Monday 2nd January 2012 // Ryman League Division One // Attendance: 442 // Report by Ruth Tunnell
Maidstone United’s quest for a play off place is back on track after their third victory in as many games ensured that The Stones picked up maximum points from the matches over the festive period.
Although this wasn’t the most polished performance of the season from Maidstone they were far too strong for their landlords Sittingbourne who were condemned to their third defeat in a row.
The Stones started strongly and both Alex Flisher and Alex Waugh put the ball over the bar when well placed inside the first two minutes.
Then shortly afterwards, Matt Reed in the Sittingbourne goal was called into action for the first time when he turned a low shot from Flisher round his right hand post and from the resultant corner, Ellis Green’s cross was heading straight into the net until it was cleared away from the line.
The game then became scrappy and disjointed and it wasn’t until the 30th minute that the home side finally threatened when Hicham Akhazzan drilled the ball into the box and the arriving Josh West was unfortunate to see his effort fly just wide.
However, the deadlock was broken with 32 minutes played when an excellent ball over the top of the Sittingbourne defence from Sam Bewick picked out Alex Waugh. It had appeared that Waugh was in an offside position but no flag was forthcoming and he ran into the box before firing in his 13th goal of the season.
Maidstone then pushed hard for a second goal and they went very close on 40 minutes when Michael Phillips was brought down just outside the box and Flisher’s free-kick hit the cross bar.
The half time interval seemed to disrupt The Stones and it was the home side who enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges of the second period. With 48 minutes played Akhazzan was allowed time to shoot from the edge of the box but his scuffed effort never troubled Daren Hawkes in the Maidstone goal.
Seven minutes later a deep corner from Green was retrieved by Shaun Welford and his good cross was hooked just over the bar by Waugh and then moments later, The Stones had Hawkes to thank for keeping them in front. Sittingbourne’s chance to draw level came about when Sam Groombridge could not get the ball clear and it fell to Joe Nwoko who entered the area and shot goalwards only for Hawkes to make a great save and the Maidstone keeper quickly got up to divert the follow up effort wide of the post.
Then on 62 minutes Sittingbourne’s hopes of getting back into the game were dealt a severe blow when Bryan Glover was sent off for a second bookable offence for deliberately handling the ball as Maidstone looked to break forwards.
With a man advantage, The Stones began to up the tempo again and on 68 minutes Green played in Welford who saw his shot deflected onto the roof of the net. But Maidstone were to have more luck three minutes later when a corner from Green was headed back across goal by Flisher and Groombridge was on hand to nod in his first goal for the club from close to the right hand post.
Then on 73 minutes Green was involved again when another fine cross picked out the unmarked Welford who scored with his head to register his 24th goal of the season.
There after there was little to note apart from a header from substitute Ryan Golding which went over Hawkes who had been drawn from his goal but it wasn’t on target and so Maidstone held on to keep their second clean sheet in as many games.
Maidstone United: Alex Waugh 32, Sam Groombridge 71, Shaun Welford 73
Sittingbourne: Matt Reed, Ryan Cooper, Dan Palfrey, Anthony Hogg, Bryan Glover, Cedric Abraham, Josh West (Ryan Golding 58), Joe Goldsmith, Joe Nwoko, Luke Girt (Ryan Palmer 58), Hicham Akhazzan. Subs not used: Luke Colman, Jonathan Hogg, Bradley Spice.
Maidstone United: Daren Hawkes, Tommy Osborne, Tom Mills, Sam Groombridge, Graeme Andrews, Michael Phillips (Danny Lye 85), Ellis Green, Sam Bewick, Shaun Welford (James Pinnock 81), Alex Waugh, Alex Flisher. Subs not used: Jay Saunders, Baff Addae, Marc Powell.