Folkestone Invicta 5 Guernsey 2 (14th March 2015)
At the 2nd time of asking, two months after arriving at Folkestone’s ground at finding the match called off, I got round to actually seeing them play. The only danger this time round would have been not noticing the match kicked off at 1 pm, rather than 3.
Despite the early start, I still arrived early enough to have a leisurely beer in the club bar. This spacious, some may say oversized venue, looked oddly like two bars that had been “knocked through” to make one. One darkly painted wall, where you’d expect to have a TV showing Sky Sports, instead had a mirror with a fake gilded frame, giving the impression the wall had been lifted intact from a cheap lap-dancing club.
With it otherwise being unlikely to have any young women in their underwear dancing about, especially with the constant flow of people through the door to outside not helping the already struggling heating system, it’s lucky the bar was otherwise friendly and accommodating. Also getting friendly, just playfully, were two dogs, chasing and dog-wrestling around, at least until one managed to get his lead stuck under a bin.
If it wasn’t exactly toasty inside the bar, it was mild compared to outside. When leafless trees are blowing around in the wind, being whipped by the sting in winter’s tail, it’s another afternoon to wrap up warm, buy something hit from the tea bar, and find shelter.
With cheesy chips in hand, I made my way from the tea bar to the terraces, as the teams came out. Into this overcast, windy and very cold scene, came the sound of Planet Funk’s “Chase the Sun”, making it feel like Ibiza about as much as playing the Rocky theme during an episode of Rainbow would make it feel like heavyweight boxing.
Finding some shelter at Folkestone’s ground has become more difficult in the last couple of years. There used to be a large 900 seat stand down one side of the ground, but this was destroyed in a storm two years ago, and an open terrace is now in its place. The high terrace steps perhaps indicate this is to be a seated stand again some time in the future, but the fact that the club is having trouble raising £7,500 needed to re-tarmac the surrounds of the pitch suggests that plan is very much on the back burner. Nevertheless, it provided a good vantage point for a fair number of fans, plus a cameraman and commentator covering the game, I think for Guernsey.
Behind, hills rise up a few hundred metres to the north, where the Channel Tunnel trains disappear below ground before emerging on the continent. It is still difficult to grasp that from here Maidstone, seemingly just up the road, is further away than France.
The stand may have been destroyed, but the seats were salvaged, and these were moved to the other side of the ground to what used to be a covered terrace, in such a seamless conversion you’d think it the kind of charming little seated stand that could have been around since before the war.
Folkestone’s ground is also blessed with two end terraces high enough to offer a decent view. The one to the west is the slightly smaller of the two, but covered. A high number of pillars making arriving before the rush beneficial to get a good spot. Wonky advertising hoardings along the roof fascia give the impression of a slope, from afar, but it seemed flat enough.
Opposite was the higher open terrace, with crush barriers right at the back, in the exact place where you’d think they’d be needed least. A large tree at the back also gave the end a bit of character, and with the wind somehow not hitting this end so bad, it was a good vantage point.
The game I’d missed two months earlier would have been against South Park, and as it happens the replayed game had been played on the Thursday night, with a 6-0 home win finishing only 39 hours before this game kicked off. Folkestone could hardly moan about fixture congestion to their opponents Guernsey though. Last April, due to cup runs and other postponements, Guernsey had to play 16 games in 30 days, including a spell of four games on consecutive days over the Easter break.
Despite that punishing schedule, Guernsey still managed to get promoted, but were finding life a little more tough this year. While comfortably mid-table, they also conceded 80 goals in their 36 games so far. They’d also scored 70, mind you, averaging 4.17 goals per game, so it was unlikely this would be tight defensive nip and tuck affair.
And so it proved – with the usual “I hope it won’t end 0-0” fears being allayed after only about 90 seconds. A shot could only be parried, and it bounced kindly for Folkestone to an attacker loitering in front on goal. A swing of the leg and the ball was thumped towards the net to open the scoring.
Folkestone then went on to miss two glorious chances. First an attempted lob just cleared the cross-bar. Then, with the keeper beaten by a ball in from the right, an attempted diving header in front of an open goal was missed from about three yards out. Everyone was already celebrating the goal, and couldn’t quite believe it didn’t go in.
I didn’t matter though, as just a few minutes later Folkestone’s top scorer hit another shot from the right. This flew across the keeper into the far corner to double the lead with just 20 minutes gone.
Guernsey hadn’t given their know of green-clad travelling fans too much to shout about so far, barring a few half chances, but they did shortly before the break. Another cracking shot from the edge of the box saw Guernsey pull it back to 1-2, with the home keeper having no chance from a shot that arrowed into the far top corner.
In the 2nd half of this enjoyably open game, Guernsey survived one or two “I’ve seen them given” penalty shouts before going further behind. A foul, just outside the area this time, was given, and it was hit around the wall, low, into the bottom corner.
3-1 up after 62 minutes, it got even better a couple of minutes later, when a cross was turned in from a far post glancing header for a 4-1 lead.
Just four minutes later, Guernsey capped a mad six-minute spell with another goal of their own, cutting in from the left and finishing calmly from an angle for 4-2.
Slightly disappointingly, the game seem to calm down from there, perhaps through tiredness from the hosts and damage limitation from the visitors. There was, only just, time for one last hurrah from Folkestone though. Deep into stoppage time a blocked effort at goal couldn’t be cleared. Just as for the first goal, a mixture of fortune and determination saw the ball claimed by Folkestone, and it was smashed in at the near post to seal the win with effectively the last kick of the game.
To those wondering about Folkestone’s name, “Invicta” is Latin for unconquered. There’s little doubt that with this 5-2 win under their belts, and Guernsey’s overseas challenge repelled, they certainly lived up to their name.