Thursday 4 May // Kent Invitational Cup Final // Report by Josh Bailey
Maidstone United under 18s missed out on silverware as Tooting & Mitcham claimed the Kent Youth League Invitational Cup, thanks to a dubious but deserved second half penalty by Isaiah Jones.
The Stones started the better of the two sides. A nicely whipped in free-kick by Sid Warden found Tyler Dockwray but the midfielder headed it into the arms of the keeper.
There was an immediate response by the London-based team. Maidstone failed to clear a corner, which put Tooting & Mitcham through on goal. However, Tommy Taylor pulled off a marvellous stop to deny the forward.
Jones caused the Stones many problems throughout the game. In the first half he used his pace, agility and skill to embarrassingly get passed his marker and crossed in a good ball to Stefan Illic who, despite not generating enough power with his head, was superbly denied by Taylor.
The Stones had their best chance of the game in the 44th minute. Sam Fairweather-Oates fired just over to sum up what had been a depleted attacking first half performance.
Maidstone’s defence had kept them in the game but it was nearly embarrassed early in the second half. Tommy Taylor, who had been outstanding in this game, missed his kick but his blushes were saved by Tyler Dockwray.
The Stones were looking to improve in the second half and they were doing just that. Warden struck the ball well, trying to score through the legs of the keeper but failed to put it past a strong standing Dontai Stewart.
A positive start soon turned when Jones got in behind the Stones defence. Fairweather-Oates did well to recover but stuck out a leg, giving the number 11 an opportunity to go down in the box. Referee Jo Park awarded the penalty.
Man of the Match Jones sent Taylor the wrong way, giving Tooting & Mitcham a deserved lead from the spot.
With 20 minutes remaining, Tim Warden looked to inject some pace into the side bringing on Darren Cooper for Max Borland on the wing. The substitute nearly had immediate impact as he fed the ball to James O’Halloran, who made a run into the box but was unfortunately denied by the strong right hand of Stewart.
Tooting & Mitcham’s performance was everything that Maidstone’s wasn’t. They were sharp in attack and hot in defence, topped off with the passion and desire needed to win a cup tie. This was perfectly illustrated when Tom Barton found himself in space, which was quickly closed down and resulted in an empty shot into the keeper’s hands.
Maidstone’s last chance came as Borland chipped the ball to Dale Ashman, who scuffed his shot and ended any hopes of taking the tie to extra time.
At the final whistle, Tooting & Mitcham were in jubilation, while Maidstone players were crouched down in clear heartache.
This will be classed at disappointing season for Tim Warden and his side. At Christmas, they were 12 points clear at the top of the Ryman League U18 East Division and on course for a double. But after drawing a few games they missed out on the title by two points.