Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Maidstone United 2 v 0 Hastings United

Tuesday 10th December 2013
Isthmian League Cup Fourth Round
James Whatman Way, Maidstone
Admission: £5.00
Programme: Free
Attendance: 413
Match Rating: 4

After much deliberation, for this week's midweek action, I decided upon a revisit to James Whatman Way (currently known as the Gallagher Stadium), encouraged by half price admission and this evening's visitors being a club I have always had a soft spot for - and who I saw on their remarkable appearance at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough in the FA Cup Third Round at the start of this calendar year.

Unsurprisingly, there have been no significant changes to the stadium since my previous visit last season, apart from the club shop and small bar (not in use this evening, as the clubhouse was deemed sufficient for tonight's anticipated relatively low attendance) are now housed in small decorative conservatory type  buildings behind the terrace stand as one enters the ground. Only a four page black and white programme was produced for this evening's fixture, but this was given out free of charge at the turnstiles.

This evening's game would be an interesting match up between two clubs in their respective divisions. Maidstone were in fourth place in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League, whilst Hastings were leading Division One South. To reach this round, Maidstone have beaten Herne Bay 2-1 and Hythe Town 3-1, both games at home, whilst Hastings have beaten Faversham Town 4-0 at home before beating Premier Division Margate with surprising ease 0-3 away last week.

On an evening that became not only bitterly cold, but would become so foggy that it was difficult to see what was happening when action was at the furthest goal, particularly in the first half, the game started competitively, with Hastings certainly looking to take the game to their higher ranked hosts. Maidstone did take the lead with just six minutes on the clock though. Liam King, making his debut tonight, strode forward with the ball, evaded a tackle before placing a low shot across the keeper and just inside the far post. Although Hastings battled gamely, they rarely looked like scoring during the first half, with Maidstone dominating possession and have a few
good chances to extend their lead.

Into the second half as the fog lifted slightly, Hastings came much more into the game, creating some outstanding chances to get back into the game. They had three very good chances in the opening ten minutes of the half, before going even closer on 57 minutes when Jordan Woodley made space for himself before curling a lovely low shot past the keeper but onto the post. Eight minutes later and Hastings were to see another shot come back off the post, this time Tim Olorunda the unlucky man against his former club. Their lack of fortune was compounded within a couple of minutes when King was upended as he strode into the box. Zac Attwood, who moved between the clubs in the summer, drilled the ball low in the left hand corner and found the back of the net despite the keeper diving the right way. This did seem to kill the game off as Maidstone went on to dominate the game and created some chances to further extend their lead, although again Hastings were to curse their luck with a passage of play that summed up their evening. A free kick from just outside the penalty box by Woodley was excellently saved low by the keeper, the rebound fell to Kenny Pogue, who saw his powerful shot come back off the bar, and then a powerful drilled cross shot drew another wonderful save from Charlie Mitten, the Maidstone keeper. But it was Maidstone who progressed to the next round, which they probably just about deserved, although with just a little more luck, it could well have been Hastings. A very entertaining game of football despite freezing conditions and poor visibility – which made the drive home rather challenging.

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