I came with two good friends to this Isthmian Premier League fixture, for my second visit to the BuildKent Stadium in Folkestone. The game had been in doubt until a final pitch inspection, by the referee, twenty minutes prior to kick off. Indeed the game between Dover and Notts County had been called off just an hour before kick off, which meant some Notts County fans had come across to Folkestone, in the hope of seeing a game, after their travels.
Long serving manager Neil Cugeley, has seen something of a renaissance this season, with his team flirting with promotion places and crowds averaging 500 plus. Folkestone have plateaued a little in recent weeks and they sit in sixth place so needed a win today to reignite their drive for the play off places. Their season has been helped by the 19 goals scored by striker, David Smith, so far. Manager Neil Cugeley has completed 25 years in post at Folkestone this season, still the longest reign of any current English manager, at Step 5 and above.
Cray Wanderers have struggled this season with manager Danny Kedwell being replaced in December, by an interim Grant Basey, who had previously played for Charlton Athletic. Since then they have ground out some good results, to claw themselves out of the relegation places, into 19th place.
The BuildKent Stadium at Cheriton Road, Folkestone holds 4000, with 336 seated. the ground has refreshment stands, a highly unusual and well-stocked shop, a bar and clubhouse, as well as open standing terraces and covered stands and a seated stand. The shop was full of non league and league memorabilia, with books, badges, programmes, clothing and scarves, as well as cd’s and dvd’s for sale.
The refreshment stand had a chef producing incredible food with fresh garnishing from locally sourced meat. One of my friends had beef chilli Nachos, which looked restaurant standard.
The game started well with David Smith and Ade Yusuff linking well for Folkestone. The home crowd were in good voice, despite the torrential rain. Cray Wanderers, playing in a change kit of Lilac and white shirts and lilac shorts, counter-attacked well, with number ten, Kyle Reid, being a constant threat with some probing runs.
After some close chances Folkestone Invicta went ahead, in the 43rd minute, with a well finished goal from Ade Yusuff. The rain had stopped, which made the game easier for both sides and enhanced the quality of passing play as the half progressed.
There was still time before the half time whistle, for a fine save by the Folkestone keeper, Tim Roberts, on the stroke of half time to preserve the Folkestone team’s 1-0 lead.
The second half saw both sides create chances, with Folkestone hitting the bar and having chances saved by Blue in the Cray goal. Cray had chances saved by the Folkestone keeper, Roberts.
As the time ticked away the tackles began flying in and the referee waved out a procession of yellow cards. Folkestone never really looked like losing their lead and at the final whistle, the crowd of 473 applauded a solid Folkestone Invicta victory which lifts them back into the play off places in fifth place.