenny Atherton, who both appeared for Deal Town on Saturday, joined the squad with the SCEFL side not in action until Wednesday evening.
The visitors made two changes to their opening day win, with Danny Kedwell & Alex Brefo replaced by Simon Cooper & Seidou Sanogo.
Kicking towards the Remland Stand, Invicta had the better of the opening 10 minutes but with little to show for it. Andre Coker saw an effort blocked on the edge of the box while a David Smith volley from distance never looked like troubling the keeper and it looped wide.
The visitors had their first foray into the Invicta box on the 10 minute mark. Tricky left winger Jamie Yila won a corner that was headed clear before being fired high and wide of Joe Coleman’s goal.
The first real chance of the night came in the 15th minute as Smith brought down the ball 10 yards inside the Chatham half and carried it into the final third despite being held by Cooper, crossing for Ibrahim Olutade who couldn’t quite jump high enough and looped his header onto the roof of the net.
The visitors responded minutes later as Bodkin pushed the ball past Callum Davies before being forced wide by the onrushing Coleman. The Chats 18 did well to keep the ball in play and laid it off to former Invicta man Jack Evans who saw his first time effort pushed over by Coleman. Evans corner was then headed wide by Yila who will think he should have scored.
The next Chatham corner did provide the game’s opening goal. Kane Penn headed the out swinger away at the near post with Coker getting a flick on the ball as it dropped on the edge of the D, Ade Cole surged out of the Invicta box and collected the ball, driving forward on the counter attack. Coker, having picked himself up from his header, flew past Cole’s right and was fed through on goal but the unfortunate Bodkin did well to get to invicta’s 11 as he unleashed his shot, only to deflect it high into the air and watch it drop just under the bar and inside the post to give Invicta the lead.
Moments later Cameron Brodie was shown the first of five bookings for the visitors as he kicked the ball away following a foul on Cole in the middle of the Invicta half. The referee then drew more ire, and a few choice words, as he gave Invicta a free kick for a foul in the 6 yard box on Davies, although Moses had already hooked the ball clear of danger. Yila then joined Brodie in the book, seemingly for a similar offence.
Smith had the next sight on goal, rounding Chatham ‘keeper Ben Bridle Card but seeing his effort from a tight angle deflected wide by defender Dean Beckwith.
Soon after Smith was showing his prowess as a defender as he did well to prevent Chatham left back Kristian Campbell getting a cross in, before letting the ball run out of play which saw the visitors awarded a corner, much to the bemusement of Smith. Thankfully the corner was overhit and sailed out for a goal kick.
4 minutes of added time saw Coleman make a routine save from a 40 yard effort from Evans while at the other end the Remland Stand cried for a penalty on Olutade for what was actually perfectly good challenge to deny him a shot.
With Invicta leading at half time, just as in North London on Saturday, it was the visitors who made the first change, replacing Brodie with Ben Allen at the break.
Unlike on Saturday however is was not Invicta who struck early in the second half. A cross from the right was dropped by Coleman to the feet of Ashley Nzala who punished the Invicta number 1 to level the scores.
The goal appeared to have given the visitors encouragement and they drew action from Coleman against shorty after, a free kick just outside the box came back off the wall with the rebound forcing a routine save.
Invicta responded by replacing Olutade with Ira Jackson Jr on the right of the front three but it was the visitors who struck again moments later. a Bodking cross was cleared as far as Jordan Robins who fed Yila who in turn threaded the ball through the Invicta defence into the path of substitute Allen to finish past Coleman and give the Chats the lead.
With Invicta now chasing the game and the visitors happy to take their time, Smith closed down Bridle Card who took a tumble under what appeared to be fairly minimal contact. Smith was booked for his challenge along with Seidou Sanogo who was one of four players to surround the referee in the aftermath, possibly because he appeared to have ran from the furthest distance. Sanogo was replaced moments later by Nods Bobomurodov, with both players being referred to simply by their numbers over the PA system!
Cooper was next into the book, jumping high over the top of Coker to win a header just inside the Chatham half. As we waited for the free kick to be taken, holding midfielder Will Moses departed to be replaced by winger Jordon Ababio.
With Invicta pressing for an equaliser, an error from Cooper gifted a corner that lifted the crowd on the Cricket Ground End. Jackson delivered from the left, then another from the right but the Chatham defence dealt with both.
A Coleman kick was collected by Smith on halfway and the number 9 carried Invicta into the attacking third before laying into the path of Ababio making an underlapping run, the winger cut back to Coker who laid back to Smith who opened onto his left foot and unleashed an effort that had the whole crowd holding its breath, only to see it fly just wide.
Yila responded at the other end, Freddy Barton doing well to prevent him from getting a clean effort on goal from outside the corner of the penalty area, with his deflection looping the ball wide of the post for a corner.
Ababio was beginning to cause problems for the Chatham left back and delivered a cross from 20 yards that Coker failed to turn goal bound, onto to see the flag up for offside.
With the moments ticking away the visitors were given a free kick right in the corner by the club shop for what appeared a very minimal “push” by Davies who was booked. With the current directives from the FA it is hard to know often if a booking is for the foul or potentially something that has been said by the player.
Once Invicta managed to get the ball out of the corner it was returned back to Ian Gayle to fed it wide right to Ababio just inside the Invicta half. The fresh legs evaded the attentions of fell substitute Bobomurodov before skipping over a challenge from Campbell allowing him to deliver towards the waiting Coker, Smith & Jackson. As the clock hit 90 it was Coker who made contact with the ball at the front post, taking it over Smith and into Jackson at the far post. Chesting the ball down, Jackson cut inside and unleashed an effort that beat two challenges and left the ‘keeper and Evans rooted to the goal-line as it found the top corner and caused pandemonium on the terraces behind.
As the teams lined up to restart an announcement informed the crowd that we would see 7 minutes of added time, and maybe it was the surge of adrenaline at the thought of winning the game that would immediately cost Invicta. Goalscorer Nzala hit Invicta on the counter running at Davies who was possibly reluctant to dive in having been booked moments earlier. The ball ran from Nzala into Evans who reached the edge of the box and delivered across to the left to find Yila who this time evaded Barton to fire home.
The original 7 added minutes, plus whatever would be added on for the 2 goals, left Invicta with time to try and find a response. Ababio saw one cross blocked for a corner on the right that would find Coker before the referee gave Chatham a free kick. Ababio Would soon find space to deliver again, this time seeing a defender flick it away in the centre of the 6 yard box for a corner on the left. Jackson’s delivery was returned to him and a second cross fell to Smith at the back post who saw his stab at goal blocked for another corner.
Coleman was given the nod to make his way forward for what could well have been an incredible moment of redemption, but arriving late into the box the giant keeper found himself a whisker from getting a head to the ball that was headed wide by Callum Davies behind him, as the final whistle blew.
Invicta’s man of the match, selected by match sponsor Dave Shrewsbury, was midfielder Ade Cole.
A defeat in the first home game of the season leaves Invicta 8th in the Isthmian Premier Division ahead of Saturday’s home fixture against early league leaders Enfield Town. We look forward to welcoming you again as we look to bounce back.