Monday 9 January // Ryman Youth League East // Attendance: 131 // Report by Josh Bailey
Maidstone and Tonbridge shared two goals apiece in a four-goal thriller as both sides came from behind to grab a point in a fiery encounter at the Gallagher Stadium.
Right from the first whistle you knew this last home game was going to be gripping, especially when the always dangerous Lucas Murrain took it round the Angels goalkeeper only to have his shot miraculously blocked and cleared by a defender.
Immediately, Tonbridge had it down the other end, winning themselves a free kick. An inswinging ball by Tommy Chapman found Jack Bray who rose the highest, striking the post.
As frustration grew, Tonbridge striker Henry Ikeise had a shout for a penalty when he was pulled down in the area but referee allowed play to continue
A heart in mouth moment for Maidstone fans followed. Stones keeper Tommy Taylor made a rare mistake, when he came rushing out of his goal to clear the ball, misjudging the kick, hitting it against the striker but luckily bouncing out for a throw in.
Some great link up play by Angels pairing Richard Frempong and Henry Ikeije put the number ten through on goal but Taylor stood up strong making the striker blink first, saving his shot and keeping the scores goalless at half time.
The second half started like the first. Both teams continued to nibble away at each other’s stern defences but it was the away side that found the first crack. Another dangerous corner by Tonbridge once again found Bray. He headed the ball back into the area finding the unmarked Louis Pateman who smashed it past the keeper.
The lead didn’t last long though. With Tonbridge still celebrating their goal, Max Borland was able to play a ball between the two sleeping defenders, finding Sid Warden, who freed himself to side foot the ball off the post and in.
Twenty minutes later Maidstone took the lead thanks to Tom Barton. A free kick was played into the path of the Stones substitute, forcing the Angels keeper to come out of his area, missing the ball completely and gifting Barton a free goal to shoot at and score.
Suddenly Maidstone were on the back foot. A range of long shots by Bray kept Taylor on his toes but an attempt of a cross by Ryan Gallifant sent the Stones keeper back peddling, just stopping the ball from going over the line.
As the anxiety rose in the stadium, Tonbridge’s pressure paid off. Richard Frempong, who had been a key player throughout, held up the ball laying it off to Connor Watson, who took two touches to bring him to the edge of the box before leaning back and letting his shot go, bringing the score level in the dying embers of the game. Taylor managed get a touch but could only contribute to it going over the line.
The majority of the 131 crowd urged the Stones forward and they nearly went in front again when Lucas Murrain had a pop from 12 yards out – the post the only thing in the way from certain glory.
A win for Maidstone would have pleased the league leaders but a draw still keeps the manager smiling with a 12 point lead. All is not lost for Tonbridge who have four games in hand to try and make up that gap.
Maidstone United: Tommy Taylor, Tom Lindsey, Sam Fairweather-Oates, Ben Fitchett, Jonathan Tumber, Tyler Dockwray, Max Borland, Harrison Hume, Lucas Murrain, Sidney Warden, Josh Stirman. Subs: Malachi Medley, Lewis Risk, Colby Wait, Tom Barton, Nathan Akhlaq