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Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley aiming for promotion from Isthmian Premier

By Joe Harbert

Neil Cugley says he is confident Folkestone have all the ingredients to finally get the club out of Isthmian Premier ahead of their season-opener against Worthing on Saturday.

Following three successive years of narrowly missing out on promotion, Invicta will look to begin their campaign in positive fashion this weekend against last season’s league leaders, as football returns to the Buildkent Stadium for the first time in six months.

Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley. Picture: Chris Davey (42291219)
Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley. Picture: Chris Davey (42291219)

However, despite admitting it hasn’t been the easiest pre-season for his side this summer, Cugley says he is now ‘happy’ with the squad he has assembled for this term.

The 63-year-old said: “We’ve got 16 players, and with the budget as it is given the circumstances, it’s a good and well-balanced squad with cover everywhere which will be important with the games in quick succession, so I’m happy with the team as a whole.

“You can’t look too far ahead, but our aim is to get 50 points as quickly as we can to know you’re still in it and that’s always my first goal - after that, you build on what you’ve done in what will be a really tough and close league this year.

“There are some quality clubs with wealthy benefactors paying decent money for players at the moment, so we have to make sure that we’re there and ready for every game, which no doubt will include a lot of difficult ones.

“It’s shocked me a little bit how much some clubs have spent recently given everything that has happened, but I don’t think it will affect the pecking order too much.

“What I do know is that we have a good spirit and a fit and organised team, so hopefully that will get us the results on the pitch, starting on Saturday.

“Worthing will be right up there come the end of the season as well, so it will be a big test for us.

“They’re a big club now who have done a lot of work on their ground, and they have a great link-up with Brighton.

“It will be a good opportunity to see where we are, but I always say to my players that we never fear anybody - we have to respect these teams, but ultimately enjoy it and show what we’re about, especially to our fans where season tickets are the best they’ve ever been.

“To be in this league at all is an achievement in itself, but after our first season in it where we managed to stay up and learn a lot, since then we’ve had three good years, and hopefully that will become four at the end of the season.”

Folkestone, who despite losing the likes of Ira Jackson and Dutch striker Johan Ter Horst to Ashford United last week, have nonetheless enjoyed a decent pre-season, with positive results against the likes of Hastings and Dover leaving Cugley confident his new-look team will succeed this campaign.

They've also added former Tunbridge Wells and Ashford forward Clark Woodcock who has impressed in pre-season while Kieron McCann has left to join Cray Valley.

Cugley added: “We didn’t get the chance to play the likes of Gillingham and Maidstone in pre-season, and they would have got us even more switched on mentally, but we showed against Dover and the other sides we faced what we can do.

“But even so, we’ve obviously lost Johan last week, who I think needed to drop down a level and go and get some goals at Ashford where at his age, he can play regularly.

“But Ian Draycott is back with us as well and we also only played Jerson (Dos Santos) as a number nine technically last year, but him and Ira did get us off to a flying start, so we’ll just have to adapt and I think we’ll be alright at doing that.”

First four league games: Sat Sep 19: Worthing (h), Sat Sep 26: Wingate & Finchley (h), Tue Sep 29: Cray Wanderers (h), Sat Oct 3: Cheshunt (a).

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