Published: 05:00, 13 April 2022
| Updated: 13:16, 13 April 2022
Folkestone’s players deserve to be applauded following their final home match of the season - no matter what happens in their Isthmian Premier play-off challenge.
That’s the verdict of Invicta boss Neil Cugley after they missed the opportunity to go back into the top five last Saturday after twice letting a lead slip in a 2-2 home draw against Corinthian-Casuals.
Sixth-placed Folkestone are only out of the play-offs by a point after Cheshunt won 2-0 on Tuesday at Bognor Regis. It is now between Invicta, Cheshunt and Lewes, who are level on points with Folkestone, for the last play-off place.
Cugley concedes the sheer number of matches Folkestone have played this term in all competitions appears to have caught up with his troops who started pre-season training at the start of May - now nearly a year ago!
The club remain in the Kent Senior Cup, reached the Velocity Trophy semi-finals, and had good runs in the FA Cup and the FA Trophy this term.
Invicta visit basement boys Leatherhead, who have picked up seven points from their past three matches, this Saturday before their last league fixture at Cheriton Road against Kent rivals Margate on Easter Monday (3pm).
The end-of-the-season awards night will come after the game against Margate.
Cugley, who has given his troops the week off, said: “We have to go to Leatherhead who, to be fair to them, have really had a go.
“If they can beat us on Saturday, they will think they can avoid relegation. It’s a massive game and we all need to be up for it.
“But hopefully the players will be ready after a week off. Margate is always a tough game.
“Me and Jay (Saunders, the Gate boss) get on really well but it’s the most local game we play so we should get a good crowd for it. It’s the last home game of the season, as well, and you always want to win the last home game of the season.
“Whatever happens, hopefully, the fans will come and clap the players afterwards. They deserve it, they have worked ever so hard.
“Hopefully, we can finish the season off in a bit of style for them (the fans).”
Ade Yusuff scored before strike partner Dave Smith also struck at the weekend, either side of a Jack Knight effort. But Casuals levelled 11 minutes from time through Oliver Sitch.
Cugley said: “It was so disappointing, really. If we had played that game a few weeks ago, I think we probably would have won comfortably.
“We gave them two goals and we got two but should have got lots more.
“It felt like it was there to be won but we didn’t win it.”
Cugley was pleased to see Yusuff score his first goal in nearly a month, though.
He commented: “He is a massive player for us when he is fit.
“Luke (Wanadio) was on the bench as well, but he was not quite fit enough. Hopefully he will be back this Saturday.
“We are getting there in terms of having the players back.”
Folkestone’s league draw came after they beat National League South Ebbsfleet last Tuesday to progress to the semi-final of the Kent Senior Cup.
Smith, Ian Draycott and Simo Mbonkwi scored in a 3-1 success - as Invicta played for the 12th successive Tuesday night, a record dating back to January 18.
“That was really good. But obviously, there was less pressure on that game,” Cugley conceded.
“We were the underdogs on Tuesday and we played really well.
“I was hoping to take that into Saturday but I felt it was a little more nervy again.”
Invicta's final match of the regular league season is at Haringey the following Saturday.