Vanarama National League South // Saturday 15 February // Attendance: 497
Noah Chesmain and George Elokobi saw red in the space of three first-half minutes as Maidstone lost at Chippenham.
Their nine men soldiered on gamely but were sunk by Luke Haines’ 73rd-minute header from a corner.
The game had been in doubt following all the heavy rain but passed a 1.30pm pitch inspection with referee Robert Massey-Ellis warning ‘it might not be pretty’. He wasn’t wrong.
A crazy end to the first half saw Maidstone reduced to nine men and Chris Lewington save a penalty.
Chesmain was the first player to go, shown a straight red after sliding in on George Rigg in the 38th minute.
The Bluebirds man seemed to suggest Chesmain had gone in with his studs showing but Maidstone didn’t seem too impressed with the decision.
Elokobi followed three minutes later after wiping out Rigg in the box, ending his afternoon.
There was some debate over whether the linesman’s flag had already gone up for offside but referee Massey-Ellis awarded the penalty and stuck by his decision.
Scott Twine eventually stepped up in the final minute of normal time but Lewington made a fine save diving to his left.
The nine men, with defender Ryan Johnson replacing midfielder Sam Corne, had it all to do but blocks from Lewington and Ross Marshall kept them on level terms before Rhys Tyler hit the underside of the bar.
Earlier, Ibby Akanbi had the ball in the net for Maidstone from a corner but the whistle had already gone for a foul.
Lewington hobbled off at half-time holding his leg and couldn’t continue, meaning a return for Jake Cole, while Lewis Knight came on for Justin Amaluzor.
It was going to take some effort to survive another 45 minutes without conceding and Nat Jarvis almost scored in the opening moments.
Cole parried from Twine and Chris Zebroski missed the target as Chippenham looked to get at Maidstone down the right, where Zihni Temelci was inevitably outnumbered as a makeshift full-back.
It was attack v defence as Chippenham dominated possession but they were mainly restricted to efforts from distance as the Stones kept their concentration.
As it turned out, a long-range shot led to the opener after Cole made an excellent save from Ryan Case’s 25-yard drive.
From the corner, Haines lost his man and powered home a header to put Chippenham in front on 73 minutes and break the nine men’s resistance.
Maidstone pushed Temelci back into midfield but it was tough for them to make any inroads.
Chippenham might have had a second after Marshall’s slip let in Zebroski but Cole got down well to his left.
There was a late sniff for the Stones with Akanbi desperately trying to get his shot away in the box and Johnson had an effort saved.