Folkestone Invicta’s promotion hopes came to an end when they were defeated 2-1 away to Dulwich Hamlet in Tuesday night’s Ryman League Division One South play off semi final at Champion Hill.
Ray Powell scored both the home side’s goals to put Dulwich 2-0 up before Invicta’s top goalscorer Stuart King pulled an 85th minute goal back to set up an exciting finale.
Striker Powell had only returned to the Dulwich side due to a broken hand injury to Ishmail Kamara, who like fellow the unselected Sanchez Ming had scored twice when Dulwich won 5-2 at home to Invicta back in November.
Powell had not played for the south London club since September.
Dulwich had never beaten Invicta until this season but have now beaten the Folkestone club three times during the 2011-12 season and it is they who now meet Bognor Regis Town in Sunday’s play-off final to see who gets promoted along with champions Whitehawk.
Bognor won their semi final 5-3 on penalties after an exciting 4-4 draw after extra time at home to Godalming Town.
Invicta had won the play-offs in 2010, whilst Dulwich had lost last season’s final 4-3 after extra time against Leatherhead after winning 3-1 at Bognor in the semi finals.
In this encounter, POWELL opened the scoring in the 29th minute when he struck from close range after a well-struck free kick from Kevin James had taken everybody by surprise and Invicta goalkeeper Jack Delo could only palm the ball down.
And it was POWELL who made it 2-0 in the 80th minute when he converted at the far post after substitutes Junior Kadi and Frankie Sawyer had combined down the right hand side.
But Invicta refused to give up and KING gave the visitors a lifeline when he created an opening and fired the ball in off the post after goalkeeper Delo had cleared the ball forward to emergency striker Frankie Chappell and the ball was touched on by James Everitt.
Invicta had come back from 2-0 down to win their 2010 play off semi final on penalties against Leatherhead but time was to run out on Neil Cugley’s side this time.
The visitors had gone into the game with captain Micheal Everitt in for the unavailable Lee Gledhill at right back.
But it was the talented Nyren Clunis who was prominent in the opening minutes as he sent in a dangerous cross from the right and then shot wide after combining with James and Powell respectively.
Invicta won their first corner of the night in the 15th minute and central defender Chappell met Darren Smith’s ball in from the right but the ball went across goal and eventually out for a throw in.
The ball then fell to King on the edge of the penalty area in the 20th minute and his shot was deflected off a defender for a corner. Invicta had numbers inside the box after a move involving Smith, Chappell and Josh Burchell on the left and the ball in was put wide by Liam Dickson.
The ball threatened to break for King inside the penalty area in the 24th minute but goalkeeper Phil Wilson came out to avert the danger after a move involving Darren Marsden, Burchell and striker Everitt.
But it was Dulwich who opened the scoring from the free kick awarded after Invicta captain Everitt was booked for a foul on James on the left flank.
Dean Carpenter fired wide from outside the penalty area for Dulwich in the 36th minute after receiving the ball from James.
The first half was tense rather than spectacular and the drama continued as there was a break in play when one of the assistant referees needed treatment for an injury.
As play resumed, Clunis poked the ball just over the crossbar when the Invicta defence failed to clear after Clunis himself had played the ball in from the right.
At the other end, Chappell headed over just before half time when Roland Edge crossed from the right after Marsden had played the ball back following a free kick on the left.
Invicta came out for the second half knowing that they had to score and a low Dickson shot was saved by Wilson when a 56th minute Burchell corner from the left came back out.
Powell hit a low shot wide across goal from the left hand side of the penalty area on the hour mark after Carpenter had played the ball up.
A Smith free kick from the left a minute later was met by Chappell and a Dickson volley was deflected for a corner from which a flare up led to bookings for Dulwich captain Lewis Gonsalves and Invicta’s Dickson.
Visiting supporters behind the goal were adamant that Dulwich goalkeeper Wilson had escaped more serious punishment for his part in the fracas.
Dulwich threatened again as Invicta captain Everitt had to head a cross from the right out for a corner in the 68th minute and an Ahmed Deen cross from the left was headed over from close range by Powell in the middle six minutes later.
And the home side increased their lead when Powell was on hand again.
Invicta striker King had endured a frustrating night until his goal prompted the visitors into a late charge. King has now taken his record to 27 goals in 27 starts in his first season for Invicta.
Defender Chappell had already moved up to join the attack and striker Richard Atkins replaced midfielder Smith as it was now a case of all or nothing for Invicta.
King threatened to break through again in the 89th minute but Gonsalves got across to tackle and substitute Atkins was then wide with an acrobatic strike from the left hand side.
Invicta goalkeeper Delo came up for stoppage time corners and his Dulwich counterpart Wilson was booked for time-wasting as the home side were now desperate for the final whistle.
But Dickson shot wide with the final touch of the game after a corner on the left and Invicta’s race was run.
Chappell and James Everitt started in all 51 of Invicta’s matches this season.
For Chappell, it was a third successive season in which he had started in all of the club’s competitive matches, often playing through the pain barrier. He has now made 170 successive starting appearances for Invicta since last missing a match away to Met Police in February 2009.
DULWICH HAMLET: Wilson, Morath-Gibbs, Deen, Adeniyi, Duku, Gonsalves, Clunis (Sawyer 72 mins), Carpenter, Powell (Gonnella 83 mins), James, Lawson (Kadi 78 mins). Unused subs: S. Pinnock, Snelling.
FOLKESTONE INVICTA: Delo, M. Everitt, Burchell, Friend, Chappell, Dickson, Smith (Atkins 87 mins), Marsden, J. Everitt, King, Edge. Unused subs: Abel, Guiver, Hayward.