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Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley says Isthmian Premier play-off race is wide open this season

Folkestone went three points clear at the top of Isthmian Premier on Saturday – but boss Neil Cugley maintains it’s far too early for title talk.

Invicta’s excellent 2-1 home win over former leaders Horsham on Saturday took their points tally to 41 – a remarkable tally after just 19 matches.

Passing the 40-point barrier – always Cugley’s first target – meant he could enjoy a celebratory drink but he says no one at the club is looking beyond the next game.

Folkestone's Ira Jackson bears down on the Horsham goal Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone's Ira Jackson bears down on the Horsham goal Picture: Paul Amos

He said: “We always look to get to 40 points as quickly as possible because that pretty much ensures that we’ll be in this division again next season.

“For the boys to get there as quickly as they have is a fantastic achievement, but I still think there’s as many as 12 or 13 teams who can get into the play-offs this season.

“I remember looking at November and thinking that’s a tough month, it was the same for December and now I’m looking at January and that looks every bit as tough.

“We’re a club that lives within our means but to be fair it’s not like it has been in the past when you’ve had the likes of like Billericay, Dulwich, and Dorking who were all destined to go on to better things with their finances.

“There are still one or two clubs spending big but the division is a lot more open and I think it’s better.”

Cugley felt his side were worthy winners against Horsham, although he acknowledged that the Sussex side did dominate the first 20 minutes at the BuildKent Stadium.

Folkestone striker Johan ter Horst keeps Horsham at bay on Saturday Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone striker Johan ter Horst keeps Horsham at bay on Saturday Picture: Paul Amos

He added: “We looked a bit nervy at the start and made a few unnecessary mistakes which is something we will talk about at training this week because it could have cost us.

“I thought then that we dominated until half-time and I always felt we could go on to win.

“It was a bit disappointing to let them back in so quickly after we’d gone 2-0 up but I think we deserved the win.”

Cugley confirmed that Ira Jackson will remain as the club’s No.1 penalty taker having successfully taken over from Jerson Dos Santos after the striker had seen his effort saved.

Jackson’s goal was his 14th of the campaign and Cugley feels the 22-year-old former Dover and Margate winger is going from strength to strength.

He said: “Give Ira credit, he’s worked at his game, he’s buckled down and done the things we’ve asked him to do.

“He started his goal tally mainly as a substitute coming on and getting goals and that must have helped get his confidence up.

“He’s a strong lad and he’s now getting a goal nearly every game. He’s done well.”

Unbeaten-in-six Invicta travel to 17th-placed Bowers and Pitsea on Saturday in their last league game before Christmas.

The Essex side produced an eye-catching 4-0 win at Enfield last weekend and Cugley said: “It just goes to show what I keep saying about this league. To win at Enfield is difficult enough so to win 4-0 they must have played pretty well.”

Full-back Alfie Paxman is unavailable for Saturday’s game so Nat Blanks will deputise.

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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