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            CRAY WANDERERS                2    FOLKESTONE INVICTA             2

An 89th minute equaliser from captain Callum Davies salvaged a point for Folkestone Invicta away to Cray Wanderers on the 3G pitch at Bromley’s Hayes Lane on Wednesday night.

Invicta scored in the second and 89th minutes but trailed going into the closing minutes and then hit the crossbar during stoppage time and could have won it through Jordan Wright with the very last kick of the match.

The Folkestone side has been involved in some thrilling score draws already so far this season and this was another one which was played at a good pace.

Invicta were forced into two changes to their starting X1 as Wright came in for Ronnie Dolan who failed a fitness test after picking up an injury at Lewes on Saturday and Ian Draycott came in for the unwell Ade Yusuff.

Such is Yusuff’s presence in the Invicta line up that his absence seemed particularly strange to adjust to – both Dolan and Yusuff had previously been ever present in all competitions during 2021-22.

Draycott wore the number ten shirt having already previously worn numbers two, four, five and seven so far this season.

But Invicta made a positive start and were soon ahead when home goalkeeper Jack Turner came out to challenge when Scott Heard played the ball through to David Smith – with the possibility of a foul by the goalkeeper – and WRIGHT slotted the ball in.

A fourth minute Josh Vincent cross from the right hand side was then met by a Smith header but under pressure from a defender the striker couldn’t guide it on target.

Invicta threatened again in the sixth minute when Alfie Paxman combined with Kieron McCann on the left hand side before his shot was blocked and Smith’s shot from the right seconds later warmed Turner’s hands.

But Cray equalised with their first noteworthy attack courtesy of a 14th minute wonder strike from Anthony COOK who received the ball from Sam Skeffington and hit a spectacular strike from distance that swerved and curled over goalkeeper Tim Roberts into the far corner of the net.

Skeffington had just signed for Cray Wanderers on loan from landlords Bromley.

The direction of the game had suddenly changed and Invicta’s central defender Matt Newman was booked a minute later for bringing Jamie Yila down who had broke down the left hand side to just outside the box.

The subsequent free kick was smashed into the Invicta wall and put out for the game’s first corner.

Skeffington threaded the ball through towards Chris Dickson in the 18th minute but Roberts came out to claim aheda of the former Gillingham and Hornchurch striker.

At the other end, both Paxman and McCann had 22nd minute shots kept out by Turner after a Vincent cross from the right and Draycott fired wide when the ball came back out.

A 25th minute Heard free kick was then met by a Vincent header at goalkeeper Turner following a foul by Jai Reason on Smith.

McCann combined with Heard down the left hand side a minute later when the ball across was claimed by Turner ahead of Wright at the far post.

Paxman dispossessed Freddie Barton in the 27th minute when Draycott played the ball out to McCann on the left whose good cross was just ahead of Smith inside the penalty area.

Barton then played the ball forward to home striker Dickson whose good touch released Adam Coombes on the half hour mark but good covering by Invicta central defender Davies averted the danger.

A good 33rd minute Heard cross from the right fell to Smith at the far post when the striker took the ball down and shot wide across goal from the left hand side of the box.

Paxman shot from a central position two minutes later that deflected at Turner.

Paxman was to have an excellent game for Invicta as exemplified in the 37th minute when he did well to win the ball in a defensive position and got forward to latch onto Draycott’s return pass at the other end but neither he nor Smith could get their shot in.

For Cray, Skeffington and Reason combined to find Cook in the 39th minute but Davies made a saving tackle.

Invicta went forward again in the 43rd minute when McCann took his shot on the bounce after a good Newman ball up the right hand side but Turner palmed it away for the visitors’ first corner of the night.

Following a good combination down the right hand side the ball across goal took a touch off a Cray leg for another Invicta corner, this time from the left hand side.

Cray made a change at half time as Cameron Brodie replaced Coombes and they started the second half better as Reason played a good 51st minute ball out to the right hand side from where Cook hit a well-struck shot wide of the far post across goal.

