Tuesday 24 February // Ryman League Premier Division // Attendance: 339 // Report by Ruth Tunnell
The race for the Ryman Premier Division title has taken another turn after Maidstone United slumped to their fifth defeat of the season in a game that saw Hampton and Richmond Borough win for the first time in four games.
The Stones’ recent stuttering form now means that if Margate win their two matches in hand, they will return to the top of the table. And after looking so assured and solid earlier in the season, Maidstone know they can ill afford to put in another defensive performance like the one in the first half against Hampton if they are to be successful at the end of this season.
There was an early warning for the Stones in this match. With 10 minutes gone, Charlie Moone got in on goal but he was denied by superb sliding challenge by Tom Mills.
But there was nothing Mills could do to prevent the visitors falling behind just three minutes later. Lee Worgan came across his area to make a clearance and unfortunately his kick went pretty much straight to Jamie Calvin. The Hampton striker was a good 35 yards from goal but he took a touch and sent a shot which sailed into the net past Worgan who was desperately trying to get back across his box.
By now the home side were in the ascendancy and they thought they had pulled further ahead with 20 minutes on the clock. A deep cross from Tom Jelley flew straight across the box and came to Charlie Moone who apparently took a touch with his arm before he fired the ball into the net despite Worgan’s best attempts to make the block. Moone ran over to celebrate in the corner but he was left frustrated when his effort was ruled out.
Shortly afterwards an attempted clearance from George Porter went to Marcus Johnson-Schuster. He then crossed from the Hampton right where he picked out the unmarked Calvin who couldn’t generate any power with the header and the ball bounced into Worgan’s arms.
Then at the other end, Maidstone suddenly had a chance to draw level. Frannie Collin slid an ideal ball into Billy Bricknell who found himself with only Mark Smith to beat but unfortunately the Maidstone striker’s goal scoring drought continued as he hit Smith’s legs with his shot.
The evening soon got even worse for the Stones. A long ball forward dropped to Moone and he lashed a fine finish past Worgan who could do nothing to prevent Moone’s 14th league goal of the season flying past him.
However, Maidstone were then handed a potential lifeline on 35 minutes. Jay May jumped with Frantz Tchonang Ngessa to try and win the ball on the edge of the area as the Stones broke forward quickly. There was no doubt that the offence was worthy of a free-kick but it was a huge surprise when the referee went racing over to Tchonang Ngessa and pulled a straight red card out of his pocket.
The Stones tried to up the tempo and make their man advantage count and they did make Smith work in the remaining moments of the half. First of all the Hampton keeper was called into action to parry a goalbound drive from Brown and then in a goal mouth scramble following a Porter cross, he made a good save to deny Steve Watt before Frannie Collin’s low effort was cleared off the line.
Maidstone enjoyed more possession after the break and just before the half way point of the second half they pulled a goal back. Frannie Collin put the ball into the middle where it was headed back across the box by Watt. Billy Bricknell got on the end of the header but whether his effort actually crossed the line was in doubt as Hampton protested furiously after the goal was awarded.
Smith then made an excellent point blank save to deny Alex Brown from close range. And then the Maidstone midfielder soon had another opportunity when the ball fell to him inside the box but he chipped the chance straight at Smith.
As the game entered its final moments, Collin crossed for May who was at full stretch and May was unable to keep the ball down so it flew over the bar. Then in stoppage time, May did well to pick his way into space on the edge of the box only for his low shot to go inches wide of the right hand post and with it went any hopes the Stones had of rescuing a point from this game.
Hampton and Richmond Borough: Jamie Calvin 13, Charlie Moone 26
Maidstone United: Billy Bricknell 69
Hampton and Richmond Borough: Mark Smith, Marcus Johnson-Schuster, Tom Jelley, Frantz Tchonang Ngessa, Kieron Murphy, Kevant Serbony, Tom Collins (James Simmonds 46), Jake Rose, Jamie Calvin (Saheed Sankoh 78), Charlie Moone (Ben Osman 46), George Wells. Subs not used: Paris Mason, James Richmond,.
Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Craig Stone (Ben Greenhalgh 70), Tom Mills, Steve Watt, Sonny Miles, James Rogers (Jack Parkinson 77), Billy Bricknell, Alex Brown, Jay May, Frannie Collin, George Porter. Subs not used: Jamie Coyle, Matt Bodkin, Will Godmon.