Kent battle with a huge importance in race for the play-offs
The rescheduled Kent derby between Invicta and Maidstone at Sittingbourne’s Bourne Park has long since shaped up as the classic six-pointer for two sides in the second tier of clubs bidding for a place in the end of season play-offs in Ryman One South.
Neither side goes into the match in top form with both having hit the buffers just lately after excellent runs that established them as promotion contenders.
Folkestone have lost their last three home games on the bounce, and lost their unbeaten home record for the season in the first of those three, but they have continued picking up good points on the road with a comfortable win at Faversham and an excellent draw away to leaders and promotion near certainties Bognor Regis.
For their part, Maidstone’s ‘home’ draw with Eastbourne Town at Bourne Park last weekend brought them their first point in three games following defeats against Kent rivals Ramsgate (1-0 away) and again, at their adopted home, to Faversham whose 3-1 victory saw the Lilywhites complete the league double over the Stones.
Before that Maidstone drew 0-0 with Corinthian Casuals leaving them without a win in their last four matches.
The intriguingly named Baff Addae scored their goal last weekend with top scorer Shaun Welford currently going through a minor scoring drought.
As the ex-Ramsgate and Dover striker grabbed both his side’s goals when Maidstone visited the Buzzlines on a very wet Wednesday night in December, Folkestone will be hoping that the big man’s goal-touch again deserts him and would love a repeat of the result that night when Darren Smith’s cracking late winner added to two goals by Stuart King to give Invicta a 3-2 victory.
Division One South leading scorer King sat out last weekend’s 3-1 home defeat by Dulwich Hamlet – who like Bognor and Whitehawk are now in a breakaway group of three at the top of the table and all look odds on to make the play-offs.
Bognor have 71 points, Whitehawk and Dulwich are both on 70 while the Stones are currently fourth (57), with both Worthing and Folkestone two further points behind on 55.
King’s absence on Saturday with a hamstring problem clearly had a detrimental effect on Folkestone’s firepower and manager Neil Cugley will be hoping that the ex-Herne Bay hotshot’s absence is as short as possible. But given the rivalry between Invicta and tomorrow’s hosts he will undoubtedly be keeping his cards close to his chest over King’s prospects of being involved at Bourne Park.
Folkestone’s record at the Sittingbourne ground is a poor one, and Cugley has never made a secret of his feelings over one of the poorest playing surfaces in this league which hardly suits Invicta’s passing game.
But the visitors have to put that out of their minds and scrap for every ball if they are to get the positive result they need – at the very least to go into this coming weekend and the away game at Walton and Hersham still in touch with the best placed Kent side in Division One South.