Saturday 22 April // Vanarama National League // Attendance: 2,030 (280 Maidstone United supporters) // Report by Ruth Tunnell
Goals from Harry Phipps and Joe Pigott rescued a point for the Stones as they recovered from being two nil down against high-flying Forest Green Rovers to make sure that Maidstone have now only lost once in 13 games.
Both teams have changed significantly since Forest Green cruised to a 4-1 victory at the Gallagher Stadium with a performance that Jay Saunders described as the best he had seen from a visiting team all season. But what hasn’t changed is that Rovers look very strong going forwards and in this match, they dominated the first half and had ten attempts on goal by just past the half an hour mark.
Only sixty seconds had passed when Tom Mills managed to hold up former Maidstone player Kaiyne Woolery out on the right. However, the ball came to Dale Bennett who crossed to the leaping Christian Doidge whose header thumped wide.
Woolery then picked up possession and surged past Reece Prestedge before hitting a low shot which didn’t miss the right post by much but on 10 minutes, Rovers took the lead. Woolery found Liam Noble who swept the ball out to Keanu Marsh Brown who was on the left hand side of the pitch and he picked his spot to send his effort past Lee Worgan and into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Maidstone were struggling to contain Forest Green at times and the home side could have pulled further ahead when Alex Flisher’s loose pass lead to a break. The ball was worked to Noble and Worgan managed to parry his shot. It spilled into the path of Bennett and he cut the ball back to Woolery who fired over when well placed.
Worgan then made an even better save shortly after this. Doidge let fly from just outside the box and Worgan flung himself to his left to deny the Forest Green striker. Then on 32 minutes, the home side rushed forwards once more and the move ended with Doidge shooting wide of the left post.
The Stones rarely threatened the Forest Green in the first half and arguably the closest they came was three minutes before the break. Flisher ran forwards and shot from about 25 yards out and the ball went wide of the post.
Then with the game in first half stoppage time, Doidge threatened to break into box as he was fortunate with the way the ball rebounded into his path. Kevin Lokko was alert to the danger though and made a superb tackle to deny the Forest Green front man.
Lokko wasn’t so fortunate on 55 minutes though. Marsh-Brown put a low cross into the box from the right and Lokko accidentally diverted the ball past Worgan and into the net.
Not long after this, Charlie Cooper played a decent ball forwards to Woolery. Worgan was alert to the danger though and he made a smart block close to his near post.
But with 61 minutes gone, Maidstone United were handed a lifeline. Seth Nana-Twumasi cross from the right was only partly dealt with by Sam Russell in the Forest Green goal and the ball came to Harry Phipps who showed good composure to send the ball into an unguarded net.
Despite being pegged back, the home side continued to look the stronger of the two sides and they could have edged further ahead. Woolery went on an excellent run forward which took him into a good position inside the box but he was wasteful with the resultant shot and it went wide of the right hand post.
Maidstone refused to be beaten though and as time went on, they began to look more threatening. Substitute Bobby-Joe Taylor went on a run which took him across the edge of the box and he found Pigott who turned and shot inches wide of the left post.
It wasn’t long before Woolery was involved again when his effort was blocked by Lokko inside the box. The ball came back out to Noble and he hit a rising drive which clipped the top of the bar.
But with nine minutes remaining, the Stones equalised. Taylor hit a shot from just outside the box which was spilled by Russell. Pigott saw the opportunity and reacted quickly to slot the ball the Forest Green keeper.
Shortly after this Maidstone could have snatched a winner. Yemi Odubade went on a strong run down the left and unselfishly pulled the ball back to Taylor but Taylor’s effort went straight at Russell who made a comfortable stop.
Then with the game in stoppage time it was the home side who could have claimed all three points. Woolery got into space inside the area and Worgan did well to get something on his shot and when it came back, Woolery’s second attempt was heading into the net before Nana-Twumasi made a superb block to get the ball away from the line.
Forest Green Rovers: Keanu Marsh-Brown 10, Kevin Lokko 55
Maidstone United: Harry Phipps 61, Joe Pigott 81
Forest Green Rovers: 23. Sam Russell, 6. Dale Bennett, 3. Manny Monthe, 5. Mark Ellis, 17. Dan Wishart, 14. Kaiyne Woolery, 4. Drissa Traore (Sam Wedgbury 64), 20. Charlie Cooper, 7. Keanu Marsh-Brown (11. Omar Bugiel 66), 15. Liam Noble, 9. Christian Doidge (18. Shamir Mullings 79). Subs not used: 10. Marcus Kelly, 26. Fabien Robert.
Maidstone United: 1. Lee Worgan, 22. Seth Nana-Twumasi, 5. Kevin Lokko, 24. Magnus Okuonghae, 3. Tom Mills, 14. Reece Prestedge, 21. Harry Phipps (15. Anthony Achaempong 90), 10. Jack Paxman (18. Jack Richards 71), 11. Alex Flisher (16. Bobby-Joe Taylor 62), 23. Yemi Odubade, 32. Joe Pigott. Subs not used: 4. Jamie Coyle, 25. Jamar Loza.