Tuesday 8 December // Vanarama National League South // Attendance: 1,743 // Report by David Sleight
Maidstone United slipped to their fifth home defeat of the season after 90 minutes of blood and thunder action against a very strong, fast and skilful Whitehawk side.
The men from the Enclosed Ground looked brim-full of confidence after their recent FA Cup exploits and, despite the absence of such luminaries as Dean Leacock and Sergio Torres, dominated much of the game.
The Stones briefly threatened in the opening stages with Alex Flisher blazing a shot across goal after accepting a clearance from Lee Worgan only to be flagged offside, and then finding himself through on goal again after an overhead kick by Jay May only to be crowded out. However, Whitehawk soon began to impose themselves on the game: a cross from Jake Robinson was well cleared by Jamie Coyle before successive shots from David Ijaha and Sam Deering were cleared by the Stones defence.
Ijaha and Deering were a constant threat at this stage – Ijaha dictating matters from deep, and Deering menacing on the right flank. Whitehawk always seemed to have an extra man and were winning almost all of the second ball as a shot by Robinson was turned away by Manny Parry for a corner on 9 minutes.
The speed at which Whitehawk passed, moved and closed down when not in possession belied the fact that they had been in action against League 2 Dagenham & Redbridge not much than 48 hours earlier. And to no great surprise, the Hawks had the ball in the net on twenty minutes as Jake Robinson finished smartly after being put through. The Hawks number 9 embarked upon an elaborate Dean Sturridge-style celebration in front of the Town End before realising that the linesman had flagged for offside and that the goal would not stand.
It was then the Stones turn to threaten: a cross from Matt Bodkin in the 22nd minute was just missed by Jay May and turned behind for a corner. From the resultant dead ball, Manny Parry rose above the Hawks defence to head powerfully towards goal but just wide. Having created the opportunity for himself, Parry will perhaps feel that he should have done better.
Callum Driver was pole-axed by Whitehawk’s David Martin in the 23rd minute in an off the ball incident in full view of the linesman who took no action. The contact appeared to have been unintentional but that did little to dampen the wrath of the patrons of the Main Stand as Driver lay prone for a couple of minutes.
The stoppage offered the Stones a brief respite but the home midfield was overrun at this stage and seemingly powerless to arrest Whitehawk’s lighting fast attacks or to offer much in the way of service to the beleaguered May and Frannie Collin. When Maidstone did have possession, they found themselves passing square such was the intense pressing style of this impressive Whitehawk side. A one-two between Arnaud Mendy and Sam Deering resulted in the former creating a chance for Robinson whose shot was turned around the post by Worgan.
Further shots from the impressive Ijaha and Sam Deering threatened the Stones goal before Joe Healy found himself in space after great work near the corner flag from Frannie Collin. Healy had time to take a touch but opted to shoot left-footed first time and blazed over the Springfield End into the night sky.
Martin then embarked upon a mazy run, nutmegging Callum Driver, before the ball was cleared by Parry, and Danny Mills went close with a glancing header. Robinson had a second “goal” ruled out for offside just before half time after lofting the ball over Worgan but in the dying embers of firs half stoppage time Whitehawk deservedly took the lead: Martin made space for himself in the box before angling a rising shot past Worgan’s left hand into the angle of the net and celebrating in a cathedral-like silence as the home faithful went off in search of a consoling cuppa.
The second half began and Whitehawk hardly skipped a beat as Robinson and Martin both got away shots that were well saved by Worgan. The Stones constantly found themselves caught in possession by a speedy Whitehawk side with Maidstone limited as an attacking force to the occasional break and long throws from Flisher.
Jay Saunders made a double substitution on 56 minutes as James Rogers replaced the limping Bodkin and Alex Akrofi replaced Collin. Rodgers stiffened the midfield but it was the introduction of Alex Brown on 65 minutes that made Maidstone more of an attacking force. In fact, Brown contributed almost immediately with a piledriver of a shot from 30 yards that was very well saved at full stretch by Craig Ross in the Whitehawk goal. From the resultant corner, Parry’s header was well saved.
The tide was beginning to turn: Jamie Coyle headed wide after good work from Brown and Flisher on the left, and Akrofi was almost clean through after Coyle won possession but his first touch let him down.
Whitehawk were beginning to run out of steam as their efforts on Sunday perhaps began to take their toll. Several Hawks players went down with cramp and other mystery ailments as the Stones pressed for an equaliser. Maidstone were exerting sustained pressure now: Flisher and Mills created a chance for Akrofi, who was crowded out, and May turned and shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
Six minutes of additional time were signalled by the fourth official as the Stones piled forward. Flisher made space for himself on the edge of the box but blazed over into the Town End. An incredible long-range throw from Flisher into the six yard box was met by a Parry header but Ross in the Hawks goal gathered the ball low down. There was still time for a further thunderous shot across the face of goal from Flisher before the referee blew for full time.
This was a highly entertaining game as Maidstone took on probably the best side to visit the Gallagher so far this season. The Stones can take heart from the way that they stuck to their task and an equaliser would not have been undeserved given their dominance in the closing stages. Whitehwak indulged in rather cynical tactics towards the end but, on this form, can justifiably dream of a visit to Goodison Park in early January.
Whitehawk: Martin 45
Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Callum Driver, Tom Mills, Jamie Coyle, Manny Parry, Jack Paxman (Alex Brown 65), Matt Bodkin (James Rogers 56), Joe Healy, Jay May, Frannie Collin (Alex Akrofi 56), Alex Flisher. Subs not used: Adam Birchall, Bobby-Joe Taylor
Whitehawk: Craig Ross, Chris Sessegnon, Craig Barham-Barratt, David Ijaha (Scott Neilson 77), Jordan Rose, Juan Cruz-Gotta, Sam Deering, Arnaud Mendy, Jake Robinson, Danny Mills, David Martin. Subs not used: Danny Stevens, Nick Arnold, Jordan Hawkins
Who was your man of the match against Whitehawk?
- Manny Parry (31%, 48 Votes)
- Alex Brown (14%, 21 Votes)
- Lee Worgan (11%, 17 Votes)
- Matt Bodkin (9%, 14 Votes)
- Jamie Coyle (7%, 11 Votes)
- Frannie Collin (7%, 11 Votes)
- Callum Driver (7%, 10 Votes)
- Tom Mills (5%, 7 Votes)
- Alex Flisher (5%, 7 Votes)
- Jay May (3%, 4 Votes)
- Jack Paxman (1%, 1 Votes)
- Alex Akrofi (1%, 1 Votes)
- James Rogers (1%, 1 Votes)
- Joe Healy (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 153