The 2014-15 summer saw a number of new recruits join a rapidly growing Invicta squad.
Ross Houghton, Alex Whitfield, Gary Ginnaw, Anthony Jenkins, Daniel Jenkins all key regulars that joined over the course of the summer. Manager Anthony Greenidge had a number of options at his disposal. With training at Dartford FC now a regular occurrence on Thursday nights the players were in terrific shape heading into the new season.
Two pre-season friendlies were played against Soho FC and London Falcons. Invicta went down 2-0 against Soho before beating Falcons 7-3.
The first game of the season saw Invicta draw 3-3 with newly formed Soho FC (who were embarking on their debut LUL campaign) – the scorers on the opening day were Jack Bailey, Ross Houghton and the skipper Liam Cooper. With Anthony out of the country for match day two – Chairman Brian Silk took the reins for the away trip to Barn Elms to face off against Stonewall 3rds. An end to end game which typified the LUL saw Invicta run out 6-4 winners. Another game where the goals were shared around the team with Dan Goodwin bagging a brace and Charles Jimingo, James Harper, Ross Houghton and Sam Thorpe all scoring a goal each. Two games in and 4 points achieved meant Invicta had already equalled their tally from the entire campaign the previous season.
A midweek friendly down at Maidstone United FC against Kent FA saw the manager Anthony give trials to several new recruits including a second half Invicta debut for one Gary Ginnaw. A fantastic start to the game saw Invicta take the lead only to finish on the wrong side of a 3-1 score line. But with everyone getting some much needed game time and allowing Anthony test people in differing positions was all important.
The following weekend saw Invicta travel to North London to play Romans Manor House. A rather lacklustre game in truth. Gary Ginnaw took part in his first LUL squad expecting to only just make the bench. To his surprise Anthony named him in the starting 11 attempting to form a new centre back partnership alongside the experience of Elliot Toms. As the game approached the final 10 minutes and with the score still goal less it was Invicta who took the lead with a neat finish from Sam Thorpe. The players rejoiced in what looked likely to be a second successive win of the season only for Manor House to equalise within a minute of the restart. In the end Invicta had to settle for a 1-1 draw and their 5th point of the season to maintain their unbeaten league start.
A week after the Romans Manor House game a team from Invicta took part in the annual London Titans birthday tournament on Clapham Common. The makeshift team did well in the group games suffering only the one defeat 1-0 against Romans Gladiators. An eventful day ended with a knockout Plate defeat on penalties against Cardiff Dragons. Although there was much cause for post tournament beers and celebrations at the Two Brewers that night with many new faces enjoying a social night out with their team mates.
It was back to the LUL the following week with the opportunity to climb to the top of the table for the first time ever when Invicta hosted London Falcons at Northumberland Heath. Without top scorer Dan Goodwin and a few other key players Invicta suffered a 5-2 home defeat in a game which could have gone either way. The following Sunday Invicta hosted local side AFC Portrait in a friendly giving Anthony the chance to rest some players and give others some match time. The final score being a 2-2 draw.
With no league game scheduled it was time for the lads to get their kit off for the annual calendar shoot. The Holiday Inn at Dartford Bridge was the lucky venue with the guys in full laughter in what resulted in a fun day with some excellent photography, beers and a brilliant end product which was sold in early 2015 with funds being donated to charity.
The participants were Daniel Jenkins (January), Gary Ginnaw (February), Dan Goodwin (March), Sam Thorpe (April), Liam Cooper (May), Michael Horwood (June), Keeley Howell (July), Daniele Gallace (August), Andrew Kincaid (September), Elliot Toms (October), Ross Houghton (November) and Charles Jimingo (December).
The following Sunday saw quite possibly the game of the LUL season and one of the most thrilling games ever in the history of the Unity League. The date was Sunday 9th November and Invicta travelled to White Hart Lane to face off against Romans Gladiators. The champions of the previous two campaigns with the previous four league results ending 14-1, 11-1, 7-0 and 9-0 to the hosts. Gary Ginnaw was making his debut against the mighty Gladiators but he’d done his homework on them and the previous results. He was expecting them to be dominant opponents and in his words ‘feared the worst’ after Gladiators raced into a 2-0 lead. However, goals change games as they say and that was certainly the case on this day. Invicta pulled a goal back to make it 2-1 and perhaps it gave them confidence that they had goals in them against such strong opponents. Two more goals went in before half time. First it was Gladiators who restored their two goal advantage to make it 3-1 before Invicta pegged them back again at 3-2 going into the break.
