Saturday, 2 May 2015

Visitors' Victory at Invicta

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 2 May 2015 at the Fullick’s Stadium
Folkestone Invicta 0 Merstham 3
Isthmian League Division One South Playoff Final (Step 4)
Ground #568 for me and chosen as the nearest step 4 ground that I had not yet visited.
Pre-match preparation
Both teams had close semi-finals.  Folkestone had needed an extra-time Whyteleafe own goal and Merstham needed penalties to beat Faversham.  Both teams had scored 107 goals in their 46 league games and the home side finished as runners-up, five points ahead of the visitors.  All this, cliché klaxon, means nothing.  It was possible to watch a bit of cricket next door before the game, from the back of the open terrace.  I know my American readers love this.

This match in one sentence
Folkestone paid for missing several first-half chances as Merstham took theirs with surgical efficiency, putting the result beyond doubt just after the interval.
So what?
Step 3 Isthmian Premier League for Merstham, for the first time in their history.

The drama unfolds
There were three early corners for Folkestone in quick succession but Merstham took a sixth-minute lead with an element of controversy.  The controversy concerned offside, and it has to be said immediately that I was not in line but behind the goal, and as a teacher of physics I should know all about parallax errors.  I am quite prepared to believe that Simon Cooper timed his run from midfield to beat the offside trap.  What I find harder to believe is that he himself scored – it seemed to me that the ball was touched over the line (it would have gone in anyway) at the far post by a team-mate who must surely have been offside.  The ref did check with the lino before finally allowing the restart, and I hope they are right and I am wrong. The record books show 0-1.

Merstham played with confidence and freedom, and also with a streetwise streak.  Ron Atkinson used to call strong early tackles “reducers”, and Merstham’s defenders certainly dished some out.  Nevertheless, the home side clawed their way back into the game, and the excellent one-handed save by Merstham’s Brannon Daly in this scene-setter clip might even be the turning point for the match.  Folkestone are in amber and black.  By the way, this is a superb non-league ground and location, as I hope you can see.

There was an ill-tempered confrontation shortly afterwards but I cannot really comment definitively from the other end of the ground.  Folkestone missed two decent chances in quick succession – just after I wrote, “F still in this” in my notes, Merstham got their second with a free header for Tutu Enriques.  Seconds before the break – potentially a killer blow.  0-2 at half-time

Folkestone came out first and fighting but then fell further behind to a well-taken free-kick from Fabio Saraiva.  That settled it, and although both sides kept trying to find the net the excitement of the occasion had ebbed away, not that the visiting contingent minded one bit.  Job done, really efficiently, and a major anti-climax for the home team whose promotion hopes fell at the same stage last season too.

I took another clip as Folkestone sought to get on the scoresheet.  Final score 0-3

Ground Pix

Some dugouts are dug out deeper than others!
Match Pix
Unusually, I watched the whole game from one spot ...

Something You Don’t Get in the Premier League

I am fairly sure that @putajumperon and I met this well-behaved Merstham supporter a few seasons back (on his epic FA cup journey) at Egham Town FC.  As I recall, we may even have missed a goal during the moment of distraction!

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats

Blue beats grey and keeps a clean sheet.  Updated table at the end of the season – green is still at the top.

Soapbox Section
I did not know until today that there is a significant Nepalese community in the Folkestone area, partly due to historical connections with the Gurkhas of the British Army.  The crowd held an impeccable minute’s silence in respect for those who have lost their lives in the recent earthquake.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Maybe Chorley next Saturday if there are tickets available on the day.

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