Maidstone United put in a gutsy performance to score four goals in extra time and advance into to the quarter finals of the Kent Youth League Invitational Cup.
Maidstone had made numerous changes to their starting eleven for this cup tie and for moments in the first half it showed. Though for the first goal it was the Stones keeper that made the rare mistake.
In the opening minute, Tommy Taylor rushed out of his goal to clear the ball but a lapse of concentration by the Stones number one meant that the ball ricocheted off the advancing Timothy Cook who, after a scuffle with the keeper, was able to strike the ball, curling it into an empty net.
Maidstone were immediately on the front foot, searching for an equaliser and minutes later they found one. A beautifully placed direct ball by the Maidstone keeper found Josh Stirman, who took it to the edge of the pitch. He played the ball across the box to James O’Halloran, who delayed his shot so he could side foot it home into the bottom right corner.
Most might have thought Maidstone would have taken control but they still struggled to cope with the strike force of Timothy Cook and Samuel Jobbins. Numerous chances came for the Three Bridges nine and ten and all tested the mettle of the Stones goalie.
One chance saw Samuel Jobbins lose his marker but some heroics by Taylor kept the scores level. Then it was Cook’s turn to have a pop at the Maidstone goal but his curling effort just skimmed the crossbar.
Eventually, Three Bridges got what they deserved and once again it was Jobbins and Cook at the heart of the action. The Stones defence got themselves in a tangle, handing the ball to Samuel Jobbins who took immediate advantage, instantly playing it to Timothy Cook, who had the easy job of placing past the perusing keeper.
In the second half Maidstone made several changes; bringing on Max Borland, Harrison Hume, Sam Fairweather Oates and Ben Fitchett but they still lacked the attacking quality to get themselves back into the match.
Then, on the 64th minute, a red card was brandished for Three Bridges midfielder Chandler O’Dwyer, after an incident in the penalty area while waiting for a free kick. He stamped on his marker to earn an instant red card.
This proved to be a turning point in the match.
An always dangerous Sid Warden whipped in a fast ball, which caught Thomas Baxter by surprise. He just got a finger to it and was able to push it onto the post and out.
Three Bridges went defensive and all of a sudden chances were raining down for Maidstone. The team from Crawley though were valiantly holding out and heading for what looked to be a well-earned win. Then, in stoppage time, with what was to be the last kick of normal time, a great ball went up and over the defence into the path of Josh Stirman, who was somehow able to dodge in front of his marker to tap it home, taking the tie for additional exhilarating 30 minutes.
Then came a very painful 30 minutes for the Three Bridge’s players. Only two minutes into the second half, Maidstone found themselves in the lead for the first time of the evening. The corner taken by Warden navigated its way onto the head of substitution Harrison Hume, who did very well to get down low, heading into the top left.
Another three goals quickly followed for the Stones. A series of shots lead to Josh Stirman’s second of the night. A corner once again landed to the Maidstone player who poked it home to make it five. Then to make the misery worse for Bridges fans, Max Borland also got amongst the goals, catching the keeper in no man’s land.
This finished a nail biting match, where Three Bridges will be understandably disappointed with the scoreline (6-2), as this in no way reflected their excellent performance.
A jubilant Maidstone now advance to the next round, with Three Bridges heading back to league life, where they find themselves second from bottom with five points.
Maidstone United: Tommy Taylor, Malachi Medley, Lewis Risk, Colby Wait, Jonathan Tumber, Tyler Dockwray, Tom Barton, James O’Halloran, Lucas Murrain, Sid Warden, Josh Stirman. Subs: Max Borland, Harrison Hume, Sam Fairweather-Oates, Ben Fitchett