Chapter Ten – Rebuilding Invicta – 2018/19 Season

The 2018/19 season was a season of change for Invicta both on and off the pitch. A new committee along with a group of new players saw the team use the campaign as more of an an enjoyable learning experience.

The summer months saw the Committee work hard to bring in new recruits and build a squad capable of fulfilling the league fixtures. No fewer than 15 new players joined during the course of the season.

All the teams gather ahead of the 2018 Invicta Tournament.

The Invicta summer football tournament held at the end of July at Sparrows Lane was an opportunity to test some of the new recruits. Seven teams took to the field in the 8 aside competition which was eventually won by London Falcons in a close fought final against London Romans.

Invicta played two pre-season games – the first was a 5-3 friendly win against Soho FC at Sparrows Lane on Bank Holiday Monday – in typical British Bank Holiday weather – lots of heavy rain!

The second was an inter squad friendly with lots of cracking goals and good work rate from all involved in very hot conditions.

The London Unity League season kicked off away to Muswell Hill with 8 debutants in the 16 man squad and further new recruits watching on from the touchline. In an end to end battle which saw player-manager Gary being substituted at half time due to a severe concussion – the Reds lost out 4-2 in a game which could have swung either way.

The opening game of the LUL 2018/19 season begins.

Just 7 days later Invicta were back in action against London Titans 2 Brewers. The manager admitted after the season had finished that the fixture at home to 2 Brewers was the toughest Invicta had faced all season. At half time the match looked at even contest with the away side holding a slender 1-0 lead. Invicta had chances in the first 45 minutes but simply did not take them.

In very hot conditions the second 45 minutes was the hardest the team would face all season long. The away side looked composed, calm and confident on the ball. They made the wide pitch at Sparrows Lane look like their own and forced Invicta to chase shadows – something the Reds had managed to do to many teams over the years before. A clinical second half in front of goal saw Invicta on the wrong side of a 6-0 defeat. A harsh lesson early on.

Post match at Sparrows Lane following the defeat to Titans 2 Brewers.

The tough run of games didn’t end there. 6 days later Invicta made the long trip to Glasgow to face off against Saltire Thistle FC in the GFSN National Cup. Due to some last minute difficulties only 11 players made the trip. Saltire were experienced and full of fresh legs as they put the Reds to the sword in a comfortable 6-1 cup win.

Enjoying a few post match drinks in Glasgow.

After the game Saltire showed the Reds the best hospitality we’d ever received – including food and drinks at heir sponsors bar and then free entry to one of the local nightclubs in Glasgow! We ended the weekend making several really good friends!

Invicta and Saltire pose for a joint post match photo in Glasgow

And 7 days later Invicta were back in action at Sparrows Lane as they hosted Nuevo Club in the Kent FA Sunday Junior Trophy. A game of two halves you might say. With the away side with a commanding 3-0 lead at the break – the game looked all but over (even the referee admitted the same). But the Reds are made of sterner stuff. The second half started with two quick fire Invicta goals which got the crowd cheering and made the opposition sit up and take notice. Despite not taking their chances – the Reds were punished on the break by two further goals – even though a 3rd Invicta goal came – the tie was out of reach. After the match the team talk was around that second half performance which certainly showed what the team was capable of.

After a lengthy break from league and cup action the Reds took to the field for their next game on Sunday 4th November 2019 against Muswell Hill at Sparrows Lane. The game would be an emotional encounter for all concerned – especially Gary, Colin and Sam. Linda Ginnaw had sadly passed away on Saturday 27th October 2019 after a 9 month battle. Many of the team had been affected by the stories of Linda. The game was played in her honour with black arm bands worn by all players and a minutes silence held before kick off.

The players pay their respects in the Linda Ginnaw tribute match.

On the day Gary had been given the captains armband for a one off and couldn’t have been any prouder of the team that went so close to achieving a fitting result. The final score was a 1-0 defeat in game which really could and should have gone the other way.

Linda Ginnaw who sadly passed away in October 2018.

