Monday 16 March // Ryman League Premier Division // Attendance: 369 // Report by Ruth Tunnell
Three goals in the last four minutes of the first half saw Maidstone United come from behind to beat Billericay Town for the second time in less than a month.
Traditionally, the Blues’ ground in Essex is not the Stones’ favourite place to travel to in terms of results. However, once Maidstone had recovered from falling behind and had equalised not long before half time, this always looked as though it would be a more enjoyable evening for the travelling faithful.
It took just nine minutes for Billericay to open the scoring. The Stones could not prevent the Blues racing down the left and Afolabi Obafemi ‘s cross was flicked on by Ricky Stapleton. Maidstone’s defence were unable to react as the ball dropped to Harry Baker and he had an age to pick his spot and smash his shot past the stranded Lee Worgan.
There was another warning for the Stones shortly after this. Ola Williams clipped the ball across the edge of the box and it eventually came to Baker who lifted his effort over the bar.
Then with 16 minutes gone, Maidstone had appeals for a penalty waived away. Matt Bodkin battled well to win the ball in midfield and Frannie Collin released George Porter down the left. Porter made it into the box and whilst he went over Joe Wright in the Billericay goal, the Blues’ keeper was adjudged to have conceded a corner in the process.
Billericay were still looking dangerous though, particularly on the counter attack. Just past the half way point of the opening 45 minutes, a straight ball down the middle caught Maidstone unaware leaving Rowan Liburd in a decent position but Lee Worgan easily gathered his shot.
Collin then drew a diving save from Wright from a free-kick. Then from the resultant corner, Collin put the ball towards the near post where it was met by Jamie Coyle who could only steer the ball into the arms of Wright.
The home side soon had a great chance to pull further ahead during this game with 38 minutes gone. A long ball forwards caught out the Maidstone defence and Liburd got in past Coyle without too much trouble. Liburd hit a goalbound shot which Worgan did very well to parry and then when the ball came back out to the edge of the box, Jack Edwards stabbed the opportunity over the bar.
As is so often the case, Billericay were made to rue this missed chance as just three minutes later, Maidstone pulled level. May did well down the left hand side and he calmly stepped into the area where he sent the ball back into the middle to the arriving Jack Parkinson who drilled the chance into the net.
Then with the game in first half stoppage time the Stones edged in front. A fine move saw Parkinson pass to Collin and he picked out May who lashed a superb finish past Wright.
And with Billericay rocking, Maidstone made sure they went into the break with an even greater advantage. The Stones caught the Blues on the break with a surging run from Matt Bodkin who, after exchanging passes with George Porter, put a deep cross into the box. This came to May who took a touch before registering his fourth goal in just two matches with another nice finish.
May should have continued the second half in the same manner. Just sixty seconds after the break Bodkin picked out May inside the box and after taking a touch, May’s eventual shot missed the target.
The Maidstone striker continued to catch the eye though and he was involved again on 68 minutes. He back heeled the ball into the path of Porter who pushed forwards and got a short away which drew Wright into a diving save.
There was then a slight nervy moment for the Stones when Worgan was drawn from his goal and he didn’t get enough on a clearance which went straight to Afolabi Obafemi. Obafemi didn’t have much time for a shot and his attempted lob went wide of the left hand post.
But this was to be the last time that Billericay really threatened as Maidstone saw out the remaining moments in a comfortable manner. The result means that the Stones are now 12 points clear of second placed Hendon, although both Hendon and Margate have games in hand over their top of the table rivals.
Maidstone United: Jack Parkinson 41 Jay May 45, 45
Billericay Town: Harry Baker 11
Billericay Town: Joe Wright, Ola Williams (Stevie Sheehan 45), Teddy Nesbitt, Jack Edwards, Richard Halle, Ryan Scott, Afolabi Obafemi (Ryan Melaugh 75),Glenn Poole, Ricky Stapleton, Rowan Liburd, Harry Baker. Subs not used: Liam Nash, Josh Ekim, Cyrus Mahler.
Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Craig Stone, Tom Mills, Shane Huke, Jamie Coyle, James Rogers, Matt Bodkin (Ben Greenhalgh 84), Jack Parkinson, Jay May (Billy Bricknell 80), Frannie Collin (Alex Brown 76), George Porter. Subs not used: Sonny Miles, Will Godmon.