The second half didn’t disappoint on the drama front. First Invicta scored three well take goals to give themselves a 5-3 lead with the players pinching each whether this was actually reality or not. In true LUL and Invicta style – Gladiators scored two goals to bring the match back to 5-5 with only minutes remaining. It seemed destined that the game would finish as a draw but Invicta had other ideas. A great move from a throw in down the left between left back Vince Pennell and debutant Samuel Timms led to Keeley Howells stabbing home a low cross to give Invicta a 6-5 lead. The team defended resolutely in the final seconds to clear the danger at every attempt and hang on for a win in pulsating fashion and record their first 3 points against Gladiators.
The next three games typified Invicta’s season – with three defeats 2-1 at home against Titans Food Chain, 2-0 away to Soho FC and 2-1 at home to Romans Manor House. The team were capable of winning games but were vulnerable at the back and dropped points in games they should have been winning or drawing.
December 2014 did see the launch of the new Bexley Invicta FC home strip. The kit was launched at Northumberland Heath ahead of the home game against Romans Manor House.
A 5-4 defeat down in Brighton in a post-Christmas friendly against Blaggs along with winning their own birthday tournament for the first time put the team in a good positon for the second half of the season.
January saw the absence of two regular defenders in Chris George and Gary Ginnaw – who were both away for significant periods travelling around Asia and Australia respectively. With goals being shipped at a regular occurrence – manager Anthony decided to trial a new centre back partnership of Alex Whitfield and Keeley Howells. He didnt look back as the pair played every game for the rest of the campaign.
In the second 8 games of the season Invicta scored a whopping 30 goals but conceded goals 22. Again this showed which areas the team needed to improve on. Wins game against Titans 2 Brewers 4-3 at home, East End Phoenix 5-0 at home and 7-2 away with Dan Goodwin bagging 5 goals in the away game, and 1-0 at home to Romans Gladiators with only 12 Invicta players being available for the game and Ross Houghton scoring the winning goal to give the Blues a double of their rivals from North London. The final home win of the season was a comfortable 5-1 affair against bottom Club Stonewall 3rds. The disappointing second half results came 8-4 away to Titans 2 Brewers, 5-2 away to Titans Food Chain and 3-2 away to London Falcons.
When Invicta finished their league campaign in mid-April they were 3rd in the league but with all the other teams still having games to play then ended the season down in 7th place but only 3 points off 2nd place Soho. It showed just how close the teams were from 2nd to 8th place. The team celebrated a successful season with their annual awards night in the cocktail bar Zingara in Bexleyheath in May 2015 with Keely Howell receiving the Managers Player of the Season award.
When June arrived it was Invicta still training as they approached the IGLFA Euro Cup in Hamburg. With 16 players making the trip along with Chairman Brian Silk, Coach Anthony Greenidge and supporters Paul Driscoll, Samuel Timms and Brian England. The first night in Hamburg saw majority of the team out drinking and partying until the early hours.
The group stage draw initially saw Invicta drawn against Soho, and the two London Titans teams in what would have been an all LUL group affair. However, one Titans team decided to swap groups with a team from Munich.
Invicta started their debut international tournament in nervous fashion gifting the opponents – London Titans 2 Brewers an early lead. However, they worked hard as a team to established a 2-1 lead going into the half time break. With Invicta looking to soak up pressure and hit their opponents on the counter in the second half it was actually Titans who managed to strike twice giving them the opening game victory. After a short break Invicta played against Soho knowing 3 points were vital if they wanted to make the knock out stages the next day. It was a match comfortably won 3-1 building to an afternoon climax against the team from Munich. Playing their third game of a very long, hot and tiring day – Invicta succumbed to a 4-1 defeat leaving them finishing third in the group and facing the prospect of only a positioning knock out decider the following afternoon.
The following day Invicta faced off against more London rivals in the form of Titans XXL. For nearly all of the game it was Invicta on the front foot creating chance after chance with the Titans looking to soak up pressure and hit Invicta on the break. With no chances taken it was down to a penalty shoot-out and seeing who could hold their nerve under pressure with all other teams watching on. In the end Titans won 4-1 on penalties to secure a 5th place finish leaving Invicta with 6th place in their maiden international tournament.
The after party was held at St Pauli FC’s football stadium with all the team having a good night out to celebrate a joyous and team bonding 4 nights in Germany.
Check out this video review of Bexley Invicta FC’s first international tournament at the IGLFA European Championship III in Hamburg in June 2015.
BY GARY GINNAW, PLAYER-MANAGER 2015-PRESENT