Much with the first two games of the LUL season Invicta were next faced with a return game away to Titans 2 Brewers on a   cold and wet Sunday afternoon in West London. With numbers short – particularly in defence the Reds did well to not get humiliated. In the end 2 Brewers completed the league double as they sat top of the table with a 4-1 win.

The next 3 LUL games prior to Christmas were close encounters which could have gone either way. As luck would have it – the three games went against Invicta. First a 3-2 defeat at home to high flying East End Phoenix, which was followed by a 3-2 defeat away to Stonewall 3rds and then a 1-0 loss away to London Romans. The performances were picking up as the team began to gel but the results were still missing.

Invicta supporting Rainbow Laces in December 2018.

The new year started with optimism following a 4-2 friendly home win against Newcastle Panthers at Sparrows Lane. The two home games that followed were games which the gaffer knew points were there for the taking. Invicta had travelled to North London in December and lost 1-0 away to London Romans with only 12 players available – this time with a fully fit squad the game was there for the taking. Invicta went 1-0 up after  after a few minutes but with some clinical finishing as Invicta struggled to defend the terrible gale force winds – Romans battled to a 3-1 win.

Next up was a home encounter against Titans XXL. The bottom two teams in the LUL facing off. The game was eventful as both teams battled for the points. Both teams ended with a goal being ruled out – the home sides for a tight off side call and the away sides for a handball. The 0-0 draw was still positive as it was the first clean sheet kept by the newly built team.

Invicta and Titans XXL battle for the points.

After a LUL cup defeat away to Soho FC ona  cold, wet and windy Sunday afternoon at Hackney Marshes (which even included a hailstorm midway through he first half) – the Reds were back in action at home against the same opposition. When luck was against the team it tended to show and be rather cruel. Soho were flying at the top of the table when they arrived at Sparrows Lane but the Reds weren’t about to be rolled over. A strong battling performance showed signs of encouragement despite being on the end of a 2-0 scoreline. It was Soho who took the lead midway through the first half with a header from a corner. Prior to that the game had been a fairly even contest.

As the Reds pushed forward chasing an equaliser it took Soho until the last few minutes of the game to wrap up the points as they were made to work hard for the victory – a close off side call went the way of the visitors who raced through on the break and calmly slotted home to wrap things up.

The team line up ahead of kick off against Soho FC with the FvH flag for FvH2019.

7 days later the Reds were away to East End Phoenix. With numbers a little short it was the home side that took advantage early on with two quick fire goals. Invicta seemed to have calmed the storm and were growing into the game before a killer 3rd goal came on the break from a long ball just minutes before half time. The second half was more a job on containing the scoreline. The Reds created a few half chances but Phoenix added a 4th goal late on to seal a comfortable win.

Just 24 hours before the match away to East End Phoenix the Reds had been on the Valley pitch (not for the first time) taking part in a penalty shootout against Proud Valiants. The event was all part of the Charlton Athletic FC dedicated annual Football v Homophobia match. After the game the team went out for a Bowling social event with two teams competing against each other.

The team pitchside ahead of the penalty shootout

With a weekend off from League and Cup action – the Reds travelled down to Aylesford to play a dedicated Football v Homophobia friendly match against Kent FA staff. The game was used to showcase the vast support Kent FA had for Invicta and also highlight the issues around homophobia and prejudice in the game. A thoroughly enjoyed contest which Invicta ran out 2-0 winners.

LUL League action was back on 3rd March with the final home game of the season against Stonewall 3rds. For much of the first 45 minutes Invicta had the opponents penned in their own half. The only thing which evaded them was the opening goal. The match turned on its head when Stonewall scored a goal on the break. Despite a 1-0 deficit at half time the Reds were buoyed by their first half dominance. Stonewall came out for the second 45 minutes with the intent on sealing the victory. A quick fire second goal gave them a healthy cushion before Invicta pulled a goal back. Stonewall then caught the Invicta defence napping and grabbed a 3rd before Invicta came back and made it 3-2. Towards the end of the match it was end to end stuff and the Reds had the better chances with a guilt edge chance missed very late on as the home side slipped to a narrow 3-2 loss.

