Enfield Town 1 Folkestone Invicta 1
Report by Andrew Warshaw
Despite the scorching conditions, two sides seeking nothing less than a playoff place come the end of April served up a commendably fast-paced encounter, with the points deservedly shared as the new season got under way.
Huge credit has to go to the ground staff who have worked tirelessly during the summer to present a playing surface to be proud of.
Our visitors, who won the corresponding fixture 3-2 last season and finished in sixth place just outside the playoff places, had half a dozen newcomers in their starting line-up including a couple of eye-catching forwards.
But just like last season when we reached the playoff semifinals, Town showed tremendous tenacity and spirit and had chances of our own to take all three points.
Invicta stormed out of the blocks with three quickfire chances, the second of which brought a magnificent one-handed tip-over save from Nathan McDonald who later admitted it was probably one of his best ever. In between, Lyle Della Verde’s run and shot whistled past a post.
After growing into the game, we took the lead on 24 minutes shortly after the first drinks break. Ryan McLean, given the nod at rightback, dispossessed Folkestone dangerman Ira Jackson and his glorious ball over the top found Jake Cass who had only returned from a long-haul trip six hours before kickoff but kept his composure to round the on-rushing keeper and finish wonderfully from a tight angle (pictured).
One minute later we got lucky when Jackson’s angled shot looked all the world like an equaliser, only to bounce back into play off the post with McDonald beaten.
At the other end, one of many fouls on Cass led to a yellow card for Ian Gayle but Della Verde’s freekick was charged down.
Folkestone thought they had levelled when Jackson’s long throw from the left was nodded home by Gayle but McDonald had clearly been impeded.
In an end-to-end half, another Della-Verde effort was deflected away before a second drinks break was allowed with just minutes to go to halftime, much to the annoyance of our our visitors.
Folkestone again started on the front foot but we always carried a goal threat.
Invicta’s new keeper Bailey Vose kept them in the game with a terrific reflex stop from Lewis Taaffe, set up by Marcus Wyllie who had a highly encouraging league debut for Town after moving up from Step 5, not only going forward but also helping out defensively.
Just before the hour mark, however, it was 1-1. Kadell Daniel wasn’t closed down and cut inside two Enfield players before curling in an unstoppable equaliser despite Ryan Kirwan’s protestations that he had been fouled in the build-up.
Cue a trio of Enfield subs including Adam Cunnington and Blaise Riley-Snow, the latter having just signed forms on a dual registration shortly before the game.
Only in the last quarter did the energy-sapping conditions get to the players, with crosses understandably overhit and chances drying up although Bilal Sayoud saw his goalbound drive deflected for a corner. All in all a good point against a strong side .
“A fair result in the end between two very good sides going at it,” said Andy Leese afterwards. “They are stronger than last year and their front three are as good as anyone’s. First half we were about even on chances but we could have been a couple of goals to the good. Second half we didn’t get as tight on Jackson and Daniels but after their goal they didn’t really trouble us.”
“Jake and Adam had only just come back from holiday yet I thought they were running scared of Jake. It was a great finish. I always say don’t lose to the teams around you and I think Folkestone will be one of those teams.”
Town: McDonald; McLean, Bray, Richmond, Kirwan; Thomas, Taaffe (Riley-Snow, 64), Youngs, Della-Verde (Sayoud, 80 ); Cass (Cunnington, 60), Wyllie