Saturday 4 November // The Emirates FA Cup first round // Attendance: 2,799 (548 Maidstone United fans) // Report by Ruth Tunnell
A stunning first half performance from the Stones with goals from all three strikers set up a brilliant win over League Two side Cheltenham Town. This was an epic FA Cup tie and the six goals didn’t even tell the full story as the two teams could have scored more and they both ended with ten men.
The Stones started brightly and enjoyed the best of the early exchanges apart from when the ball came into Mohamed Eisa. Eisa was in a decent position but he miskicked when he went to hit the ball and the chance was lost.
Maidstone had a number of corners in the first half and from one of these, Zavon Hines found Alex Wynter. Wynter headed the ball down towards Reece Prestedge who managed to squeeze the ball back to Hines who had come inside and with a crowd of players in front of him, Hines lifted his shot over the bar.
Alex Finney then managed to keep Cheltenham at bay as Brian Graham sent the ball forwards for Eisa to chase. Eisa gained control but Finney did just enough to make sure that Eisa’s effort from just outside the area went inches over the bar.
The Stones soon threatened from another three corners before Seth Nana Twumasi brought down Jordan Cranston out on the left. Joe Morrell swung the ball in and it was met by Jamie Grimes whose header just missed the target.
Then with 20 minutes gone, Maidstone went in front. The Stones strung together a number of passes before the ball went out to Twumasi who chipped the ball into the area and Delano Sam-Yorke’s deft backwards header flew past Scott Flinders.
And sixty seconds later the Stones’ afternoon got even better. A long ball forward came to Joe Pigott who still had much to do but he held off Taylor Moore before slotting a low finish past Flinders.
Cheltenham manager Gary Johnson made a double substitution on 30 minutes, sending on Danny Wright and William Boyle for Kyle Storer and Moore as the Robins searched for a way back into the match. But these changes didn’t stop the Stones pouring forwards at every opportunity and it wasn’t long before they could have added to their tally when Pigott turned into space after some neat play from Sam-Yorke and Reason but Pigott put the ball over the bar.
Half time was approaching when the Stones gave themselves even more of a cushion with a fabulous goal. Reece Prestedge did well to make an important block inside his own area and the ball was quickly worked to Reason. Reason’s ball forward into space for Hines to chase was of the highest quality and it was matched by Hines who took a touch and then lofted the most outstanding finish into the left side of the net.
It was always going to be more difficult for the Stones after the break and they were perhaps fortunate not to be reduced to ten men early on when Twumasi could have picked up a second booking for a foul on Joe Morrell. This challenge lead to Jay Saunders replacing Twumasi with Magnus Okuonghae but even before that Cheltenham really upped the tempo.
On 49 minutes, Eisa put a ball to the back post where it was met by Graham only for Worgan to get across quickly and make the block. But Worgan could do nothing to prevent the Robins pulling a goal back four minutes later. Once again EIsa was involved and this time he chipped the ball across goal to Kevin Dawson who scored with a header.
However, just over a minute later, Maidstone extended their lead again. Pigott managed to thread the ball into Sam-Yorke who turned past Jordan Cranston inside the box before calmly forcing his shot past Scott Flinders.
If anyone had thought the Stones were now comfortably through to the next round having scored a fourth, they were about to be proved wrong when Sam-Yorke saw red on 57 minutes for a challenge on Eisa. And Cheltenham then laid siege to the Maidstone goal as they sensed a possible way back into the match.
Boyle went close with a header before the Robins made the Stones even more nervous as they pulled another goal back. There was a scramble inside the six yard box and although Worgan appeared to deny Graham, the ball rebounded off the unfortunate Finney and crossed the line.
Cheltenham sensed that an unlikely come back was now a possibility and for some time, Maidstone struggled to get out of their own half. The home side hit the side netting through Eisa and then Cranston crossed for Harry Pell but he was denied by a good save from Worgan who tipped his header over the bar.
Pigott might have taken the heat off Maidstone when he received the ball in a good position from Joe Anderson but with two defenders in attendance, he fired over. And shortly after this, the Robins were back on the attack as Dawson crossed for Wright whose header didn’t miss by much.
Graham picked out Cranston who shot straight at Worgan when well-placed and Cheltenham went even closer on 79 minutes. This time it was Cranston who turned provider as he crossed to Pell and his flicked header was going in until Worgan intervened with a superb save to claw the ball away as it threatened to creep in under the bar.
But within seconds of this, the Robins’ hopes were dashed. Worgan came off his line to claim an attempted through ball to Dawson and Dawson let his frustration get to him as he caught Worgan with a hefty challenge which resulted in a straight red card.
Whilst this dismissal did give the Stones some respite, Cheltenham hadn’t quite given up. Jamie Grimes played the ball into Eisa who turned into space and once again, Worgan came to the rescue for Maidstone as he made another fine stop with his foot.
This was to be the last time that the Robins looked like scoring as the Stones ended up seeing out the remaining moments relatively comfortably. And in fact, they might have added some further gloss to the scoreline when substitute Jamar Loza pulled the ball back to substitute Tom Wraight but his weak effort went straight at Flinders. Then in stoppage time, Wraight played a delightful ball out to Hines who went for goal all by himself and with Loza waiting for a tap in, Flinders managed to bundle Hines’ shot wide of the near post.
Cheltenham Town: Kevin Dawson 53, Alex Finney O.G. 60
Maidstone United: Delano Sam-Yorke 20, 54, Joe Pigott 21, Zavon Hines 43.
Cheltenham Town: 24. Scott Flinders, 2. Jamie Grimes, 3. Jordan Cranston, 4. Kyle Storer (15. William Boyle 30), 7. Harry Pell, 8. Kevin Dawson, 11. Carl Winchester, 20. Mohamed Eisa, 21. Brian Graham, 25. Joe Morrell (17. Jerell Sellars 63), 28. Taylor Moore (9. Danny Wright 30). Subs not used: 1. Jonathan Flatt, 14. Daniel O’Shaughnessy, 18. Matthew Bower, 27. Freddie Hinds.
Maidstone United: 1. Lee Worgan, 16. Seth Nana Twumasi (6. Magnus Okuonghae 55), 3. Alex Finney, 5. Alex Wynter, 13. Joe Anderson, 4. Reece Prestedge, 8. Stuart Lewis, 14. Jai Reason (11. Tom Wraight 81), 27. Zavon Hines, 32. Joe Pigott (7. Jamar Loza 84), 10. Delano Sam-Yorke. Subs not used: 12. Ollie Muldoon, 20. Tommy Taylor, 21. Harry Phipps, 22. Johan ter Horst.
Who was your man of the match against Cheltenham Town?
- Stuart Lewis (30%, 70 Votes)
- Lee Worgan (20%, 46 Votes)
- Delano Sam-Yorke (18%, 43 Votes)
- Zavon Hines (11%, 25 Votes)
- Joe Pigott (8%, 19 Votes)
- Jai Reason (4%, 9 Votes)
- Reece Prestedge (3%, 7 Votes)
- Alex Finney (2%, 5 Votes)
- Jamar Loza (1%, 3 Votes)
- Alex Wynter (1%, 2 Votes)
- Tom Wraight (1%, 2 Votes)
- Joe Anderson (0%, 1 Votes)
- Seth Nana Twumasi (0%, 1 Votes)
- Magnus Okuonghae (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 234