Kent derbies may be considerably fewer this season than last but Cray Wanderers begin their home fixtures for 2019-20 with a mouthwatering clash with Folkestone Invicta on Wednesday evening. Kick off at Hayes Lane is 7.45pm.
Cray began their season with a fully merited point after a goalless draw at Kingstonian on Saturday. A very mature, disciplined performance against a highly rated side with a lot of new players was just the start the visiting supporters were looking for and while not the goalfest envisaged at the start of the game there was certainly a lot of quality on show despite the breezy un-summer like conditions. Cray were without Jay Leader, Bradley Pritchard and Charlie Allen so were a little short of numbers but showed a lot of character and resolve to grind out a point.
Lewis Carey marked his Wands debut with three fine saves at key moments of the game to earn a clean sheet while the back four were resolute and disciplined against a lively attack. The two Tom’s at the back were particularly impressive, Phipp and Carlse with Phipp filling in at centre-half with Jay Leader unavailable. The midfield three of Karl Dent, Lee Lewis and Freddie Parker also deserve special mention and boss Tony Russell was glowing with praise for their performances especially as they are more forward thinking players and had to adapt to a different style of game and curtailed their attacking instincts for the sake of the team. The wide players, Tom Murphy and Andre Coker had their moments too and Joe Taylor worked extremely hard up front. The match stats show 13 shots to the home side to 11 for Cray so very little to choose and a draw was the right outcome.
Now Cray move on to Hayes Lane for the first of four successive home games and, the visit of a strong Folkestone Invicta side. The game sees a chance for Tony Russell to go up against one of the great Kentish managers of all time in Neil Cugley with well over a thousand games in charge of Invicta since taking over in the summer of 1997.
Joe Taylor in his Folkestone days
Folkestone ended last season on a roll finishing 6th and just a point and place outside the playoffs after winning their last five games. They began the 2019-20 season in similarly impressive form beating Worthing 2-0 with two second half goals from new signing Jerson Dos Santos and substitute Ira Jackson and they are off and running for the new season. Dos Santos arrived in July from Carshalton Athletic while goalkeeper Henry Newcombe who was on the bench on Saturday was signed from Margate. There are plenty of experienced players from the Kentish scene, Josh Vincent, Michael Everitt, Sam Hasler, Alfie Paxman and Callum Davies amongst a very strong side.
The two sides haven’t met in the league since the 2010-11 season so we have been bypassing each other for the last few years. The last league match between the sides at Hayes Lane was won by Folkestone, 1-0 in October 2010. When the two sides met in February 2011 at Cheriton Road the match finished 1-1 with Lol Hamici scoring for Cray. Overall the sides have met 16 times in the league with Cray winning 7, Folkestone 5 and 4 draws. We’ve also met in cup competitions with the Wands winning 3 times in different competitions including an impressive 3-1 win in an FA Trophy replay in November 2004.
Jamie Wood lets fly in a 3-1 Cray Wanderers win at Folkestone in March 2009
Folkestone Invicta were formed in 1936 and after the demise of the original Folkestone club which used to play in the Southern League in 1990, Invicta moved in to the Cheriton Road ground and started their rise from the 2nd division of the Kent League in 1991-92 to the Kent League Premier where they met Cray Wanderers for the first time. We played until the 1997-98 season, the first under the management of Neil Cugley who arrived from Ashford Town in the summer of 1997 and finished runners-up behind Herne Bay to clinch promotion to the Southern League. They did extremely well in the Southern League and gained promotion from the East Division to the Premier and in 2001-02 briefly topped the league. They were relegated back to the East Division in 2002-03 but earned promotion straight away.
They were moved to the Isthmian League for 2004-05 to the Premier Division where they stayed for four seasons reaching the 1st Round of the FA Cup in 2005-06 losing to Chester City. They were relegated in 2007-08 and met up once again with Cray Wanderers in the South Division for 2008-09 where Cray gained promotion. In 2009-10 Folkestone were promoted back to the Premier after beating Godalming Town in the playoff final. With a very young team they were relegated straight away in 2010-11 and for the next four seasons were playoff contenders in the South, twice getting to the semi-finals in 2011-12 & 2012-13. Then in 2013-14 beat Hastings United in the Semi-Finals before losing at home to Leatherhead on penalties in the final after a 1-1 draw. In 2014-15 they returned to the playoff final but were beaten 0-3 by Merstham. The following season there were no such dramas as they won the South title by 24 points to go up in some style.
In 2016-17 they survived relegation from the Premier on the last day of the season but since have been near the top and in 2017-18 they made it to the Playoff Semi-Final losing to Hendon. Last season they made a late dash for the playoffs but finished 6th, just a point off a playoff place.
When the fixtures came out in mid-July this fixture stood out instantly as one to savour and a chance for two very good amber and black wearing sides to lock horns so early in the season.
Admission on the night £10.00 adults, £5.00 concs but also there is the Football For A Fiver offer for supporters of any club with a valid season-ticket which sounds a great incentive to come along.