Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Folkestone Invicta

Curtis (46) (OG)

Hednesford Town

(0) 1

(0) 0



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Dean Craven



Ilkeston Town (H) 3.9.01

The Pitmen's poor start to the season is now threatening to become a full-on crisis for the club, as they suffer their fifth defeat in a row to leave them rock bottom of the Dr. Martens League and adrift of the rest of the league going into September

Paul Raynor's side arrived in Kent off the back of a bruising local derby defeat at Stafford Rangers, leaving the Pitmen's new manager under increasing pressure to find a swift answer to his side's poor start to the season. Raynor made major changes to the side beaten at Marston Road, with Val Owen, Stewart Airdrie and the injured Wayne Simpson all taken out of the side in favour of Craig Hopkins, Lenny Curtis and Dean Craven. Teenager Adam Shakespeare was called into the first-team for the first time this season to offer a defensive option off the bench after Simpson had been ruled out for the long-term in midweek

Folkestone had been one of the surprise packages in the league so far this term, sitting top of the table going into today's game after winning three of their first four games. Bank Holiday Monday had seen Folkestone make the short journey to Welling United and come away with a fine 4-2 victory over the Wings. Striker James Dryden had been amongst the goals for Invicta, attracting interest from a number of clubs higher up in the football pyramid already as he topped the early scoring charts in the Southern Premier League

The away team, kitted out in blue for the first time this season, started by winning a free-kick in the second minute of the game out on the left-hand side. Richard Lucas sent over a fine ball that Folkestone keeper Kevin Hudson did well to turn over the crossbar under pressure from Kevin Francis

Folkestone responded in the eighth minute through a cross from James Virgo that was met by the head of Martin Chandler, only for Lucas to earn his crust with a fine goal-line clearance to deny the midfielder a certain goal

A route one approach from the Pitmen on fourteen minutes saw them carve out a fine chance for Bagshaw as Gayle's long punt forward was flicked on by Francis and into the path of the winger. However, Bagshaw's rising shot from eighteen yards out drifted just over Hudson's crossbar

A quick, incisive throw from Raynor on twenty minutes caught the hosts out as the Pitmen's player/manager spotted Craven drifting into space on the edge of the Folkestone penalty area. The midfielder was narrowly off target with a low drive

Back came the hosts, with skipper Danny G. Chapman playing Dryden through on goal on twenty-eight minutes, only for the striker to be denied a shot on goal by a late offside flag on the main stand side

 Craven made a surging move forwards on thirty-three minutes, running all the way from his own half to the edge of the Invicta penalty area unchallenged before forcing Hudson into a fine smothering save to his right

A succession of corner kicks from the visitors saw them continually frustrated by what was a well-organised Folkestone defence, with Hudson and his defenders doing well to repel the Pitmen from a sequence of balls in from both Bagshaw and Stewart Airdrie. A further cross from debutant Hopkins on forty minutes saw Curtis head wide at the far post with what was arguably the Pitmen's best chance in this sequence

Once again, the Pitmen could point at a lack of real conviction up front to convert any of the decent chances that had come their way after having the better of the first-half. They were to pay a heavy price for this right at the start of the second-half, as Invicta's good fortune this season continued with their first attack after the break. Virgo's hopeful cross into the Hednesford box inadvertently hit Curtis as he tracked back into his penalty area, turning the ball past a stranded Gayle from eight yards out

This blow hit the away side hard, as they failed to regain any of their first-half momentum at the start of the second period, with Folkestone controlling the possession and territory well to further emphasise their impressive start to the new season. Dryden's clever through ball found Anthony Henry on fifty-six minutes, only for Haran to snuff out the danger with a covering tackle


Graham Lancashire's quick thinking on the hour mark saw the former Rochdale man pick out Bagshaw with an intelligent first-time pass, allowing the former Barnsley player to run into the space in behind the Folkestone defence. Lancashire made a run into the box to offer a return ball from Bagshaw, but Bagshaw's cross was just too high for Lancashire to reach with his head


With the Pitmen still struggling for a way back into the game, they made an attacking change on sixty-six minutes with the introduction of striker Jon Pickess in favour of Curtis

Former Sheffield man Pickess was alive to a flick-on from strike partner Francis on sixty-eight minutes, picking up a towering header from the big man and shooting wide with a first-time effort from fifteen yards out

Having been on the receiving end of red cards in the past two games, the Pitmen were the beneficiaries of a sending-off on seventy minutes after Lancashire's run through the Folkestone back line was halted suddenly by a challenge from Hudson on the edge of his penalty area. The referee had no concerns about showing the Folkstone keeper a straight red, despite his protests. With no goalkeeper on the bench, Dryden was coerced into donning the keeper's jersey for the home side for the final twenty minutes

Both sides made changes as a reaction to the red card, with Hednesford bringing on winger Airdrie for full-back Hopkins to add more attacking threat to their team in a bid to force an equaliser

However, Folkestone packed their defence with no less than six players as they chopped and changed their personnel, thus limiting the Pitmen to long-range efforts and snuffing out any danger down the flanks by doubling up on both Bagshaw and Airdrie

This was to prove the most disillusioning twenty minutes of a poor season so far for the Pitmen and their supporters, as they huffed and puffed but struggled to create clear-cut openings against makeshift keeper Dryden. Lake did well to shrug off a challenge from Anthony Hogg on seventy-seven minutes and drive towards goal before playing a clever ball into the path of Pickess. The young striker seemed to make his mind up a little too quickly and scythed his shot wide of goal from an angle when he had time to take a touch and pick out a team-mate in blue

A minute later, the Pitmen felt that they had a great shout for a penalty kick as Francis's rising shot appeared to strike the arm of Hogg on its way towards goal. Despite vociferous protests from the Hednesford players and bench, the referee remained unmoved and signalled for a corner kick only. Raynor and Lake chased the officials around the pitch as they challenged the decision, earning Lake a yellow card and Raynor a severe reprimand for overdoing his protests

A late flurry of corner kicks from Airdrie and Lake, all aimed primarily at Francis, were well dealt with by the Folkestone defence, who did a fine job in protecting Dryden by hacking any danger away from goal. With four minutes remaining, Raynor's deep free-kick finally beat the Folkestone backline and found Lancashire, only for the striker to turn his shot into the side-netting


In added time, Lake headed an Airdrie cross downwards and into the turf, bouncing up into Dryden's face. The striker-cum-goalkeeper did well to parry the ball away from his six-yard box and into the path of Pickess, who again showed a lack of composure to lash his first-time shot over the crossbar

Another desperately disappointing afternoon for Hednesford Town and their supporters, who trooped away after a depressing defeat against ten men who had no recognised goalkeeper on the pitch for twenty minutes of the game. There appears to be little to no confidence in the side at present, particularly up front with Neil Davis missing again due to injury. The first five games have been a sobering reminder of the competitive nature of the Southern Premier League, and the fact that it will not be as easy to return to the Conference as some thought it was going to be for the Pitmen this season. They face Ilkeston Town on Monday night at Keys Park still looking for that elusive first win of the season; how Raynor will approach this after such a crushing blow today, who knows?

Folkestone Invicta: Hudson ▆ (70), Browne, Virgo, Larkin, Daniels (Danny Chapman 71), Hogg (Winfield 71), Chandler, Danny G. Chapman ©, Dryden, Dent, Henry (Bowyer 85)      Subs Unused: None

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Hopkins (Airdrie 71), Lucas, Curtis (Pickess 66), Haran © , Lake , Raynor, Craven, Francis, Lancashire, Bagshaw     Sub Unused: Shakespeare