After the drama of waiting over an hour for a coach replacement after the first vehicle had failed to start in the Berkeley Fields car park on Saturday morning, and with the M20 closed for bridge repairs, North Greenford took the longer route along the A2/M2 to Folkestone to face the Ryman Premier Division side in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round.
Arriving at the Fullicks Stadium at around 2.15pm United had just half an hour to warm up and focus with referee Damith Bandara able to kick off the contest shortly after the original 3.00pm kick off time.
Despite being two leagues lower in the non-league pyramid Greenford looked the livelier of the two sides during the opening exchanges and, with just three minutes on the clock, Anthony O’Connor used his pace to get behind the Folkestone Invicta defence but was unable to beat home keeper Tim Roberts who spread himself well to block O’Connor’s shot. Three minutes later the visitors forced a second corner which was comfortably defended.
All this provided a wake-up call for Folkestone who, shortly afterwards, went on the offensive with their lively midfielder Scott Heard firing in a shot from outside the United area which brought out a fine save by Blues keeper Ben Clargo. This was followed almost immediately by a second Heard effort, this time from close range, which had to be cleared off the line by alert new signing James Rogers, making his debut at right back for the visitors.
To their credit Greenford continued to compete well and create chances. Another good run by O’Connor on 18 minutes set up a good chance for midfielder Nathan Munroe who was also denied by Roberts, and with half-time approaching, on the end of a fine run, Sandro Costa fired a shot wide of the home post. The downside for United was a recurrence of the hamstring injury to captain Anthony Rowlands midway through the half and, just a minute before the break, a booking for left-back Nikolas Muller.
Fired up by what had clearly been a stern talking to by manager Neil Cugley, Folkestone were quickly out of the blocks at the start of the second period and within two minutes had broken the deadlock. A clever through ball enabled striker Ian Draycott to get behind the Blues back line and he made no mistake with a composed finish past Clargo.
Far from letting their heads drop, United responded well to going behind and it took less than ten minutes for the visitors to level the score. Once again the Folkestone defence was undone by the pace of O’Connor who rounded Roberts before placing the ball in the corner of the home net from a tight angle.
Invicta continued to press and it needed several fine Clargo saves to keep the Blues in the game. On 72 minutes the home side scored the crucial second goal when Clargo was only able to parry a Draycott shot, with the ball falling to Carl Rook who was presented with a simple tap-in.
With Greenford commendably doing all they could to get back into the game, Folkestone, having been denied by the United woodwork, eventually scored the killer goal four minutes from time when Roberts claimed his brace with another clinical finish to secure his team’s place in the Second Qualifying Round.
This was another North Greenford display that makes it difficult to understand the club’s current league position. The team should quickly climb the table if the players build on and develop the qualities and areas for improvement reflected in their overall performance.
NGU Team: Ben Clargo, James Rogers, Nikolas Muller, Nathan Munroe, Anthony Rowlands (captain) (Austin Schofield 25), Josh Lewis-Evans, Alfie Cain (Charlie Conner 80), Jamal Velinor, Anthony O’Connor, Danny Vincent, Sandro Costa (Andre Swaries 87)