The (adopted) home side took the lead in the 52nd minute when REASON displayed good footwork inside the penalty area and slotted the ball into the net after a low Yila ball across goal from the left hand side.

Invicta right back Vincent had gone to take what he thought was a n Invicta throw in and Cray capitalised on him being out of position.

Cray threatened again in the 57th minute when Skeffington found Yila on the left hand side and the ball across goal was sliced over by Dickson who was under pressure from Paxman.

Invicta had a good chance to equalise in the 62nd minute when Smith did well to find Paxman on the left and when the latter drilled the ball across goal Wright so,ehow put it over at the far post and his shot came down and bounced up.

Cray goalkeeper Turner was booked a minute later for taking too long over a goal kick and was later joined in referee Nathan Oakes’ notebook by Yila (kicking the ball away in the 76th minute) and substitute Brodie (stoppage time) as Cray bizarrely had three players cautioned for delaying the restart of play. 

A 66th minute cross from the right just evaded Yila inside the penalty area.

Cook was substituted after a possible hamstring injury and Yila was also soon substituted.

Heard found Draycott on the right hand side in the 73rd minute but the ball in was blocked.

A big moment followed in the 83rd minute when substitute Jack Hanson fired wastefully over with the chance to increase Cray’s lead as the ball fell to him in space inside the penalty area after Dickson had touched on a Skeffinton ball from the right.

Invicta were themselves still chasing an equaliser as McCann shot into the side netting after a Wright cross was headed on by Heard to the far post from the right hand side when Ryan Johnson and Vincent had worked the ball out of defence to find Ollie Freeman who had just come on for Draycott.

The visitors were then to win three consecutive corners that led to their late equaliser, starting in the 87th minute when Turner saved at his near post to deny McCann who had latched onto a Paxman header after Johnson had been at the centre of an Invicta break and Paxman had made an initial cross.

A good ball from Wright found McCann on the left seconds later whose ball in was put out for another corner.  The corner on the left was played back to Paxman whose drilled shot was cleared from close to the line.

This time the Heard corner from the left came off a Cray head across to the far post where it was put in by DAVIES with a shot on the turn from close range for his first league goal since scoring twice away to Hendon in January 2018.  Bingo.

The action did not cease during the five minutes of time added on.

Invicta had conceded twice in stoppage time at Lewes – who now feature many of last season’s Cray side – on Saturday and could have scored twice more here late on.

Manager Neil Cugley had certainly not settled for a point at 2-2 as Invicta threatened a repeat of their dramatic 3-2 win on their lats visit here in 2019 when Jerson Dos Santos hit a stunner to make it 2-2 in the 81st minute before Johan Ter Horst hit a stoppage time winner.

Cugley – in his 25th season as Invicta manager – was here going head-to-head with Danny Kedwell who is in his first season as a manager.

Skeffington got to the ball just before Johnson close to the halfway line but Davies intercepted as he attempted to thread the ball through.

Freeman then fired high and wide when Invicta worked the ball from left to right via Heard, McCann and Smith.

A Freeman shot on the turn was then blocked after a Newman ball forward.

The two big late chances then followed as Paxman found Heard whose shot from just outside the penalty area looped up off home captain Dean Beckwith and struck the crossbar.

Wright was then wide across goal from the right hand side with the goal at his mercy after a Paxman ball from the left. On another night Wright could have scored a hat-trick.

CRAY WANDERERS: Turner, Barton, Aidoo, Beckwith, Danquah, Dickson, Cook (Hanson 67 mins), Yila (Hanfrey 80 mins), Reason, Coombes (Brodie 45 mins), Skeffington.  Unused subs: Uchechi, Rogers. 

                       

FOLKESTONE INVICTA: Roberts, Vincent, McCann, Newman, Davies, Johnson, Heard, Wright, Smith, Draycott (Freeman 83 mins), Paxman.   Unused subs: Borrello, Everitt, Collins.

Corners: Cray 2 Invicta 6

Attendance: 164.