Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Folkestone Invicta

Chambers (48) (penalty), Tait (64), (67), (80)


Hednesford Town

Jones (52)

(0) 4

(0) 1




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Shaun Wray




Grantham Town (A) 22.3.03

The Pitmen's win over Newport County last week soon became a thing of the past as they are humiliated at relegation-haunted Folkestone Invicta this afternoon after being taken apart in a dire second half performance from the away side


Ian Painter was forced into one change to the side that given him a brief respite from their recent losing run against Newport, with new signing Allen Tankard ruled out for the remainder of the season after limping out of Saturday's win in the second half. Darren Simkin returned to the side in Tankard's absence after serving a one-match ban last week due to accumulating five yellow cards over the season


Folkestone's season had seen them marooned in the bottom two for much of the campaign, with only Ilkeston Town keeping Neil Cugley's side off the bottom of the table following a run of form that had left them with only two wins so far in 2003. Cugley had been busy making changes to his side in recent games, trying to find a blend that could lift his side out of the bottom four at this late stage of the season


In front of a poor crowd at Cheriton Road, both sides provided a poor spectacle of football in the first period that was a dreadful advert for Southern League football. Steve Piearce appealed for a penalty for the visitors in the sixth minute of the game, as his run onto a Derek Rae pass was checked by Dan Larkin just inside the Folkestone penalty area. The referee thought otherwise however and waved away Piearce's protests


Folkestone's response was limited to long-range efforts, with Allan Tait shooting high over Michael Bingham's crossbar on twelve minutes as Invicta struggled to create an opening of any real threat to the Hednesford stopper's goal


Shaun Wray's quick feet saw him drift past Lee Blackman on sixteen minutes and chip the ball into the Folkestone six-yard box, only for keeper Danny Harwood to pounce on the ball before Mark Jones could turn the ball home at the near post


Simkin's downward header from a David Berks corner five minutes later caused momentary confusion in the Folkestone ranks as Piearce took a swipe at the bouncing ball but failed to connect sufficiently, allowing the hosts to clear their lines


Mark Jones - continuing in the starting XI despite a long spell without a goal - almost broke the deadlock on twenty-five minutes as his shot from fifteen yards out was spilt but then recovered by Harwood, despite having Piearce bearing down on him as he looked to pick up any scraps inside the six-yard box


Chris Brindley's unchallenged run into the Folkestone six-yard box almost did the trick for the Pitmen on the half-hour mark, but his header flew high over the crossbar as Wray's cross was a touch too high for the veteran to get any direction on


For Invicta, their best chance of the half fell to the ever-willing Tait on thirty-eight minutes with a drive from outside the area that drifted wide of Bingham's left-hand post


It had been a dreadfully poor quality game in the first half, with both sides trooping off at the break to an indifferent tone from both sets of supporters, who had had to endure forty-five minutes bereft of any real inspiration from either side


However, if the first half had been that desperately dull the second could not have been any different, especially if you were a Folkestone supporter as the hosts sparked into life with a clinical display in front of goal to leave Hednesford shell-shocked. Painter had decided to make his first substitution of the game at the break, bringing on Wayne Simpson for Ashley Williams at right-back


With their first attack of the second period, Folkestone forced the Pitmen's hand with the conceding of a penalty kick. Simkin - one of this season's main culprits when you total up the individual errors - was once again the villain of the piece, as he brought Tait down just inside the Folkestone penalty area to halt the forward's strong run into the eighteen-yard box. Despite the Pitmen's protests that Tait had taken a self-imposed tumble, the referee awarded the hosts a penalty, which the experienced Paul Chambers fired past Bingham from twelve yards out to hand Invicta the lead


There was a brief response from the visitors, who actually got themselves back on level terms four minutes later; Wray's strong run down the flank and subsequent cross fell to Jones, lurking around the penalty spot, who hammered the ball past Harwood with a well-struck first-time shot


However, despite this swift leveller, this was to prove as good as it got for the Pitmen, as they endured a horrendous final half-hour of football as Folkestone put them to the sword. The talented James Dryden struck a warning shot at the Hednesford defence on sixty-three minutes after clever play from Chambers had slipped the striker in behind the Pitmen's back line, only for sloppy finishing from the usually-reliable number nine to let him down


A minute later, however, Tait showed Dryden the way as he put Invicta back into the lead, latching onto another incisive defence-splitting pass from Chambers to sidefoot the ball past Bingham from ten yards out, with the Hednesford defence still appealing in vain for an offside flag that was not forthcoming


Three minutes later, things got a whole lot worse for Painter and his team as Folkestone put clear daylight between themselves and their visitors with a third goal in nineteen minutes; John Guest's through ball to Tait once again seemed to find the forward in a legitimately offside position on this occasion, only for the flag to remain down to allow Tait time and space to take the ball around Bingham and slot into the empty net. Cue protests from players, fans and coaching staff from the team in blue as they protested at Tait's seemingly obvious offside starting position. The referee was having none of it and awarded the goal by pointing to the centre spot


With the game slipping away and Painter now coming under severe pressure from the Hednesford supporters to arrest the slide in form and cut out the individual errors, the Hednesford manager made a double change with twenty minutes left - loan signing Emeka Nwadike had proved ineffective in midfield and was replaced by Anthony Maguire, whilst goalscorer Jones was taken off in favour of Kevin Francis


Francis got involved straightaway for the Pitmen, who had gone route one in their quest to rescue at least a point to take home. The big man leapt highest to reach a cross from Wray on seventy-three minutes to head back across the face of the Folkestone goal, only for Piearce to miss the ball by a matter of inches as he slid in at the far post to reach the knock-down


Fellow substitute Maguire showed nice feet to dribble around two Folkestone challenges on seventy-eight minutes but lacked an amount of maturity to look up and find one of his team-mates as he lashed a wild shot from twenty-five yards out well over Harwood's crossbar


Instead, it was Tait was to complete his hat-trick with ten minutes remaining and put a final nail in the coffin for the Pitmen. It was another quick break from midfield from the hosts, with Martin Chandler playing another angled ball in behind the hesitant Hednesford defence towards Tait. Once again the two-goal Tait took a touch before sizing up Bingham's position and firing past the keeper from a tight angle


The Pitmen had nothing left as a response, as they stumbled their way through the final minutes with Folkestone defending stoutly and offering a tough barrier to break for their completely out-of-ideas visitors


Another away game, another defeat for the Pitmen, but this one feels a little different to previous; the performance, as well as the result and the subsequent body language of the players, is a source of concern, as the spectre of relegation - so long dismissed by some - is now looking a distinct possibility. It's another dreaded away trip for Painter and his team next weekend, where they visit lower mid-table Grantham Town desperately looking for a positive outcome

Folkestone Invicta: Harwood, Blackman, Larkin, Daniels, Henry (Everett 57), Chandler, Chambers, Guest, Dryden (Maxwell 66), Tait, Miller (Ayling 70)    Subs Unused: Lindsey, Towse


Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams (Simpson 45), Ryder, Nwadike (Maguire 70), Brindley ©, Simkin, Wray, Rae, Jones (Francis 70), Piearce, Berks     Subs Unused: Airdrie, Jenkins