Saturday 11 April // Ryman League Premier Division // Attendance: 2,094 // Report by Ruth Tunnell
Maidstone United go into their final two matches of the season needing just one win after a hard fought victory over Grays Athletic saw them pull six points clear at the top of the table.
And after Hendon were held to a draw against Dulwich as the Hamlet grabbed an equaliser in the 89th minute, the Stones know that they all they have to do, baring a huge swing in goal difference, is to match Hendon’s result next Saturday in order to clinch the title.
This was a challenging match for Maidstone who came up against one of the strongest teams they have faced all season. Even so, the Stones looked confident early on and they strung together a neat move with 11 minutes played. Alex Brown found Craig Stone on the right and his early cross was steered just wide of the right hand post by Jay May.
Not long after this, Jack Parkinson gained possession outside the box. He hit a goal bound shot which bounced off Lamar Johnson’s chest and Billy Bricknell was unable to reach the rebound.
Then on 25 minutes, a nice layoff from May gave Frannie Collin the ball. Collin lifted the ball in to Bricknell who was under pressure from two Grays defenders and from a tight angle he fired the ball into the side netting.
Shortly afterwards, Lee Worgan was called into serious action for the first time in the afternoon. Harry Agomber’s free-kick from out on the left was on target but Worgan beat it away and it came to Kenny Beaney who saw his effort fizz wide of the right hand post.
Not long before the break, it was Johnson’s turn to be involved. Parkinson passed to Stone who crossed from the right and he picked out May who tried to direct his header into the left hand side of the net but Johnson made a diving save.
And in the final moments of the half, Grays went close to breaking the deadlock. Duembi Dumaka back heeled the ball to Bradley Fortnam- Tomlinson and his drive took a deflection as it went all the way across the face of goal.
Just after the break, there was a let off for the Stones. Dumaka slipped the ball into Fortnam- Tomlinson and his scuffed shot beat Worgan at the near post but Huke came to the rescue and got it away from the line.
Moments later, Alex Brown showed good energy in midfield to win the ball off Jey Siva. Brown unselfishly found Collin in the box but a heavy touch from the Maidstone striker meant the ball was put behind for a corner. This didn’t matter though as Collin sent over a good delivery and although May’s first effort was blocked he reacted quickest in a goalmouth scramble to bundle the ball over the line.
However, the lead didn’t last long as on 68 minutes, Grays were fortunate to draw level. Steve Watt should have been awarded a free-kick after he was fouled on the half way line but nothing was given and then when he got back, he was penalised for an offence close to the edge of the box. James Stevens took the resultant free-kick which took a vicious deflection off the wall and with Worgan diving in the original direction of the flight of the ball, it sailed into an unguarded net.
Following the goal, Grays dominated possession and they could have edged in front with 15 minutes remaining. A fine move saw Harry Agomber get in down the right and his shot from a tight angle deflected off the post.
This was to prove to be an important moment though as just three minutes later Maidstone grabbed the winner. An excellent tackle from James Rogers saw him win the ball in the middle and he played it to Collin who rushed forward and lashed in a fine finish to give the Stones all three points.
Maidstone United: Jay May 51, Frannie Collin 78
Grays Athletic: James Stevens 68
Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Craig Stone, Tom Mills, Steve Watt, Shane Huke, James Rogers, Alex Brown (Ben Greenhalgh 77), Jack Parkinson, Jay May, Frannie Collin, Billy Bricknell (Matt Bodkin 45). Subs not used: Sonny Miles, Jack Paxman, Will Godmon.
Grays Athletic: Lamar Johnson, Jay Leader, Jey Siva, Sean Cronin, Manny Parry, James Stevens, Harry Agombar, Kenny Beaney, Dumebi Dumaka, Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson, Joao Carlos. Subs not used: Nathan Ferguson, Conor Gough, Correy Davidson, Mark Bentley, Glen Little.