Saturday 21 February // Ryman League Premier Division // Attendance: 362 // Report by Ruth Tunnell
There was a familiar feeling about the end of this game for Stones fans. For the second week in a row, Maidstone let slip a lead as they once again failed to take the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table.
The Stones have struggled to hold onto an advantage going into the final ten minutes a number of times over the past couple of months now and on this occasion, they were even more in control having been 2-0 ahead at the break. But the sending off of Steve Watt shortly after the interval, which meant both teams were down to ten men, proved to be pivotal as the Stones went into their shell and enabled Leiston to put the pressure on which eventually led to their late equaliser.
It was Lee Worgan who was the first of the two keepers to be called into action. With 10 minutes played, John Sands got a shot away from the edge of the box which Worgan did well to get down to and make a one handed stop. By this point, Sands was on the ground with Sonny Miles close by and for some reason, Sands decided to kick out at the Maidstone defender. The linesman saw the offence and Sands was shown a red card.
Not long after this Ben Greenhalgh did well to make progress down the Maidstone left. He cut the ball back into the middle where Billy Bricknell took a touch to move into space inside the box only to blast his effort straight at Danny Gay in the Leiston goal.
As the half progressed, the Stones started to enjoy space and possession down their right and it was from this side that the opening goal arrived on 32 minutes. Alex Brown showed good awareness to move the ball out to Craig Stone who whipped a great cross into the box where it was volleyed into the net by Jay May.
Then with the game in first half stoppage time Maidstone increased their lead. A corner from Frannie Collin caused a scramble in the Leiston box and although Brown’s shot from close range was blocked, May reacted quickly to ram in the rebound.
But just four minutes after the break, the Stones were reduced to ten men when Watt was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Joe Francis. Many in the ground might have been surprised that the foul was judged to be worthy of a sending off although the Stones didn’t seem to initially appear to let this decision bother them.
Not long after this, Maidstone should have put the game beyond the home side. May put Bricknell in on goal but Gay was quickly off his line and Bricknell’s attempts to beat him with an early shot were unsuccessful as Gay made the block.
Then with an hour played, James Rogers found Greenhalgh out on the left. Greenhalgh cut into the middle of the pitch and passed to Frannie Collin who did well to make room for a rising drive from close to the edge of the box. Gay managed to parry his effort and then the arriving May saw his header deflect behind for a corner.
Having looked assured until this point, the Stones suddenly started to sit back and invite Leiston onto them and with 75 minutes played, the home side got back into the game. Francis ran down the left and hit a low shot from the edge of the box which appeared to take a deflection as it flew past Worgan into the right hand side of the box.
By now the Blues were dominating possession with Maidstone struggling to get out of their own half at times. On 86 minutes, a free kick for Leiston was headed back across goal by Joe Jefford and substitute Darren Mills saw his overhead effort drop just over the bar.
But the home side were not to be denied an equaliser and they drew level one minute into stoppage time at the end of the match. A cross from Francis was allowed to go through to the unmarked Blake Saker and he got the vital touch to divert the ball past the stranded Worgan.
Leiston: Joe Francis 75, Blake Saker 90
Maidstone United: Jay May 32, 45
Leiston: Danny Gay, Blake Saker, Stuart Boardley (Tom Winter 67), Danny Cunningham (Darren Mills 45), Joe Jefford, Scott Mitchell, Patrick Brothers (Josh Mayhew 90), Gareth Heath, Leon Ottley-Gooch, John Sands, Joe Francis. Subs not used: Josh Merritt, Alex Rossis.
Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Craig Stone, Tom Mills, Steve Watt, Sonny Miles, James Rogers, Ben Greenhalgh (George Porter 82), Alex Brown, Jay May, Frannie Collin (Matt Bodkin 67), Billy Bricknell (Jamie Coyle 56). Subs not used: Phil Starkey, Will Godmon.