After the recent disappointments against Canvey Island and AFC Hornchurch, a patched up Maidstone side put the brakes on their mini slump in form as they battled their way to only their second league draw of the season.
With a number of first team regulars missing from the side, including Sam Tydeman who pulled a calf muscle in the warm up, it was perhaps not surprising that at times this was not the most fluent performance from The Stones. However, after Andy Martin was shown a red card on 70 minutes, Maidstone suddenly looked more dangerous going forwards with Nick Hegley playing in a more advanced role and they had a number of chances to win the game in the later stages.
“I thought we were going to win the game until Andy Martin got sent off” said Alan Walker afterwards. “I think that had Andy stayed on we would have got three points and we were a bit unlucky but having said that Pat made a couple of great saves so we have to be happy with the point.”
The Stones could have found themselves trailing by two goals within 13 minutes of the start as on 10 minutes, Pat Mullin spilled a lofted shot onto the bar and the Maidstone defence scrambled the ball clear. Then shortly after, Dave Lee’s corner was punched away by Mullin and the ball dropped to Danny Green whose shot smacked off the right hand post.
Gradually, The Stones began to improve and on 18 minutes they had their first attempt on goal when Ray Freeman’s weak shot on the turn went into James Hassell’s hands. Then six minutes later, Errison Ahwan initiated a good move with a curling ball out of defence to Hegley on the left hand side and he crossed for James Peacock whose shot was blocked at the near post.
From the resultant corner, Andy Martin’s poor cross fell straight to the visitors and they broke quickly through Raphael Sylvester down the right. He sent a low ball into the box intended for Green and with Freeman losing his footing, Green was presented with the opportunity to shoot but he dithered and the chance was lost.
Four minutes before the break, Freeman burst into the box but just as he was about to shoot, Mark Taylor managed to nick the ball off his toes.
However, two minutes into additional time at the end of the first half, The Stones took the lead with a neat move. Lynden Rowland stopped the ball on the edge of the area allowing Nick Hegley to take over and he showed great strength to hold off two Harlow defenders before poking the ball through Hassell's legs into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
There was little to note in the second half until the 57 th minute when Mo Takaloo was very fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after he was fouled by Mark Taylor and he appeared to kick out at the Harlow player.
Six minutes later, the visitors equalised in spectacular fashion when the ball broke loose on the edge of the penalty area and Leon Lalite struck a fierce drive which crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.
When Martin was dismissed for a foul on Taylor with 70 minutes played, many Stones fans probably feared that Harlow may go to win the game but Maidstone responded positively to this set back with Hegley in particular, looking a threat going forwards.
With 14 minutes remaining, a quick break saw Chris Smalling give the ball to Peacock who whipped in an inviting cross and Hegley’s header was turned round the post by Hassell.
Two minutes later, substitute Aaron Lacy hurled the ball into the box from a throw and Smalling’s header was expertly tipped over the bar. “Smalling was very good today” said Walker “You can see he is definitely a good player. Unfortunately we will lose him again next week as he is on England duty but I don’t think I can begrudge the lad that opportunity.”
On 81 minutes, Maidstone had a further chance when Lacy’s deep corner was not cleared by the Harlow defence and Takaloo’s persistence in trying to win the ball paid off as he gained possession but his low shot grazed the post.
Three minutes later, it was the visitors who came close to snatching a win as Kenny Davis received the ball inside the box and his effort looked certain to go in at the near post but he denied by a fantastic save from Mullin.
Then with the game in stoppage time, Mullin came to the rescue for The Stones once again as he blocked Taylor’s shot on the line and seconds later, Hassell had to be alert to gather Hegley’s goal bound effort.
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