Two of the Ryman League Division One South’s in-form teams unsurprisingly shared the spoils on Wednesday evening, as Eastbourne Town shared a 1-1 draw with Folkestone Invicta at The Saffrons last night.
This was the fourth successive league draw between the sides but Town would be the happier with the point, as they kept Folkestone Invicta at bay, despite the visitors shading the contest.
With Brazil a big attraction on television, it was the grassroots non-league arena that suffered again, as only 156 brave souls turned up to watch Town’s first home game for a month.
Having been in good form away from home, Town boss, Danny Bloor, selected an unchanged starting line up, as his charges looked to stretch their run of results to just one defeat in the last 10 games.
Matches over recent seasons between these two sides have been decent, close fought affairs and this game started in exactly that fashion, with both sides wary of the other.
Folkestone Invicta were careful to nullify the effect of Ross Treleaven, who scored three goals on his last outing, and Town worked hard to stop the visitors from playing out from their back line.
The opening quarter became a tactical affair with few chances for either side. Richard Atkins led the line well for Folkestone Invicta, in place of the prolific Stuart King who has moved to title favourites, Maidstone United, but the best early chance fell to Matt Crabb, who fizzed a shot just wide of the post on 20 minutes, following strong Town pressure.
The opening goal of the evening came on 24 minutes, from the head of the Town skipper, Ben Austin. Matt Crabb’s well delivered corner was met at full pelt by Austin, who climbed highest to bury his header past Jack Delo in the visitor’s goal.
Town’s lead was short-lived, however, as some sloppy defending from Ethan Strevett and Dan Rogers ended with Rogers bringing down Dane Luchford in the Town penalty area. The match referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Phil Stevenson’s excellent penalty kick brought the sides level on 29 minutes.
The game continued to be a tight affair and, although a Matt Crabb free kick was headed behind for another Town corner, Folkestone Invicta proved very dangerous on the break. On 40 minutes, with men breaking at pace, Dane Luchford was played in well but the big striker’s shot flew over the crossbar. This was still a warning shot for Town to heed.
The second period saw the game open up a little with Treleaven going close for the hosts, whilst Darren Smith fired in a free kick that was well collected by Josh Pelling in the home goal. Folkestone continued to break at speed and on 56 minutes Luchford missed a glorious chance to put his side ahead as he fired wide when well placed.
Town were beginning to come under heavy pressure but the centre-half pairing of Austin and Steve Elliott stood big and firm, repelling all that was thrown at them. Pelling, in the Town goal, was far busier than his opposite number, as Folkestone became the more dominant team. Town became wasteful in possession, with passes going astray with too much ease and regularity.
Matt Aldred fired over the bar from a Crabb free kick and top scorer, Danny Curd, was just beaten to a poorly hit back pass by Folkestone’s keeper, Delo, as Town’s attacking threat began to weaken. At the other end, Pelling and Adam Davidson did well to thwart a dangerous Folkestone attack, the full back heading behind after a good Pelling save. From the corner, Folkestone bundled the ball into the net but, to the relief of the hosts, the Referee blew for an infringement on Pelling.
Two minutes from time Davidson again saved his side, this time clearing the ball off the goal line, as Town held on for a hard fought point from a game they would definitely have lost last season. Bloor and his assistant, Garry Wilson, have instilled a resilience and self belief into the side recently and this was epitomised by the captain, Ben Austin, who was superb tonight.