The games kept coming with an away trip to Bristol for a friendly sandwiched by two away games against the much improved Titans XXL team (league and cup). The Bristol away game was a friendly competitive match between two sides striving to achieve headlines on and off the pitch. If it wasnt for the cross bar it would have been an evenly fought 1-1 draw.

The Teams of Bristol City Panthers and Invicta line up ahead of a friendy.

The two games against Titans XXL were similar affairs. The first in the cup finished 3-0 to Titans with 2 late goals cancelling out all hope of an Invicta win despite the team having chances.

Post game group photo away to London Titans XXL.

Two weeks later in league action with several debuts being made – it was a much tighter affair. The Reds actually had good possession and chances in the first half which they failed to take before a very scrappy opening goal for the hosts. With the scores at 1-0 for much of the game – it looked like an Invicta equaliser was on the cards before a late second ensured the points stayed in West London. Final score 2-0 to Titans XXL.

One week before the league campaign was due to finish Invicta hosted Leicester Wildecats at Sparrows Lane in what was to be their best team performance of the season.

The final LUL game came away to Soho at Hackney Marches on 7 April. Soho were closing in on their maiden LUL title and Invicta had nothing but pride to play for. Three early goals gave Soho a commanding lead. The second half was a closer affair despite Soho managing to grab a 4th goal.

Post game group photo away to Soho FC.

May 2019 saw the Reds have a busy bank holiday weekend. First up was Friday night football with a friendly loss to Barnes Stormers FC, Saturday was Birmingham Pride, and on the Sunday saw a dozen of the team at Wembley Stadium for the League One Play Off Final in which Charlton Athletic secures promotion to the Championship with a 95th minute winner against Sunderland.  The Monday saw the Reds play at The Valley for the 4th annual Charlton vs Homophobia football tournament. And a season was ended with silverware as the Reds were awarded the inaugural Justin Fashanu Fair Play Trophy.

The team with the Justin Fashanu Fair Play Trophy.

In July 2019 the team travelled to Rome for the 2019 Euro Games. This marked the Clubs first ever participation in the Euro Games and first international 11 aside tournament since the IGLFA Euro Cup in Hamburg in 2015 under the Bexley Invicta FC branding.

The line up at Euro Games 2019.

The group games saw opening day victories against Paris Arc En Ciel (2-0) and Titans 2 (3-0) and then second day defeats against Titans 1 (3-0) and Panamboyz Utd (3-0). Invicta finished 3rd in the group of 7 which meant a division 2 semi final against the Italian National LGBT+ Team with G-Madrid Sports or Stockholm Snipers awaiting the winners – and a chance of a gold, silver or bronze medal.

The Italian National LGBT+ Team decided not to show up for the semi final and following a lengthy wait – the officials awarded Invicta the 3-0 win which secured a final place. The final match saw G-Madrid Sports secure a 3-2 win over Invicta and thus saw Invicta finish as Runners-Up and go home with the silver medal!

The team with their Silver Medals.

Following a long campaign the gaffer had the following words to say:

“The season started with a major turnover of players both coming and going. It’s credit to all of those players that we fulfilled a league and cup campaign consisting of 23 games with no games being forfeited.

Its been a tough season and one of a learning curve for most of the team. Results haven’t always reflected the performance – I think we lost 7 games by the odd goal. Which shows in itself that we aren’t far away from challenging. I can count only a few occasions where we either just didn’t show up or were outclassed by the opponents. Two of those came in the first few weeks of the season.

We’ve retained majority of the team and added some quality to that – so 2019/20 promises to be an exciting year for the Club. We finished on a high with a silver medal in Rome which was (realistically) beyond our wildest dreams. So that shows the improvement within the team.

We’re stepping into GFSN league next season – so we have even more competitive football to offer people. It’s another challenge but one we can relish as a United group! Bring it on!” Gary Ginnaw – Player-Manager