A young Invicta side came from behind at Rusthall to progress to the 2nd round of the Kent Intermediate Cup in a tie that finished 10 v 10 at The Jockey Farm.
The two sides met last season in the semi-final at Cheriton Road, Rusthall Reserves progressing to the final with a 1-0 win.
Invicta’s starting XI featured 7 who started that night in March. With goalkeeper Joe Coleman now promoted to 1st Team number 1, Luke Watkins started in goal playing his first match since suffering an injury in November 2021.
Callum Hickman, now captain of our U18s side started at right back alongside Aiden Cassidy who was partnered in the centre of defender by 16 year old Josh O’Brien while Academy scholar Ethan Page, who played in the front 3 last season, slotted into left back.
Brad Walledge and Jake Dancer remained in midfield, joined by Ralph Bray who was on the bench in March, while Fin Dent and Jack Bone were joined in in attack by Kian Scott.
Invicta named a young bench with goalkeeper George Surgeon (who has been involved with the 1st team this season) joined by 16 year olds Harry Barham, Ashton Mitford and Lucas Dent (brother of Fin and Son of Nick) as well as Academy scholar Denis Grajcar.
The hosts started brightly and attacked well down their right side, a cross in the 7th minute was headed over from close range, a cutback in the 11th minute just evaded a man at the back post for a tap in and a cross after 14 minutes dropping just over the crossbar.
Invicta had a first sight of goal shortly after as Dent found Scott inside the box but defenders denied him a clean shot on goal and the goalkeeper was able to collect.
Scott caused more problems shortly after as he evaded 2 challenges from his fullback before cutting back to Bray on the edge of the box but the midfielder’s effort only managed to catch the outside of the net.
Watkins had been involved but he made his first save of the evening in the 26th minute, collecting a fairly tame effort from just outside the D.
On 28 minutes Scott bent a free kick from just outside the box over the wall but comfortably into the arms of the goalkeeper.
A minute later the hosts struck, this time getting in down their left and cutting the ball across the 6 yard box to the back post for a finish past Watkins.
Invicta’s young heads did not drop and just a few minutes later they had the ball in the net as Dent fed Walledge who got a faint touch to finish past the keeper but was denied by the offside flag.
With 6 minute left in the half Invicta were given a let off having given the ball away just outside their own box but thankfully a rasping shot came off the crossbar and bounced the right side of the goal-line to keep Invicta in it.
As it appeared the hosts would head in for half time in the lead, the match turned in the space of 2 minutes. Brad Walledge saw a shot from the edge of the box saved and cleared for a throw. Scott took it short and received it back to cross, finding Bone who forced a very good save from the goalkeeper with his header. Scott then delivered the corner and Ralph Bray rose highest to head into the bottom corner and level the score.
Invicta weren’t content with just going in level however. Jake Dancer won the ball back and fed it into Fin Dent who turned his defender and unleashed an effort into the bottom corner from 25 yards to give Invicta the lead.
It took until the 10th minute of the second half for either side to threaten to add to the scoring, Walledge taking a free kick from distance that dipped and swerved before clipping the top of the crossbar.
Rusthall responded minutes later by delivering a free kick off their own into the box with the ball falling kindly for a green & white shirt but Watkins was alive to the danger, coming quickly and making himself big to make the save.
An Invicta corner just after the hour mark found Aiden Cassidy at the near post who looked to have got a touch before the chance was turned agonisingly over at the back post.
The hosts remained alive and hit the post with little over 20 minutes to go. Their forward getting to the byline, he shot from a tight angle beating Watkins but not the upright, the ball bouncing back out into a crowded penalty area but Josh O’Brien blocked 2 shots before Invicta could clear. Dent collected the ball and won a free kick from the Rusthall captain just beyond halfway.
Moments later the same two players were involved again in a pivotal moment as Dent reacted quickest to a ball over the top from Bray before being knocked to the ground by his defender who was adjudged to have denied a goalscoring opportunity and sent on his way back to the dressing room. Brad Walledge stepped up to pile on the misery with a rocket of a free kick that rose all the way into the top of the net to double Invicta’s advantage.
5 minutes later Rusthall were given hope as Walledge made a late challenge and was shown a second yellow card. leaving us to play the final 11 minutes 10 a side.
In the 84th minute a ball in behind the Invicta defence found Rusthall’s left winger who forced another good save from Watkins from a tight angle.
Invicta continued to look to kill the game off and Bray attempted to add to his tally with a shot from the edge of the box that was comfortably saved just as the clock hit 90.
6 minutes of added time passed without any further drama and the full-time whistle brought celebrations from an Invicta side that is the youngest competing in this season’s competition. We now await the draw for the last 16.
Academy Director Paul Stanton spoke after the match: “So pleased with the work-rate and matching them physically which is a must before the quality. We scored two quick quality goals before half time which is always a good time to score and the second half was just a case of battling hard and keeping the intensity. It’s important to stay in a cup like this for as long as possible as it gives such good physical experience for the boys readying them for men’s football.”
The three goals can be seen on our X account
— Folkestone Invicta (@FIFC) October 3, 2023