10-man Invicta were just minutes away from securing a place in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round before a late equalised forced a Tuesday night replay at the Alcaline Stadium.
Invicta travelled to Hartsdown Park looking for a 4th win of 2023 over Kent rivals Margate and made a host of changes from Tuesday night’s Kent Senior Cup tie. David Smith, Andy Drury, Ade Cole and Ibrahim Olutade all returned to the side having been rested, with Ian Gayle returning onto the bench. Josh Strizovic continued in goal with Joe Coleman unavailable, while new signing Luke Watkins provided backup on the bench.
Without a match in midweek, Margate fielded an unchanged XI from that which beat Potters Bar Town 2-1 the previous Saturday, also the same XI as started the league clash between the teams on August Bank Holiday Monday.
Invicta flew out the blocks with Scott Heard unable to take a chance with barely a minute on the clock but it didn’t take long to put things right as Ibrahim Olutade headed home a Heardy cross from the right following good work between the midfielder and Jordon Ababio. Ibz, who scored the only goal when Invicta won 1-0 at Hartsdown Park on East Monday, rose high just a few yards out to power his header past Harry Seaden in the Margate goal.
Invicta would have been happy with the way the first half progressed as, despite Margate having plenty of the ball, Strizovic’s goal was rarely threatened aside from a wide free kick that was flicked onto the top of the crossbar as we approached the half hour mark.
The referee would go on to have a big say in this match and stamped his authority midway through the first half when he booked David Smith. The whistle was blown as Smith struck the ball goal bound following a foul in Margate’s favour and that was enough for the referee to enforce the new FA directives.
Shortly after the half hour mark the referee was run his pocket again to book defender Ryan-Khanye for taking too long over a throw in in the 35th minute. A strange decision that would prove costly for Invicta later.
Not to be outdone, Margate defender Harrison Hatfull picked up a card for a foul just a minute later. Meanwhile both Ben Greenhalgh and Phil Roberts both picked up yellow cards in injury time for their words towards the referee, leaving supporters with the impression that we were unlikely to finish the match with 22 players on the pitch as we heading in for half time.
It was Invicta who were punished just 10 minutes into the second half. Olutade went down under a challenge in the middle of the pitch that went unpunished and Margate broke down the Invicta right before Ryan-Khanye went in with a mistimed challenge on fullback Hatfull and was shown his second yellow card. Invicta quickly rejigged and brought on Will Dempsey for David Smith to fill the slot at left back.
Invicta remained a threat on the break as the hosts looked for a way back into the match with a front 2 of Ababio and Olutade causing the Margate defence problems. Olutade, who had spent most of the afternoon in the warm embrace of Gate defender Tyrone Sterling appeared to have a good run on goal if it wasn’t for being held by the former Dover defender but was able to continue with the attack that eventually broke down. It was clear Invicta’s bench and supporters alike were frustrated when the referee called for a drinks break but did not go back to book Sterling.
With 16 minutes left on the clock Margate had their equaliser. A cross from the right found the head of Steve Cawley who saw his effort saved by Strizovic before turning the ball home at the second attempt.
Ira Jackson made his way onto the field in place of Ababio with 15 minutes to go and in the 87th minute he made his impact. Invicta worked a throw in from the left with Ade Cole firing the ball into Jackson 25 yards from goal. The forward managed to turn his defender Archie Johnson before rifling his effort into the top right of the net to send everybody in black & amber (or red and white) delirious.
But Margate had their own substitute to provide a dramatic moment of their own in stoppage time. A corner was collected by Strizovic before he was clattered inside the 6 yard box causing a mad scramble. Invicta cleared but Margate recoiled the ball with Hatfull delivering a cross from deep that found Cawley at the back post before it eventually found the feet of Antonis Vasiliou who eventually managed to fire home and force a Tuesday night replay at the Alcaline Stadium.
With both sides still in the hat, the winner will face a trip to Southern League Premier South leaders Chesham United in the 3rd Qualifying Round.